Natural wine isn’t for everyone. How can it be? We barely agree on…. anything. How could we possibly all agree on wine made to emulate how it was probably made over 5,000 years ago? How could we get a general consensus about purposely choosing to forgo the numerous advantages that science avails, that would allow us to control all the steps of production so that we can end with a predictable product?
We certainly can’t! And you know what, that is exactly the point! You can have two aggressively avid fanatics of wine with completely differing opinions, striking up their most hotly contested conversation over many other bottles = Fun. Somehow though, natural wine appears to stir up more emotion than other styles of wine do.
I, myself, think of them as simply any other wines: you have some that are outright awful and faulty expressions, while others are remarkably distinct and sublime. I taste each wine I encounter with the same open-mindedness. Albeit, I have come to find that I do enjoy the uniquely enchanting journey they tend to offer.
And what are natural wines? They start off in vineyards that are “allowed”, with much difficulty, to grow in a natural balance with the ecosystem; think biodiversity. So no pesticides or agrochemicals; and definite weeds and little critters all over. In the cellar again, no additives or technology are employed. That includes yeast, yeast food, sugar, acid, flavour compounds; you name it. In essence, the grapes are simply crushed and left to do their own thing, and on completion are stored in a bottle awaiting enjoyment. Some little bit of SO2 maybe added, but this need not be the case.
Some argue that this makes for lazy wine making, and the end result is far too often riddled with faults. I think it is a rather brave and patient undertaking; knowing that a small adjustment could correct that very thing you know could be going wrong, and yet you choose to do nothing, trusting in the vineyards and the process. Knowing all the while that these barrels encapsulate your entire year’s harvest/ income: that would not be easy.
The El Bandito Redemption Syrah is just that kind of natural wine that keeps you up at night thinking of what just happened. Craig Hawkins, a raving Maverick from South Africa, is the brain and heart behind this ethereal beverage.
The wine leads with that oxidative funky character that many natural wines have. And it did put off the others that were in congregation. Behind it though, lay a world of flavour, a distinct concentration and precision, yet light and fresh; a masterpiece in my eyes. Of the flavours that I could comprehend, I picked lush blueberries, plums and various other red fruits, coupled with wild herds and earth. Texturally, it was almost effervescent, with refreshing acidity and that focused cluster of flavour. By the second glass, everyone seemed to enjoy it even more. What a wine to usher in the rest that followed suit.
It’s been a little over a month since I had it and yet I can’t get the taste out of my mind…