Loving Natural Wines or just want to dabble? David Cosford has sent us a grape primer of an article to get you on your way. Give him a follow on Instagram at @lo_fi_wine
Header image via The Wine Gallery.
The term ‘Natural Wine’ has been getting some serious play recently. A lot of people seem to get confused by the term as it is quite nebulous. The terms ‘Natural’ or ‘Lo-Fi’ or ‘Minimal Intervention’ are more or less just a descriptor of the practices employed in the vineyard and the cellar. They are generally not used to agitate or subvert but are more just a calling card of a particular style or ethos. The term generally intends that the fruit is the product of organic/biodynamic vineyard practices (although this isn’t always the case) and then is handled with minimal intervention techniques with as few additives/additional processes as possible during vinification.
If you’ve ever been hit with the old, “But isn’t all wine Natural?” by some poor confused neophyte/expert with an axe to grind – then this is what is generally intended by the term. It comes from the fairly reasonable point of view that powdered tannin, extra water, oak chips, fining agents, heavy filtration, pH correction, a bucket of sulphur and industrial equipment are perhaps less ‘natural’ than just grapes undergoing wild fermentation, maturation and bottling.
Some view the Natural Wine movement as a medialisation of ethos in wine production from the over swinging of the pendulum that was industrialisation and mass production that occurred over the last 50 years. Others view it as acidic, faulty, cloudy, mousey juice – which can be both a good or a bad thing depending on your palate. Others view it as another form of delicious alcoholic beverage to dip their wick with when the need arises.
I personally see wines made in this style as the most lively, expressive and delicious that I have ever tried. I find that they have this ineffable energy and liveliness about them and are generally made by humble small businesses with young families who have pursued passion instead of improving their bottom line. I find them honest.
Our Great state of Western Australia has been deep into this little ‘Natural Wine’ revolution for quite some time now and has some impressive producers. If you’ve been wanting to try some of these out then list definitely contains some of the best in the state.
Josephine Perry, Margaret River
Photo via DownBy12th
Jo has been making some incredibly fine wines with Partner and Squirts at her studio in Margaret River for a number of years now. She employs her fleet of beautiful terracotta amphora to provide a neutral nursery for her wines to develop and intensify in. Her bold Clayface series and incredibly moreish collection of house wines are delicious and gluggable vintage after vintage. She has described ‘Dormilona’, which means ‘Lazy Bones’, as symbolising her style of wine making which is laid back and allowing the grapes to do their own thing with just a lick of guidance. Look out for her current release of Tinto , Pinku Rosé, Blanco and Clayface Pet Nat (natural sparkling).
Andries and Yoko, Denmark
Andries and Yoko are mad scientists in glittering lab coats who make some seriously dank and delicious gear out of the Great Southern of WA. Living in Denmark with their two crazy kids they tend to a startling variety of wines and put the fruit through its paces in a number of weird and wonderful minimal intervention processes with some insane results. They specialise in being special by not specialising in anything. Despite the glittery facade, wacky approach to marketing and beautifully different labels these guys make some seriously competitive and searingly good Great Southern wine.
These guys are single handedly levering the long rod out of the tight arses of the wine world everywhere. Love them.
Nic Peterkin, Margaret River
Where do you start? Is it his degrees in science/oenology and an MBA? Is it his illustrious Margaret River winemaking pedigree? Is it his imaginative labels, bottles and choice of closures? Is it his multiple awards including The Fruitful Pursuit’s ‘The Tasty’ for his Albino PNO? Well maybe… But realistically all of these qualities seem somewhat ancillary when you consider the quality of the juice that Nic conjures into existence at his cave in Margaret River. L.A.S Vino was a means for Nic to forge his own path in the world of wine and take what was important to him and package it up into something tangible. With what Nic views as the three central tenets of his winemaking acronymised eponymously as Luck, Art and Science it’s easy to appreciate where his heart is.
Get around his coveted Albino PNO (a rosé blend of blends of Pinot Noir and Chardy) and his Pirate Blend – a heady cocktail of not often seen Portugese varietals.
AJ Hoadley, Great Southern
Photo via The Wine Gallery
Known for his tasteful and perpetual donning of red shirts and drizabones and whose skills with wine and design are near savant level, La Violetta was founded in Denmark, WA, in 2008. Hoads gets all of his fruit from a handful of trusted growers with exceptional vineyards, some of which are amongst the oldest in the state. It’s fair to suggest that La Violetta forms a dominant portion of the insane quality lo-fi wines getting pumped out of the almighty Great Southern region. Hoads’ masterclasses with many, many wines across many, many styles and most of them talk for themselves. But you absolutely must locate some of his Pet Nats – with Patio Nat and Spunk Nat being my absolute favourites. He also has a razor sharp Great Southern Riesling and some intense reds that could make your Grandaddy blush. You heard me.
