What is Natural Wine I ask myself before 'Jenny & Francois' Fall Tasting

Way before I was invited to attend their 'Fall Portfolio Tasting' (on Monday, September 8) what put Jenny Lefcourt and François Ecot of Jenny & Francois Selections on my radar was Wine's Odd Couple 'Urban Vintage' an intriguing portrait by Peter Hellman (NY Sun, November 07).

Bertrand Celce shows them making the rounds in Paris in Jenny in Paris (Wine Terroirs, December 06).

To get back to the topic at hand, the event on Monday is described as A Tasting of Natural (Mostly) French Wines.

What is a Natural Wine I wondered?

How can you define it?

Well it seems hard to pinpoint?

Eric Asimov with Natural Wines Redux (The Pour, March 2007) did not clarify anything.

In San Francisco, Terroir calls itself America’s premier natural  wine merchant and also a Wine Bar located at 1116 Folsom street in the south of Market (soma) area. 'Natural' to them means "organic and dry farming, indigenous  yeast  fermentation  and no use of chemicals".

I got a better feel of which wines fall in that 'natural' category by browsing through Terroir Wine Page.

They provided me with my illustration for this piece, the label (below) for the 2006 Ostertag Riesling ‘Fronholz’ (Alsace).


Of the producers Terroir features, I had the chance to try the Chinon by Catherine & Pierre Breton (Domaine Breton, in the Loire Valley) who define their approach as (I quote):

Dynamic, organic viticulture
No chemical fertilisers
No weed killers
No systemic grape processing
Limited yields
Manual harvests
Winemaking using natural indigenous yeasts
Non-filtered wines
Little or no sulphiting
The expertise and creativity of a true craftsman

Here we get a little more specific.

The September/ October 08 issue of Imbibe Magazine offers the most detailed look at the subject with Natural Progression by Pameladevi Govinda.

As she states "winemakers go beyond organic and biodynamic winemaking to a new frontier of viticultural purity. But asking if natural wines actually taste better might land you in a mess of controversy".

Two good points she makes are first that "along with its champions, the natural-wine movement has its share of critics. Many wine pros, even those who buy natural wines, say that lack of an official definition makes it a free-for-all category, which could lead to marketing exploitation and false claims. “It would be helpful if there were set rules,” says Scott Pactor, the owner of Appellation Wines and Spirits in New York City".

Another thing that might deter prospective buyers, she points that "without fining or filtering, wine can have a cloudy hue in the glass, which can be off-putting to some wine drinkers, and flavors tend to be more, well, rustic. “When I sell a bottle of Olivier Cousin’s Anjou Rouge—a wine that hasn’t been fined, filtered or had additional sulfur added—I have to tell customers that it has a lot of brett,” says Pactor, referring to brettanomyces, a natural yeast found in many minimalist wines that can exude aromas of barnyard and earth—a quality that some prize, while others scorn".

I am sure I will have a better sense of my likes and dislikes regarding this niche category of wines after Monday's tasting.

Check my notes in a few days.

Related: Green Mountain Eco Route, Blending Wine and Nature, In South Africa, Near Cape Town

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