The wine world-at-large seems to be going back to its roots, so to speak. Chemical use dominated wine production in the 1970’s to reduce maintenance costs and intervention in the cellar. However the last ten years have shown that many winemakers around the world are starting to abandon cheaper and practical options in favor of traditional, high-maintenance approaches to viticulture. It’s come to a point where the wine industry is beginning to see the rise of a new wave of organic, biodynamic wine labels.
For Julian Gagliardi, sommelier of Straits Wine Co. Makati, the resurging global interest in organic food over the same period is partly to blame. Trends in food strongly influence trends in wine production, and eating green, locally-sourced foods have been hip for a long time now. For winemakers, these preferences are a sure sign that the market may be willing to invest in wines crafted in a similar manner. At the same time, the desire to go back to traditional techniques of winemaking is opening up new opportunities to experiment with tried and tested formulas.
Julian points out however that apart from the organic approach, winemakers are starting to show a deeper interest in the biodynamic philosophy of winemaking. Practitioners who advocate this mindset envision the winemaker’s affinity for life and energies in the vineyard. Whether one believes in it or not, the harvests of biodynamic wine farmers tend to yield a fuller vitality.
I asked Julian to select five wines that are not only characteristic of the new wave, but are also affordable for buyers with a beginning interest in wines. He focused on bottles produced within the last three years, but that didn’t deprive them of the stories that will certainly color in any beginner’s understanding of wine culture.
RAVENTOS I BLANC DE NIT 2012, Conca del Riu, Spain RP 92/100 – P1,750.00
The Raventos family name is deeply tied to the development of the sparkling wine native to Spain known as cava, especially considering that family ancestor Josep Raventós Fatjó was responsible for the first Spanish sparkling wine and that his descendants continue to produce world-renowned sparkling wines of Spanish origin. The Raventos i Blanc firm, established in 1986, had long maintained its vineyard over the Cava Denominación de Origen (DO, sometimes known in other parts of the world as an appellation). This did not stop the firm, however, from making the controversial decision to relocate their estate to the Conca del Riu in Penedès, citing that the Cava DO was no longer viable as it lacked geographical distinction and was viticulturally poor. The Conca del Riu terroir has given the firm a chance to faithfully embody its founder’s philosophy, which draws from the Catalan folk belief of an intimate connection between man and nature.
This particular label is not cava wine per se, but it is a rosé sparkling wine that blends four different grape varieties, including a touch of Montrasell to give it its pinkish tinge. It is notably a vintage wine, which is rare in Spain. Typically, Spanish wines blends three years of produce to make a consistent wine. Raventos i Blanc De Nit 2012 is produced from grapes primarily harvested from a single year.
CHÂTEAU DE TRACY MADEMOISELLE DE T POUILLY-FUMÉ 2013, Pouilly-Fumé, Loire Valley, France – P1,200.00
The grapes from the Pouilly-Fumé appelation tend to give wines a smoky taste because of the salt that seeps from fossils buried deep underground. Julian noted however that despite this natural advantage for all wineries in the appellation, the best grapes are still produced by the Château de Tracy estate. According to Julian, this is evidenced by the way that many of the newer wineries in the appellation often sneak into the estate to steal shoots from the vines and replant them in their own vineyards. Perhaps these wineries owe their envy to the reputation that Château de Tracy has as one of the boldest wineries in Europe.
Practically all of the Old World wineries are kept in check by the European Union. The set limitations are often so restricting that there is hardly any room for innovation. Château de Tracy, being the oldest winery in the Loire Valley, did not think itself exempt from regulation for a long time until they discovered a method to produce superior Sauvignon Blanc against the Union’s prescriptions. Château de Tracy’s vines are deliberately grown so close to each other that they end up fighting for nutrients. The vineyard produces less fruit on a regular basis, but as the laws of nature would have it, the harvest is always of a superior quality.
LUCY M WILDMAN EDITION PINOT NOIR 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia – P1,800.00
Julian describes the man behind the Lucy M winery as one of viticulture’s craziest, most colorful characters. While Anton Van Klopper had his beginnings in culinary arts and hospitality management, he went into the wine business with a knack for experimentation. One of the unusual methods Van Klopper employs to distinguish the taste of his wines is to age it in the vase of Greek antiquity known as the amphora. His bottles of pinot noir are known to contain very low levels of alcohol. Van Klopper’s aim in doing so is to produce pure expressions of wine unaffected by chemicals, sulphites, or additives.
URLAR PINOT NOIR 2012, Gladstone, New Zealand – P1,800.00
Angus and Davina Thomson wanted to make wine that would reveal to its drinkers how land brings out the purity of flavor. They relocated from Scotland to New Zealand and used the Gaelic word for ‘earth’—urlar—to christen their winery. Since pinot noir is usually associated with Burgundy, the Thomsons distinguished their wine by using the practices popular in the French region on the elements of New Zealand terroir. The resulting wine is an elegant blend of cedar, spice, dried herbs, red currants, and plum notes.
ROC DES ANGES SEGNA DE COR 2013, Languedoc, Southern France – P1,250.00
Languedoc is a region in Southern France whose terroir is fairly elevated at 800 meters above sea level. Days are warm and nights are cold. It is here that the young Roc des Anges winery has amassed a following for its indigenous grape varieties. Instead of blending mainstream species of grape into their wine, the winemakers put a premium on the local Grenache, along with Carignan and Syrah grapes. Their wines are aged in a concrete vat to preserve the spirit of the fruit. After nine months, the crispy fruit taste and dynamic, full-bodied palate emerges.
All five labels are available at the Straits Wine Co. store in Makati (UPRC III Building, 2289 Don Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati