Natural Wines - organic, biodynamic & sulphite free
We have some great savings on sulphite free mixed case deals
. Please see below if you're interested in taking a mixed selection and saving some money.
Natural wines - either sulfite free (no added sulphites), or with extremely low sulphite content - are our speciality. Natural wines are becoming more sought after, and we believe we have discovered some of the very best available with Domaine Viret, Frey Winery, Chateau Costes Cirgues and Domaine D'Anglas below. Not only are they delicious and actively good for you, they are very competitively priced too.
Whether you need to select sulphite free wines due to an allergy or if you just want to switch to them as an actively healthly alternative (we have loads of doctors as customers who've done just that!) we believe we're now offering the widest choice of styles for sulphite free wines anywhere in the UK reaffiriming our position as the UK's premier specialist importer and retailer of sulphite free wines. All the sulphite free wines we list are actually very nice wines in their own right, not the semi oxidised funky styles that are giving natural wines a bad reputation in some circles!
As always we are offering mixed case deals on these wines as we know you like to try different flavours and styles to find the wines which are right for you."Very impressed - particularly with Solo S02 wine"comment from wine writer Jamie Goode, June 2011 after tasting our wines from Domaine Viret!"Philippe Viret makes highly individual wines in the Rhone region that have a deep respect for nature. I love the approach of his two new wines made with low sulfites, So-Lo and Aurum. Sulfite levels are mentioned on the label which is really great and honestly how it should be for all wines. Aurum, made from an interesting blend of chardonnay, marsanne and viognier shows lovely purity of aromas of acacia blossom and apricots. This vibrant, mid-weight wine is refreshing, complex with great drinkability." Isabelle Legeron MW and organiser of RAW Natural Wine Fair.We are very low/out of stock for many of these wines. We do have more orders due in imminently though including replacement stock of all the Domaine Viret wines. And we have several new excellent reds in from Frey in California.
SoLo is a fabulous new wine "brand" created specifically to fill a new requirement in the wine market. Basically they are bridging the gap between "natural" wines and mainstream wines, bringing together all the health benefits of natural wines with no artificial additives or preservatives, with the full flavour, consistency and reliability of the more mainstream wines that we're used to.
Their wines are made from organically grown grapes grown at Domain Viret, and at the vineyard next door belonging to Philippe Viret's good friend, James. Their vineyards have never been treated with any artificial fertilisers or pesticides, only natural ones derived from plants on the vineyard. No additional oenological products of any type are used either. Philippe uses only the natural yeasts present on the grapes. This means their wines are perfectly safe for just about everybody - sulphite intolerant people, vegans and people with allergies to other substances such as gluten. Plus of course they are also delicious wines too.
Their first two wines, Navitas and Aurum, have been designed and blended specifically to appeal to the UK wine drinker. Many natural wines are a little "funky" and an acquired taste. Many have consistency problems, not just between different vintages but even from bottle to bottle of the same batch. And many natural whites tend to be semi oxidised and either dark yellow or orange in colour - the producers will tell you this is intentional but it is not! It is because of a chemical relationship between the natural acidity of a wine and the sulphite content! It is physically impossible to have a wine with good acidity without at least some sulphite in there.
Therefore SoLo have developed a white wine with crisp acidity and full tropical flavour which is made entirely naturally with no chemical intervention right from the planting of the grapes through to the wine making. An absolutely tiny dash of sulphite (less then 5% of legal allowance) is added at bottling to retain the acidity and the wine's crispness and ensure it will keep in condition for several years. The amount is so small these wines are perfectly safe even for people with severe sulphite allergies."Very impressed - particularly with Solo S02 wine" comment from wine writer Jamie Goode, June 2011 after tasting our wines from Domaine Viret!
Natural WinesNatural Wine
Natural wines (some without sulphites) are wines made without the use of chemicals, sugars, acid rectification or artificial yeasts. There is currently no definitive legislation for what qualifies as "natural wine" and what doesn't, but generally at the present time just about every producer
who states that his or her wine is natural is an artisan, making these wines because they believe it's how wine should be, not just for commercial profit.
However the term has already been exploited by several importers
who are applying it to wines which simply are not natural!
They qualify using this term because the grapes may have been farmed organically or biodynamically but that's about where the natural element stops. In the winemaking process sulphites and other chemicals are added. So be very careful when shopping for natural wines whether in a shop or online - check that the retailer actually understands the issue and that they're not just blagging you to get a sale!
We have tasted a lot of natural wines and to be honest many of them are not particularly great tasting, and most of them are very expensive - because they are hand crafted on a tiny scale.
