Blog » Natural Wine
"N" Marks the Spot: 2021 Lapierre Morgon
I will always beat the drum for Lapierre's Morgon, but when the non-sulfured cuvée is available in California, I'm on cloud nine. No producer in Beaujolais surpasses this Gamay's bright strawberry fruit and granitic mineral core without any restraints.
In some years, the fruit is deemed ideal to exclude sulfur additions during each phase from harvest through fermentation, aging, and bottling—such wines are marked with an "N" meaning they are non-sulfured. Proposing no sulfur is risky for others, but Lapierre has mastered it over the years. This estate's Morgon is the model of soundness with an ultra-delicate framework.
After taking over the family domaine in 1973, Marcel's encounter with Jules Chauvet in 1981 launched the shift toward natural viticulture and winemaking in Beaujolais. Along with Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet, the Gang of Four's practices spread quickly and made clear that the natural route yielded wines of authenticity and joie de vivre (joy of life). Since 2010, Marcel's children, Matthieu and Camille, have carried on the same natural approach that placed their father in the hearts of winemakers and enthusiasts across the globe.
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Burgundy's Natural Bravado: Prieuré Roch
Henry-Frédéric Roch, the late co-director of DRC and nephew of Lalou Bize-Leroy, established his domaine in 1988. Around this time, he saw a wooden box of Château Prieuré-Lichine and thought Prieuré had a nice ring to it. But it was when Henri purchased some vineyards from DRC that his eponymous project was truly born.
Wines here begin with organic and biodynamic farmed land, 100% whole cluster fermentation, new oak influence, and next to zero sulfur additions. They are extremely spicy and elegant, with a beef bouillon note that I associate with being the domaine's real calling card.
While Prieuré Roch's wines from past decades showed a lot of variation of soundness due to the sans soufre approach, in the last several years, in my opinion, they've become a gold standard in the non-sulfur category. A 2013 bottling of Le Cloud was crunchy, high-toned, and alive in a way that I wish every wine would be like. These are soulful and singular, and it's my pleasure to offer wines directly from the domaine.
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Natural Wine Ace: 2021 Alfredo Maestro Lovamor
Finding compelling natural wines that equally hit the mark in their soundness and complexity hasn't been easy, but hearing that one of Spain's most exciting natural-minded producers was tapping old vines proved enticing. I'd even argue this is one of Spain's wildest, most thought-provoking wines.
Lovamor comes from 1891 and 1910-planted Albillo vines in Peñafiel, a part of Spain's Basque country. Alfredo excludes any additives in his winemaking, and he also takes an unusual step to vinify these white grapes on their skins for seven days. Whether you're focused on the non-sulfured natural side of wines, or you're curious to taste one of the best executed skin-contact whites, this is your ideal landing spot!
The value here certainly stands out, but the main attraction is what happens in the glass (or decanter). What starts with spicy orchard fruit and slight cider-like tones shifts to mouth-watering salinity, renewed freshness, and lingering minerality. Pear and red apple notes slowly meet with a more nervy kaleidoscope of citrus fruits. Lovamor provides equal amounts of deliciousness and fascination.
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Naturally Margaux: Clos du Jaugueyron
Earlier this year, NYT wine critic Eric Asimov published an article that might as well have been a love letter to natural wine, sharing his insight on the joys (and pitfalls) of these stylistic wines that have ignited a worldwide movement. Natural producers span the globe, even in the Old World's most staunchly classic regions like Bordeaux.
Michel Théron and Stéphanie Destruhaut, owners of Clos du Jagueyron, farm seven hectares in Margaux and neighboring Haut-Médoc. Margaux is known for its gravel-based, well-draining soils, allowing the vines to grow deep and transmit this graphite-laced terroir. Generally, the wines are perfumed, full-bodied yet balanced, and have soft, silky tannins. Current standouts are the 2016 Haut-Médoc and 2014 Margaux Perrain: The Haut-Médoc is the more ready-to-drink wine with mineral-driven and herbaceous notes, while Perrain is more serious and polished, with darker savory notes of cedar and tobacco leaf.
Clos du Jagueyron began with a single parcel in 1993. They have practiced biodynamic farming since 2008 (Now Demeter certified) and never used chemicals on their vines. In the cellar, these Cabernet-dominant wines spontaneously ferment in cement tanks and age in French barrels with minimal new oak. Apart from our other go-to, Chateau Le Puy, this is the most pleasurable, terroir-driven Bordeaux I've had this year—and without the stuffiness, expensive price tag, or decades of aging demanded by other top châteaux here.
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Dolomiti Crescendo: 2019 Foradori Teroldego
The magical wines from the Foradori estate in Trentino's Dolomite Mountains have been well-documented here before, and I find an added layer of refinement and precision with each release. If you're curious about Italy's extreme alpine setting, Foradori is where I recommend you turn first.
Teroldego is an esoteric variety that opens with dark plum and licorice, followed by softer floral and herbaceous qualities, and finishes with a finely pronounced minerality. From the first sip to the last, Elisabetta's wines are constantly changing and fascinating to no end. The entry-level teroldego ages in neutral barrels and cement tanks while the old-vine, riserva-level "Granato ages in old foudres.
Elisabetta's father unexpectedly passed away while she was still in enology school, and after graduating, in 1984, she was thrust into harvest and production thereafter. Though her winemaking garnered awards in the 90s, the wines came into their own when she adopted biodynamic principles, eliminated lab yeasts, lowered sulfur additions, and included riper stems in the ferments. Visits with Giusto Occhipinti of COS introduced her to the use of clay amphora for aging.