There are lots of trends in wine which compete for our attention at the moment – orange wines, natural wines, organic, biodynamic, lutte raisonnée, skin contact, wild ferment, pet-nat, and many more. Some are almost interchangeable and some are ill-defined.
Against this backdrop, many producers continue to improve quality by taking care in the vineyard, first and foremost, and allowing the terroir to be expressed in the wine. One of the key ways of doing this is to use “wild” yeast, i.e. the yeast which occurs naturally in the vineyard, rather than commercial or cultured yeast.
Here are two wild yeast fermented wines from France which I tried recently:
Domaine des Chezelles Touraine Sauvignon 2015 (12.5%, €13.85 at Wines Direct)
Touraine Sauvignon is a banker for me, always fresh and fruity, great value for money…in a word, reliable. Although this might sound like damning with faint praise, it isn’t; while not hitting the heights of Loire neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, it’s the appellation I actually buy the most of.
Domaine des Chezelles practises wild yeast fermentation and organic techniques but haven’t been certified (which can be an expensive process). They’re using organic methods because they think it’s the right thing to do, rather than a sales tool.
In the glass it’s recognisably a Touraine Sauvignon, with lots of pleasant green flavours – gooseberry, grapefruit, green pepper and grass – but more exuberantly fruity than the norm. Drink as an aperitif or with dishes containing asparagus or shellfish.
Château La Baronne Corbières “Les Chemins” 2013 (14.5%, €22.75 at Wines Direct)
Corbières was one of the first Languedoc appellations that I became familiar with, but quality has certainly increased over the past 20 years or so. The reds (which are over 90% of all Corbières wines produced) are generally a blend composed of some or all of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault – what I call GSM-CC.
Les Chemins (“The Paths” or “The Ways”) is particularly interesting as it’s a naturally-produced wine from Corbières, but can’t be labelled as “natural” because of the sulphur levels – though no sulphur is added, the amount which occurs naturally is just over the threshold. The blend is Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvère – the Lignères Family who own the Château are particularly fond of Carignan so it is the biggest component of the wine.
On pouring the wine has a wonderfully fruity nose – fruits of the forest in particular. On the palate there are wondrous red and (mainly) black fruits – red and black cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant. It’s the sort of wine that autumn really calls for!
Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review