"Everything new is actually well-forgotten old" – this maxim is valid not only for the haute couture, but for every other fashion trend as well. This is how in the past 5 years on a global wine scale somewhat suddenly everyone began to talk and write about wines and the method of their vinifi cation, actually known to humanity for centuries but well-forgotten.
Natural wine = Vin naturel
The favourites of hundreds of sommeliers throughout the world - behind these wines there is not only the fact that they go through minimum oenological interference by the winemaker. The beginning is often in old vineyards that are cultivated bio or bio-dynamically with no pesticides and other strong chemicals. This is a fundamental prerequisite for the natural wines – the balance of microfl ora in the vine itself determines and guarantees the entire vinifi cation process and the stability of wine. Fermentation is spontaneous and often lasts for months. That is also why the „nose” of a vin naturel has very little in common with the classic primary sort fl avours that the human nose has become accustomed to. Its richness includes aromas of fresh and dried herbs, nuts, sesame, ripe yellow (for the white) and forest fruits (for the red), ink, salt... The oenological process lacks any modern technologies – cultivated yeast and sulfi tes are a taboo, there is no temperature control, chemical stabilization and fi ltration; as a contrast to that there are hours of maceration, often fermentation with skins and seeds, months of contact with the fi ne yeast.
The fourth wine colour – orange
A wide diversity from dark straw yellow to intense amber colour – this is it, at least in appearance, the orange wine. This colour which is so typical for these (actually white) wines comes from the long maceration and fermentation of the must with the grape skins and seeds. And so, by actually applying red wine vinifi cation process to white grape varieties a new wine dimension is born in orange. In a blind taste one could easily be mislead especially when it comes to the taste. The phenols derived from the skin and seed give to the seemingly tender white sorts an incredible tannin structure, savoury fl avour and length. Probably the fi rst wines ever to be produced were orange because this is the most natural method of producing wine. Vinifi cation again involves minimum human and machine interference. The fermentation is spontaneous and the traditionally used vessels are clay amphorae, concrete eggs, classic (used) oak casks. There is no pressing, fi ltration and external stabilization. Some producers use minimum doses of sulfi tes as additional prevention from oxidation. By the way it is believed that the country of origin of the orange wines is a long forgotten wine destination – Georgia. There the tradition of the wines vinifi ed in kvevri (a type of amphorae) has been preserved for almost 8000 years and it is the place where many producers all over the world still fi nd inspiration.
Of course there are many critics. The terms „natural” and „orange” wine still have no legal framework and most probably they will never have. And while there are severe control for the biological and bio-dynamic wine production, here there is no external control over their vinifi cation. In this way often orange and other unclear products are noticeably wrong wines with murine notes, distinct malolactic fermentation, vegetativeness or the other extremity – oxidation. The result of an unsuccessful experiment. But believe me there is no better accompaniment than a multilevel menu of the fruit of such a successful experiment: „Breg” by Josko Gravner, „Antica” by Mladen Roxanich or „The Prince in His Caves” by the Scholium Project. And let the journey in a glass begin!