Grapevine: tuning in to low-fi wine
It’s about this time of year where we start to see a flurry of wines being released from this calendar year’s harvest.
Historically, it would be Semillon harvested very early in the year from the Hunter Valley, Riesling from principally South Australia and Sauvignon Blanc looking to get on to the market for the warmer months.
With the trend towards early drinking styles, we now see more and more reds popping up before the year is out, in particular those from producers making vin de soif/park wines/glou glou/low-fi or whatever term you want to use for wines that are bursting with fresh primary fruit characters and early drinkability.
These styles of red also lend themselves to lower sulphur use on two fronts. First, producers of these wines tend to be aligned with sustainable/organic/biodynamic or natural practices whereby the use of additions at any stage of the winemaking are minimised if used at all. Second, sulphur additions to a wine can result in a wine that appears a bit dull for a period after bottling which can be a problem for wines that are made to be consumed when they are a young and fresh. The obvious counterpoint to this is wines that have less, or no added sulphur often appear much brighter and accessible straight away.
Taking away sulphur can have its problems, of course. It is a preservative and can help to protect a wine in bottle from spoilage due to heat, microbial issues or refermenting so some care must be taken in finding the right wine. A solid starting point is wineries with a strong track record of producing consistent, quality wines. Many of these are now producing at least one wine in their portfolio that sees little to no sulphur, usually their ‘entry-level’ wines that are released early for simple drinkability and a snapshot of their house style.
Sherrah Preservative Free Grenache 2019 – $29
Alex Sherrah might be more familiar to you in his previous day job – chief winemaker at Coriole between 2012 and 2017. He undoubtedly got a good understanding of McLaren Vale during this time and established his own label in 2016, sourcing fruit from select sites and growers across the region.
When handled well, Grenache can be a brilliant early drinking wine. Many French producers in the Rhone Valley make delicious “vin de soif” wines built on Grenache, that are made to be drunk and enjoyed when young, often with lower or no sulphur additions, highlighting the fresh, vibrance of the fruit.
For a wine that is so simply delicious and vibrant, plenty of thought and detail lies behind it. Great quality fruit from two 80+ year old vineyards; one at higher altitude on sandy soils, one sitting lower and further south at Willunga. The fruit is gently destemmed and to keep the berries intact as much as possible for fermentation as this helps to preserve the bright primary fruit characters. After two months in large, old oak the wine is bottled, un-fined and with no sulphur additions. Silky, luscious texture, the flavours are bright red berry driven with some very subtle spice and fine tannins that keep it focused.