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The Fathers of Natural Wine

Twenty years ago it was oak barrels that divided the enological community, but over the last fifteen years, and in particular the last five, it’s been natural wine provoking strong reactions in the wine world. For some it’s simply fashion, a fad, but for others it’s a revolution in winemaking, rebuilding and reinforcing the relationship between grapes and their territory.

The arguments surrounding the “naturalness” of wines are complex, not least because a single accepted definition of natural wine doesn’t exist, and therefore, there are no precise rules that govern its production. That doesn’t mean that it’s everyone for themselves though: natural winemakers are united by a common practice: being less interventionist with their grapes. They don’t used chemical products on the vines, no sulfites in the bottles and no lab-grown yeasts. Herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are all proscribed, (with only minimal quantities of sulphur and copper allowed), and only tiny amounts of sulphur dioxide are used, which conserves and disinfects the wine (though some natural wine producers have completely done away with this, too!); in the same manner, wild yeasts are preferred to their lab-grown counterparts, as they too represent the natural biodiversity of the wine’s territory.

All in all, the finished product is less “designed”, with the grapes being transformed as little as possible during the process, rather than being forced to assume precise characteristics. Today, with modern technology, wineries may produce bottles free of any defects, but in this quest for perfection, they often lose character, each becoming more homogenous and indistinguishable. Natural winemakers want to create a product that expresses its terroir*, perhaps with a more striking smell or color, but of optimum quality. That being said, there are of course both good and bad natural wines, as is the case for all wines!

At Terra Madre Salone del Gusto you’ll be have a golden opportunity to get up to speed on the topic, by taking part in the Taste Workshop The Fathers of Natural Wine. What better way to gain a new perspective than by listening to the stories of the producers who are striving for a freer and less harmful system of winemaking, both for the environment and our bodies? Of course, the tales will be accompanied by tastings from some of the finest natural wine cellars in the world.

Leading the workshop will be Luca Gargano, founder of the Genoese distribution company Velier, whose Triple A line focuses on natural wines. From the beginning of the millennium, Luca has been fighting against the standardization of wine, and at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto he’ll present a selection of the best natural wines, both from Italy and beyond.

Representing France there’ll be Nicolas Joly and Mathieu Lapierre, two true blue pioneers of natural wine. Joly, a winemaker for Clos de la Coulée de Serrant in the Loire Valley, is the founder of Renaissance des Appellations, an international association of biodynamic wine producers whose motto is “Biodynamy, wine growing for the future.” Mathieu Lapierre, son of the late Marcel Lapierre, widely recognized as one of natural wine’s pathfinders, continues the family tradition with the same conviction. In the words of his father: “the more we respect the soil, the more the land will be able to express itself, and the less chemicals we’ll have to use. To give the best of its terroir, the vines have to extract all of the authenticity they can from the soil.”

From Alessandria, Piedmont, Francesco Brezza of Tenuta Migliavacca has been producing biodynamically since 1965. He’s truly passionate about his work: his winery is also a farm, with Piedmontese cows fertilizing the vineyards to complete the cycle of nature.

In operation since 1899, Emidio Pepe brings you wine that’s 100% natural from a family-run business in Abruzzo. Just like when they started, the grapes today are still harvested by hand and crushed underfoot, to bring out the best of the Montepulciano and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo varieties.

There’s no need to feel intimidated by the complexity of the subject, with The Fathers of Natural Wine you’ll learn lots more about the path towards more sustainable winemaking. Drinking the wines of Nicolas, Mathieu, Francesco and Emidio you’ll savor a new pleasure, that of tasting all the goodness a territory can offer.

If you want to know more, don’t miss the other events at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto dedicated to natural wine, like Naturally Beaujolais, Muscadet Au Naturel, French Catalonia: Purely Natural and Vegetable Rennet Cheeses and Natural Wines.

*Terroir is not just the literal translation for territory: it defines the interaction between diverse factors that go into winemaking – the terrain, the position of the vines, the climate, the winegrowers and the consumers.

Francesca Monticone

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
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Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
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