PLEASURE WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE
An organic wine tasting without Added Sulphur
Friday 8th May 2015
£17 in advance / £22 on the door
(price includes organic tapas)
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
Winemaking is veiled by an opaque cloak. The chance fermentations of modern man were thought the work of the gods. More considered (and more marketable) fermentations were considered alchemic, and wine is still enveloped in a sense of enigma.
And in an era where much is known about the manufacture of food and drink products, wine resists transparency. This is partly because of its exemption from mandatory labelling laws. Though processed foodstuffs must declare ingredients and alert consumers to allergens, wine labels declare little more than alcohol by volume. This can lead to a romantic, though erroneous, view that wine is simply fermented grapes.
In reality, wine is a highly chemical process. Starting with the plethora of chemical sprays used to grow (non-organic) grapes in the first place – fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. Then the additives continue in the winery. From aromatic yeasts to acidification, from fining agents to a plethora of preservatives – most ubiquitously, sulphur dioxide.
This has become a hot topic in the past few years. If you read the small print of wine labels, you will almost always discover the words ‘contains sulphites’. This is particularly useful information to those consumers who suffer from migraines, wine headaches, asthma and other respiratory difficulties, and for many will preclude their participation in a bottle of wine – or at least mar their enjoyment.
But within the past five years, there has been a growing dialogue around minimal interventionist wine – about doing as little as possible to the grapes in the winemaking process. Organic viticulture is a cornerstone for this approach. Producers drawn to organics usually want to work in closer harmony with their environment, allowing the vineyard to make the wine, rather than constructing it in the cellar.
Organic standards restrict the additives that can be used in winemaking, and outlaw some of the heavy processes. They also place a lower ceiling on sulphite levels. But now, a tiny, though much discussed, proportion of organic winemakers are making wine without adding sulphur dioxide. A large collection of these will be on display at RAWFair, in London, on Sunday May 17th.
But you don’t have to go that far to get a taste. The Greenhouse has an unparalleled stock of No Added Sulphur wines. We’re up to 14, now, and you can sample six of the best on Friday May 8th.
We will being with two whites from Castello di Tassarolo. In Piedmont. Henry Finzi-Constantine has been influential in bringing biodynamic viticulture to the estate of the Spinola family, and to eschewing the use of heavy machinery in favour of working vineyards with heavy horse, thus avoiding soil compaction and increasing drainage. He has named two of his wines after Titouan, the name of his first Comtois horse. Greenhouse regulars will know the Barbera, but this will be the first outing for the Gavi ‘Titouan’. A third white will also be on show, a Xarel-Lo from Penedès in Catalonia – a wine far more accessible than its name.
Lovers of red will have plenty to enjoy, too. From the silky redcurrant fruit of Renaud Boyer’s Bourgogne Rouge, to the black fruits and spice of Domaine Grande Bellane’s Valréas. Damien Marrès has used low intervention techniques for years, eschewing aromatic yeasts, fining and filtration, but this is his maiden No Added Sulphur wine. And we’ll save the biggest to last, returning to Piedmont for our final wine, a full-bodied blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera from Erbaluna.
If you’re new to our organic wine tastings, they are informal and sociable affairs, where you learn how to taste wine, before putting it into practise as a group. Organic tapas will be provided to augment (and off-set) the wines. We hope to show that there is already an impressive quality and diversity of No Added Sulphur wines available.
The evening’s wines in full:
Gavi ‘Spinola’, Castello di Tassarolo, DOCG, 2013.
Piedmont, Italy. 12% vol., shop price £11.25.
Grape variety: Cortese
Gavi ‘Titouan’, Castello di Tassarolo, DOCG, 2013.
Piedmont, Italy. 13% vol., shop price £15.95
Xarel-Lo ‘NoSodos’, DO, 2012.
Penedès, Catalonia, Spain. 13%vol., £12.50.
Grape varieties: Xarel-Lo / Chardonnay
Bourgogne Rouge ‘Les Riaux’, Renaud Boyer AC, 2010.
Burgundy, France. 12%vol., £18.50.
Grape variety: Pinot Noir
Valréas Côtes du Rhône Villages, Domaine Monmartel AC, 2013.
Rhône Valley, France. 14% vol., £12.50.
Grape varieties: Syrah / Grenache / Carignan
Vino Rosso ‘Elia’, Erbaluna, 2011.
Piedmont, Italy. 15% vol., £13.50.
Grape varieties: Nebbiolo / Barbera
Feedback from recent Greenhouse organic wine tastings:
‘Very enjoyable -social and informative’
‘Entertaining & well-paced’
‘Keep up the good work!’