However as this is a passion of ours, we have searched very hard and are delighted to have discovered some of the very best natural wines produced anywhere in the world, and at sensible prices. Domaine Viret wines from the Rhone are just fantastic, a big favourite of ours - Oz Clarke described their wines as "cosmic nectar". Jancis Robinson has written a piece praising their unique winemaking on her "Purple Pages" website (July 2012, mentioning us!) but perhaps the greatest praise has come from Isabelle Legeron MW and organiser of the RAW Natural Wine Fair. She was very impressed with Philippe's wines, particularly the Solo Aurum Natura.
We also have a superb range from Frey Winery in California, the USA's first certified organic winery, who have never used sulphites or any other chemicals. Many of their wines are medal winners, and they're all sulphite free, completely natural, gluten free and vegan friendly, not to mention delicious!
We now also source sulphite free wines from Domaine Costes Cirgues and Domaine D'Anglas, both just outside Montpellier, as well as extremely low sulphite organic wines from Domaine Mayrac nearby at Limoux. Mayrac are now also producing a limited number of sulphite free wines which we also import.Click here to view our natural chemical free winesUPDATE 1st August 2012From today there is a new EU Classification of "EU Certified Organic Wine" which also permits the new EU Organic logo to be displayed on the bottle. But don't be conned! - These wines are still permitted to contain 44 different chemicals and very high levels of sulphites -150 mg/l for dry whites and rose wines, 100 mg/l for reds and a whopping 370 mg/l for dessert wines. Plus the wineries are permitted to exceed these levels if they feel there is just cause! These wines are not natural or low sulphite, and it makes a mockery of the whole organic certification system. This new logo will be appearing on bottles on shelves in the local supermarket - be very cautious if you have a sulphite allergy!
Frey Winery is the USA's first certified organic winery and also the USA's first certified biodynamic producer, located in Redwood Valley, Medocina County in California. They have been producing sulphite free, natural organic wines for 30 years. For a wine to be certified "organic" in the USA no sulphites are permitted to be added to the wine.
Frey is not only the USA's largest organic winery but also reputedly the largest family winery employing three generations of family - 27 members! It was founded by Paul (Senior) and his wife Beba when they moved to California from New York searching for a more natural existence, when they bought a ranch in Redwood Valley. They planted their first vines in the late 1960s and sold the grapes onto other wineries. They had 12 children who they brought up to love and respect nature. The winery itself was born when in 1979 a wine produced from their Cabernet grapes won a gold medal. Two of the sons realised they had the potential to make these wines themselves.
The winery now has a vast array of awards for it's wines. It is operated by an extended family of nature lovers with sustainable agricultural practices, with a firm focus on producing quality natural healthy wines. They farm biodynamically, keep several colonies of honey bees, encourage all natural life to flourish on the vineyard - in fact only 10% of their ranch is vines, the other 90% is native forest. They use solar power where possible, and fiercely reject any chemical intervention or use of toxins and genetically modified organisms.
Frey Winery Vineyards
All Domaine Viret wines are gluten free and vegan friendly.
In our search for no added preservative (sulphite free) wines, we've been extremely fortunate to have discovered Domaine Viret, a truly unique family winery in St Maurice just north of Chateauneuf du Pape. You may remember the winery from the BBC's Oz Clarke and James May episode in 2006 where Oz described their wines as 'cosmic nectar', and thoroughly enjoyed working his way through several of their best bottles while camped in the vineyard.
Domaine Viret is owned by Alain and his son Philippe, and is based on a natural philosophy which surpasses organic and biodynamic, which they call 'cosmoculture'. It encompasses an array of natural approaches from producing their own plant food for the vines from 14 different plants from the vineyard, to adopting Aborigine and American Indian philosophies about the earth's energy fields and the cell structure of water. They even built the winery in a specific location to harmonise with the earth's natural rhythms.
Now I'm normally a little sceptical, but I was so impressed by their wines that I had to take a look at the winery and vineyards for myself. Their cosmoculture system is extremely in depth, and my French isn't very good so I only understood some of the very basics. But I certainly understood one thing - whatever their secret, they have a winery that is truly unique in the world, that produces wines beyond the capabilities of any other winemaker I've met. Virtually every winemaker will tell you 'you can't make a wine without the addition of sulphur that will keep more than a few months' - I was told exactly that by a South African 'organic' producer earlier this year. However, over lunch Philippe opened a bottle of his Colonnades 2000, and a bottle of Emergence 1999 which were both absolutely stunning with beautifully ripe fruit. That's sulphur free wine which has not only kept for 10 years but is in premium condition, and is a masterpiece of winemaking.
