Au natural wine: How a fellow blogger is making us wildly green with envy

November 19, 2008 | By | Comments (1)

Team Wine watched crush come and go this year, dipping in nary a toe (a far cry from last year). With the economy seemingly suffering from a stuck fermentation, we didn’t dare try to squeak hundreds of pounds of grapes into the company budget. So we’re contenting ourselves with bottling our wine (video coming soon—really!) and peeking at what other home winemakers are doing.

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It was in googling around that we discovered our new favorite blog: NYTimes.com’s The Crush. This fall, NY-based wine writer Alice Feiring has been in California’s Sonoma County, furthering her passion for wine by making it for the first time.

In working with the little-known Italian red varietal Sagrantino with Kevin Hamel of Pellegrini Family Vineyards, Feiring’s initial experience very much mirrors our own: She picks the grapes herself, then jumps in feet first to stomp and crush them.

But that’s where our paths diverge: The girl’s going wild!

We got our ICV-D80 yeast from Thomas Fogarty winemaker Michael Martella, trusting his judgment instead of doing much research (and our wines are fantastic, so thank you, Michael!). But Feiring is sticking to completely natural yeast—whatever was on the grapes as they were harvested, and whatever gets into the fermenter.

And wow how it works. Here’s how Feiring describes the wine’s initial ferment: “A spongy collection of grape skins and pulp had pushed to the top. Underneath by a good 14 inches lurked the foamy, vibrant, magenta fermenting juice. Those yeast were stuffing themselves silly on the sugar, like a teenage boy on Thanksgiving turkey.”

At the core of this vin naturel approach is Feiring’s belief in organic, sustainable, biodynamic farming, a philosophy we at Sunset share.

And she likes her wines pure, with little or no interventions. We totally remember the worries along the way and the tough choices about sulfur and oak, but we were never faced with adding water to wine. This approach to lowering super-high alcohol levels and unsticking a potentially stuck fermentation lit up The Crush’s comments section.

If you don’t have anything in a barrel—or glass carboy—this fall, live vicariously through wine bloggers like Feiring. You might pick up a few tricks along the way. (In one post, Feiring professes to have been “a terrible chemistry student,” then handily tackles Brix, clearly defining it and readily dabbling in it.)

Have a food, wine, or local-eating blog you tune into? Please post those links by clicking “comments” below.

COMMENTS

  1. Love Umbria Tours, Italy

    Nice article. I have been following Alice Feiring’s efforts on her blog. Sagrantino is very well known over here in Italy and is becoming more and more popular overseas too (thanks partly to writers such as Alice). Paolo Bea in Montefalco is one of the wineries producing great biodynamic Sagrantino (http://www.paolobea.com/eng/philosophy.aspx) and his wine is available in the US too if you want to check it out.

    November 20, 2008 at 8:43 am

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