To Sulfite or not to Sulfite….
“A walk towards Natural Wines”
We will tell you a story and let you decide…
First a few points,
You’ve all read the back of your wine label, “contains sulfites,” and you’ve wondered and googled, to uncover the truth…
All wine contains sulfites... as it is a natural by-product of the yeast metabolism in the wine making process.
So, there is truly no wine without sulfites.
Yet, a majority of readily available wines are impacted by additional so2, typically added once at the crush pad when the grapes come in, and/or after malolactic fermentation, and/or before bottling.
Why? It is a preservative that basically prevents the wine from spoiling during the continued life span of the transported bottle that is experiencing temperature fluctuations and avoiding the various contamination possibilities such as volatile acidity (vinegar notes) and brettanomyces (moldy notes).
Ultimately, it is the winemaker’s choice or up to the wineries to decide on how much to add.
The formula varies depending on the chosen school of thought and their level of investment.
This is all in addition to the universal consideration of the varietal in question and mother nature’s gift for the given year.
We like to think of it like this… when you read a label with forty ingredients and another with four, you would know which one to pick.
Just as a great novel does, let the wine speak for itself.
And now, the story. In 1998, Bryan Harrington bought some Pinot grapes in Monterey, CA and made his own “home batch”. He neglected to add s02 (sulfites).
He made six barrels of wine, and three months after harvest, he tried it… it was delicious- incredibly so.
The aromatics were sublime.
He took the wine up to David Hirsch- a California legend in Pinot. They sat on the bed of his pickup truck and popped the cork… David concurred with Bryan. The Pinot was delicious! He needed to make more.
With gusto, he set out on his journey to make vivacious wines without the sulfite additions.
However, after some trial and error, he found himself in Switzerland with quantum physicists trying their product, which was naturally derived from different fruits, nuts, bark and seeds.
The seeds that interested Bryan were the grape seeds. He asked them to formulate the new product utilizing just the grape seeds as an alternative to sulfites.
At the time several French winemakers had utilized the process, he was the first in California.
He also understood that some grape varietals and specific vineyard lands would be better subjects than others to accomplish this natural approach in winemaking successfully.
In addition, he chose to harvest early in order to keep PH and acidity aligned to create a sound back-bone conducive to good health.
In the process he has made delightful wines from obscure varietals and revived forgotten vineyards.
As for the results, the “proof” was evidently “in the pudding.”
His wines became alive, full of dimension, subtle-but-expressive, gentle-but-persistent.
Secondary and tertiary flavors were consistent across his panoply. We love his wines. Can you tell?
Brian did not invent “natural wines”, but he dared to embrace a natural wine he made by mistake that spoke to him like no other he had ever produced.
And, he ran with it… like, in the early eighties, the immortalized legend in Beaujolais, Marcel Lapierre ran towards becoming the emblem of Natural Wines in France, after following his “guru” Godfather, Jules Chauvet, an avid viticulturist/chemist. This guru spoke against the then-popular use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and pushed instead towards the impact-free embrace of the land.
A movement that took Paris wine bars by force in the early nineties, and eventually spread to the rest of the world as we know it today.
If it was a trend, it would be gone. No, it is a return to what every wine produced from a countryside vineyard was always about since the “wine” age of time.
We, at Dezilu Wine Co, seek to find wines with the least alterations and with fundamental, vineyard-inherited health that enables them, in pure form, to transcend palates now and through time.
How can you discern these wines? No worries!
We did the hard work of “filtering” through an ocean of offerings, sparing you the headache….literately! (but that’s another subject…)
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, said it best.
“You are what you eat”.. We think he would agree that the same is true of drink.
On that note, “Sante”