Organic wine in the European Union doesn't officially exist. You will notice such wines have to be labelled 'wine made from organically grown grapes'. This is because only the grape growing is organically certified - once the grapes hit the winery to be vinified, almost anything can happen to them including the addition of sulphur and other chemicals, but they still achieve their 'organic' status. This is why many organic wines are just as high in free sulphur as any other wine. Alain and Philippe however, extend their philosophy to every part of the winemaking from the fertilisation and watering of the vineyards to the final production of the wine and even bottling and storage. Their wines are the purest I have ever tasted, and it is perhaps the absence of any chemicals that gave me the feeling of being energised when I drank them. Jane and I sat on our decking in the sun sampling their wines, and we actually drank 'several' bottles on a Sunday afternoon. Normally a bottle each would be our limit, but we just kept remarking how great we felt - 'shall we open the next one up?' We were a little tipsy certainly but felt full of energy. We both got up for work in the morning fresh as a daisy. Now, normally if I have 3 pints of UK brewed lager, I'm sluggish and tired all day! Clearly it isn't the quantity of alcohol that causes this effect, it's the plethora of chemicals I'm imbibing.UPDATE 1st August 2012From today there is a new EU Classification of "EU Certified Organic Wine" which also permits the new EU Organic logo to be displayed on the bottle. But don't be conned! - These wines are still permitted to contain 44 different chemicals and very high levels of sulphites -150 mg/l for dry whites and rose wines, 100 mg/l for reds and a whopping 370 mg/l for dessert wines. Plus the wineries are permitted to exceed these levels if they feel there is just cause! These wines are not natural or low sulphite, and it makes a mockery of the whole organic certification system. This new logo will be appearing on bottles on shelves in the local supermarket - be very cautious if you have a sulphite allergy!
These chemicals affect us in many ways we don't realise. I strongly remommend you try Domaine Viret's wines, and experience this for yourself. Not only are they possibly the healthiest wines money can buy, they're also delicious in their own right.Current Free Sulphur Update
Domaine Viret sent all their wines to have their sulphur content analysed for us a couple of weeks ago (July 2010). The 'Limite de Quantification' (the limit below which the laboratory don't even record the amount) is 5 mg/l for Free Sulphur and 10 mg/l for Total Sulphur. Their wines are so low in sulphur that only the Rose and White had anything recorded - the reds were all virtually undetectable. The Rose showed 6 mg/l Free and 11 mg/l Total, and the white, Coudee D'Or, was below the minimum Free and 15 mg/l Total. This is remarkable. We are talking about 15 parts per MILLION in total! In a normal well made, quality white wine the Free Sulphur would be about 60 mg/l, and the Total sulphur upto 210 mg/l.Just a quick word of warning if you like to make your bottle last over a few nights. Sulphite free wines, once opened, will react to oxygen more quickly than wines containing artificial preservatives. To stop them spoiling, replace the cork immediately each time you pour a glass to minimise the contact with the air. If you regularly drink just a glass a night it may be worth buying a Vacuvin to pump out the air completely so it will keep in good condition for several days.
June 2012 - Quote in the Toronto Evening Standard from Master Sommelier and wine writer John Szabo taken from a piece he wrote about Domain Viret's Cosmoculture system:"Cosmoculture is meaningless to the drinker who sits on the other side of the planet, hoping for a nice glass of wine. And to be honest, I wouldnt be writing this piece if the wines were mediocre, or even decent commercial. But theyre much more than that: the wines are extraordinary."
Winery and Philippe Viret at work
Domaine D'Anglas is both a tiny winery (certified organic) making excellent sulphite free wines, and a campsite in the picturesque Herault Valley about 45 km north of Montpellier, owned and run by Carole & Roger Gaussorgues. Their wines are made naturally, patiently and carefully without any artificial additives whatsoever. Everything is done traditionally by hand with love and care, to handcraft delicious wines.
The campsite set within 115 hectares of protected parkland is in one of the most beautiful regions of France with the Herault River and Gorge, and the second most beautiful town in France - Saint Guilhem le Désert.
We discovered their wines quite by accident in a restaurant in Montpellier after a hard day's tasting at the Millesime Bio Organic wine show. We were so impressed they were the first contact we made on our return. Here's a clip of Roger in his cellar
Domaine D'Anglas at work!
Domaine Costes Cirgues
Domaine Costes Cirgues is a small family Chateau and winery at Sommieres a little way north of Montpellier. Beatrice Althoff discovered the Chateau when looking for a holiday home. Her son David was looking for a job so they decided to take on restoring the old Chateau and David took on the vineyards that came with the property.
From the onset he wanted to make wines without sulphites or any other chemical additives. Their wines are excellent and they've received a lot of good press as they've picked up some awards recently including two silver medals at the 2013 Millesime Bio (the world's biggest organic wine fair).
They control all aspects of their winemaking and bottling. Each label is a photo of the specific vineyard from where the grapes were grown. Their website isn't particularly informative but they also publish a more useful blogspot here.
Domaine Costes Cirgues at work!