Paul and Bree, Swan Valley
Perth’s own wine region, the Swan Valley, is sorely under-represented in the world of natural wine, but partners Bree Lavell and Paul Hoffman are leading the uprising. Swan Valley Wines was purchased defunct by Paul’s father in the mid-1980s after the fall of the Valley’s hey-day. As the radical son of a more traditional wine maker, it was a slow wean from heavy additions and interventions at Swan Valley Wines, but after a few years Paul has provoked a scintillating flare in the proceedings.
If you want to try something from a young Perth family with some serious moves who are finally finally finally agitating against the long overwrought mechanised and chemical-addled region that is the Swan Valley then look no further. Paul and Bree have the hook up. Check out their ‘Extent’ skin contact Chenin Blanc and the amazing ‘Vallee du Venom’ Chenin Pet Nat which long time friends and collaborators Paul Hoffman and Rhys Parker have teamed up to produce. You will not regret it.
Sam, Margaret River
If you want a modern definition of low tech-high fidelity then Sam is your man. He has some seriously dank and clinically sculpted wines coming out of a technology-free cellar. His fruit is organically grown and his methods are painstakingly low tech. Hand-powered everything. Zero adds. Impressive Beard. Hermit Vibe. He has it all. With an impressive résumé of working with some of the cleanest Sicilian producers, Sam has returned to Western Australia with a twinkle in his eye and touting a vibe that he is going to outshine them all. Judging by what he has done since coming back I would be upping my game if he was coming for my title. This guy means business. Definitely one to watch. His Savvy B is an insultingly delicious twist, the Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Myth and his reds are exacting and lush.
OLD MATE WINE
Sam Jorgensen, Swan Valley
Image via Wino Sapien
Sam Jorgensen is a modern day renaissance man. A ferocious thinker. A cultured cat. A moustachioed man. A vigneron on the vertical. His deliciously cloudy, skin-contact Frankland River Riesling has been adored all over Perth for the last couple of years; and why? Because it’s exactly what it says on the label – lit af. Working in various capacities of the WA wine industry for years now Sam and his fam support his passion project of wine making on the side to amazing effect. Whilst the selection is small, the line up is startling in terms of its precision and finesse. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone doing anything as good with skin contact Riesling the world over. But damn. Sam has got you sorted.
The ‘Natural Wine’ movement is all about letting the little guy get in there and agitate against the accepted norm and produce boutique wines on a smaller scale and I cannot cogitate of a better example of this in the current climate of Western Australia.
Dylan Arvidsen, Margaret River
Good gear. Good ethos. Good eggs. Dyl touts a holistic approach to making wines and prefers to work with organic viticulturists where possible and then focus on minimal intervention techniques in the cellar. He strays away from the term ‘Natural’ due to its lack of clarity in an often-serious industry – an understandable position from a very decent man. He has some playful gear with the famed ‘Da Bois’, some serious gear with his LS Merchants label and an incredible Biggie Smalls themed ‘Natorious’ Pet Nat which receiving some serious praise at the moment.
He has also dabbled in some serious cross-regional gear with the ‘Sawa Sawa’ wines whom he collaborated with James Hopkins of The Fruitful Pursuit and Michael Corbett of ‘Vanguardist’ wines in South Australia. Western and South Australian grapes? Now people that’s a mixtape.
Ryan O’Meara, Great Southern
Ryan O’Meara has magnificent long hair, good looks and mad winemaking chops. Ryan has been at the helm of Express since its inception in 2011 and firmly believes that wine should display terroir (a sense of place) and boy-howdy do his wines smack of Western Australia’s Great Southern region. Sourcing grapes from his own vineyard and surrounding plots in Mount Barker and Frankland River, Ryan and the crew do their best to guide the wine to display itself in its truest form. His Great Southern Riesling and L’Orange are crackers. Get Amongst it.
Sarah and Iwo, Margaret River
Si Vintners believe in natural farming. No pesticides. No Fungicides. No chemicals. Just pure wine made from grapes from their land. They aim to truly express the land upon which their vines grow with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the winery. Sarah and Iwo focus on farming all of their own fruit in the Rosa Glen area of the Margaret River region with a strong focus on single vineyard Chardonnay and interesting expressions of classic Margaret River varietals.
They produce some amazing juice such as Lello, Sophia and Baba Yaga. Splitting their time between vintages in Western Australia and Spain, they bring a fresh and vibrant approach to their wines.
Follow the author David Cosford on Instagram at @lo_fi_wine