March 27, 2013

Appel on Wine: Far from tasting the same, natural wines refuse to conform

By JOE APPEL

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The Fetembulles is more akin to a pumice-dry cider, or even kombucha, than to most other wine. It shows the deep lemon and herb aspects of Chenin, with none of the honey. Earthy and super funky, it's a kind of front-row seat at a grand performance of fermentation. It is not weird wine! It is extraordinarily alive, and supremely pleasurable with almost any dining experience.

There are other far less palate-stretching natural wines. Benajamin Taillandier, a producer in the Languedoc's Minervois region, makes a majority-Grenache blend, Vini Viti Bibi 2010 ($17, Devenish), that is near gulpable, a great wine for right now. Not to age, not to consider, but to drink, and copiously.

Amidst all the wine's activity is scrumptious red fruit, with a chalky, walnut-skin dustiness. Volatile and wound up at first, later the wine relaxes and takes on some vanilla, dark cherry notes and an overall richness.

It was the first of Rovine's wines I tasted where I saw that what was most important was not individual flavors so much as a spirit of freshness and movement: A sense while drinking it that I'm never going to die. Think of Beat legend Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's "On the Road"): Loose, expressive, alliterative, opening up over hours of conversation. And like old Neal, though it curses and chases skirts, it's connected to the grand mystery too.

Taillandier also makes the Bufentis 2010 ($23). Tipping the regional balance to majority Syrah, it gives much more of that grape's tarry, herbal, muscular qualities. Though a "bigger" wine, it still stays bright and awake.

France is the international hotbed of natural wines, but Clos Lojen 2011 ($15, Wicked), from the indigenous Manchuela (Spain) grape Bobal, is available locally. The grapes are farmed biodynamically, no sulfur is added, and vinification uses carbonic maceration as in Beaujolais.

It's another fleshy, lively red wine, great for casual eating. Super fresh fruit, like black-skinned plums, join with black pepper and licorice. It's another example of how wines made through "unmaking" can be both fascinating and flat-out delicious at the same time.

 

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog, soulofwine.com, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

 

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