Irish Mail on Sunday, 16 October 2016

This week I have half a dozen wines for you selected from two of my favourite independent wine merchants, Le Caveau in Kilkenny and Wines Direct in Mullingar (and at Arnott’s in Dublin). Both also offer a superb, streamlined delivery service; the sight of one of their cartons in the arms of a courier is decidedly life enhancing.

Until this week I have been a natural-wine sceptic. I’m talking about the movement, unoffical and uncoordinated, to make wines with minimal chemical and technological innovation. So, no commercial yeasts, no filtration or fining, no temperature control, no reverse osmosis, minimal or zero use of sulphites (the winemaker’s Dettol) and no induced malolactic fermentation.

Some of the natural wines I’ve tasted in the past have been charmless, sometimes to the point of being decidedly “off”. But Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau promised to convert me and he has. The natural wines he showed me are a revelation.

I suppose an even bigger revelation was that Soave, which many believe to be God’s compensation for a dodgy water supply, can be delicious. Not just pleasant, as the Soaves of Pieropan undoubtedly are, but seductive. If that’s natural wine, I want more please!

I don’t know what kind of viticulture is practised at Domaine Tatraux in Burgundy but I  suspect it’s pretty natural and I do know that their Givry is just gorgeous – and great value. So, that’s why it’s here. It’s all about pleasure!

Mas Oncle Ernest Instant Présent 2013
€16.20, winesdirect.ie, Arnott’s

Organically grown, but not claiming to be a “natural” wine, this Cotes de Ventoux is named after the maker’s great-great grandfather. Grenache and Syrah come together here in the Rhone to produce a wine, as the name implies, that’s ready to drink right now. The vineyards are quite high on the Mont de Ventoux so the style is rather more delicate than we might usually expect. There’s a herby whiff of the garrigue. Good with lamb.

Filippi Soave Castelcerino Colli Scalligeri 2014
€18.65, lecaveau.ie

A revelation. This natural wine is the most attractive Soave I think I’ve ever tasted (and I know Pieropan pretty well). It has a honeyed yet dry complexity and a waxy, palate coating texture that reflects the full ripeness of the grapes, 100% Garganega with no Trebbiano at all. You could be forgiven for thinking that Soave is the dullest white wine on the planet but this demonstrates what the region can do.

Chateau La Baronne Les Chemins 2013
€22.75, winesdirect.ie, Arnott’s

Although it’s organically produced and even the bottling is done according to the biodynamic calendar this is not strictly a “natural” wine but this won’t bother many people. It’s from Corbières and is made by a doctor and pharmacist husband and wife team along with their children, all of whom are in healthcare.  There’s ripe brambly fruit with a touch of dark chocolate and pepper, grippy tannins and lovely length.

Attention Chenin Méchant 2015
€23.70. lecaveau.ie

From the young winemaker Nicolas Reau whose vineyard is in transition to organic classification this natural wine is made without filtration or fining after a wholly natural fermentation using wild yeasts. And, amazingly, considering that it’s 100% Chenin Blanc it has not undergone malolactic fermentation (the conversion of malic to lactic acid). And it’s simply delicious! There’s a touch of cut grass and grapefruit on the nose, a dry but round palate and a crisp, clean finish.

Pompois Anjou Rouge 2015
€24.95, lecaveau.ie

Another wine from Nicolas Reau and the winemaking is just as meticulous as in the amusingly named Chenin Méchant. This time the vines are Cabernet Franc with an average age of 50 years and the wine is so vibrant, so alive and so pure tasting that it seems to jump out of the glass. This is painstaking winemaking with enormous attention to detail, a return to old practices that yield a curiously futuristic wine.

Domaine Tatraux Givry 1er cru “Clos Jus” 2014
€26.50, winesdirect.ie, Arnott’s

This is the best value red Burgundy I’ve tasted in ages. From a tiny estate south of the Cote d’Or and a family who have been making wine here for nearly three centuries, it has that deceptively light colour and seductive strawberry fruit that seem to contradict each other, round, supple tannins and a generous palate that all add up to Burgundy, as distinct from New Zealand or Oregon. Heaven in a glass.