Can you read a Wine list....in an Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine bar?
Many of us feel lost when handed a wine list… the pressure of knowing the names, finding something that will please your guests… and not leaving your monthly pay on a bottle. Some wine bars or restaurants do a fantastic job sharing that wine knowledge. Because as a consumer we want more transparency about the provenance of our food: Is it organic, how were those chickens grown etc… we would like to have as much details when it comes to our wine. How was it made, are there any traces of animal product in the wine? Is it organic aka: no synthetic fertilisers were used in its production.All these elements become more and more important for the modern consumer. However transparency in writing how wines was made doesn’t necessarily makes it easier for consumers to select their top bottles.The jargon can be a be unfriendly and unless you want to spend an hour over the wine list learning about all the terms, you will probably give up and go for the sommelier recommendation or pick the grape that you like.
Here I have selected pages of that fantastic healthy foodie place in Bangkok called the about eatery and they have so much online! Let me walk you through the terms...
How to read a detailed wine list?
The grape: for example for the first wine Macabeo: Xarel-Lo, Parrellada. This wine list first exaplains what are the grapes in that wine. So you can see if that’s a single varietal or a blend. If you like any of the grapes in a blend maybe it’s something you would like to discover?
Production ethos: Biodynamic, Organic, Natural. If you don’t know the difference between those I don’t blame you! it can be rather difficult to apprehend them. The natural wine wouldn’t allow interventions and additions t create that wine. It should be made the more natural way possible, aka without added yeasts, sulfites. However depending on the association a min level of total sulfites is tolerated. According the raw wine website,
Natural Wine is farmed organically (biodynamically, using permaculture or the like) and made (or rather transformed) without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor (tight) filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology.
So Natural wines will probably taste the more earthy or rustic. When you move away from Natural, not very far from it you find organic wines. Those wines are organically farmed but additions or removal of organic content are tolerated in a controlled environment. different certifying bodies will have different rules but they would typically control the amount of added sulfites for examples. Biodynamic on the other side is a holistic philosophy that sees the moon influence on farming as the center for vine growing to wine making. Biodynamic wine makers will make organic preparations to encourage growth and prevent vine disease. They can add sulfites to the final wine but it will be very controlled under different certification bodies rules (demeter for instance)
SO2: the level of Sulfites in the wine Part of the sulfite in wine is naturally created by the fermentation process. The rest will be added by the winemaker to stabilise the wine and make it’s safe to travel and stay in your cellar for an extended amount of time without oxidising or re-fermenting. White wine will have higher SO2 than red which benefit from tannins that are naturally helping to protect the wine from unwanted transformations. Also there will be more sulfites in sweet winesto prevent re-fermentation (the action of the yeast being reactivated, typically waking up to transform sugar into alcohol and releasing CO2 in the bottle, not something a winemaker wishes for) Here the range here goes from “no added SO2” to 120mg/L for the Rheinhessen off-dry Riesling. Take a look at the different level authorised according to these existing certifying bodies
RS: the residual sugar in the wine It’s the amount of sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation. Typically RS 4 and below means the wine will be dry. Above that level you will be able to pick up some residual sugar. White wines with higher RS will be the sweet wines like Sauternes or the Riesling from Germany. If you like your wine dry pick the lowest RS you can find! Elevage/ Maturation: How was the wine left to settle and rest before bottling. It can be in oak barrels for he fancy ones. Oak will allow the wine some minimal level of oxygene to get in the wine and will soften the tannins. It will also pass on a “wood” taste which many consumers affectionate. Amphora is also a way to mature your wine and allow some minimal contact with oxygene, clay being a porous material. However it’s not meant to add any enjoyable mineral or ”earthy amphora” taste. On the other side for a neutral “no added taste” Stainless steel is also a cheaper option.
Vegan: is the wine Vegan? All wines aren’t Vegan. Organic and Vegan are very different things. So the wines that are made without any use of animal product are stating this fact.For more information about Vegan wines check our previous post Et voila! Now you are quite a champion in wine list reading… It can be so tricky that it can almost be a skill to add at the bottom of your resume… in the Hobbies of course!