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.
I am always searching for the rebels in traditional wine regions and, better yet, those doing it well. Arguably the most stick it to the Man producer in Piedmont, Fabio Gea’s approach is both thoughtful and unconventional, from pét-nats made from Barbaresco-designated fruit to vinifying specific wines submerged in water (like DNAss). The wines speak to Barbaresco from a completely different lens.
Gea farms just 1.8 hectares of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto in and around Barbaresco, from which he produces 18 different wines. DNAss is one in a three-part series (The others, Back Grin and Cul Otte, sold out earlier this year). Made from 100% Nebbiolo, DNAss ferments and ages in homemade porcelain amphora and stoneware vessels without any sulfur, then is bottled in old Travaglini Gattinara bottles. Barbaresco is known for its more approachable Nebbiolos, and Gea's are some of the wildest yet pure expressions to encounter.
Of course, the Barbaresco designates are the most traditional. We tasted the 2014 Notu Seguiva Le Gocce D'Acqua, which shows classic notes of ripe cherry fruit and rose aromatics, and the structure and tannins are just beginning to soften. It's fermented in concrete, aged in barrel for three years, and bottled with minimal sulfur. Barolo was hit hard by heavy rainfall and hail storms in 2014, so this is a particular vintage where Piedmont lovers should veer toward Barbaresco!
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.
Wineries like Werlitsch in Austria's Styria region perpetuate those dreamy biodynamic farm vibes we've seen springing up in Eastern Europe. Sure, the scenes are breathtaking and make for a good selling point, but what winemaker Ewald Tscheppe produces from his opok-rich soils restores our faith in the far reaches of natural wine.
Our team once blind-tasted the Ex Vero I together. It had a matchstick quality on the nose, followed by white florals, fresh citrus, coconut milk-like texture, and electric acidity on the palate. Still, the wine's focal point was its lively energy and slightly waxy texture. I guessed it was from the Jura, thinking it had a Burgundy gone rogue feeling, but it turned out to be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (aka Chardonnay). Ex Vero is a three-part series showcasing the varied levels of altitude and soil composition on Werlitsch's steep hillside. These vines grow on limestone and clay soil rich in minerals and marine fossils, which locals refer to as opok. Frankly, the wines are unlike anything you'll taste from Austria or elsewhere.
Ewald and his friends discovered biodynamics while studying wine in the early 1980s. As a true devotee of the naturalist movement, he believes that nature always does it better—for him, that means gravity-flow winemaking, natural yeast, no temperature control, and no sulfur. In 2004, Ewald began to apply biodynamics to his family's estate, which also inhabits fruit trees, wild herbs, vegetables, and forests.
"Admirers of racy, mineral Chablis should give this important estate serious consideration." — William Kelley, Wine Advocate
Finding Chablis deeply entrenched in the natural category while still delivering rigor and classicism is a challenge. Hunting down ample quantities of Château de Béru, who's become a leader in the natural movement, was challenging for a while, but thanks to New York importer Zev Rovine and his expansion out west, that's changed.
The Béru family has owned and farmed Château de Béru for four centuries, and their eight hectares of planted vines are known as some of the stoniest vineyards in all of Chablis. Comte Éric de Béru's daughter, Athénais, has overseen the estate since 2004, and she quickly converted their farming to organic and biodynamic practices.
The wines unfurl in the glass, opening up over an hour to reveal more luscious green apple, lime zest, toast, and almond paste, all held together with a brilliantly strict vein of minerality. For me, Chablis hits the highest note when that wet stone mineral quality meets with a crystalline level of acidity. Old oak is used for élevage, and the wines ferment with native yeasts. No filtering or fining.