+Culture

A Taste of Italy: Top 6 Natural Wines to Try

Published on 07 Jul 2020
By Livguine

Photo by Unsplash

+Places

A Taste of Italy: Top 6 Natural Wines to Try

Published on 07 Jul 2020
By Livguine

Do you like Italian wine? I’m sure you’ve enjoyed a good bottle of Sangiovese at one of the many excellent restaurants in Melbourne before. But have you tried lesser known varieties, indigenous to Italy, like Baratuciat, Slarina, Grignolino, Timorasso or Catarratto? Italy has roughly 2,000 grape varieties which is more than France, Spain and Greece combined! 

 

Last September, I worked the vendemmia, (or wine harvest in English, which somehow sounds less ‘romantic’), at two organic vineyards in Piemonte - the home of renowned Barbera, Nebbiolo and of course the Barolo region. I’d taken the certificate two course through WSET previously, but the focus is on conventional wines and relatively little about the nuances of organic, natural and biodynamic wine-making. It was here on the vineyards, picking grapes in the warmth of the September sun, that I really got to understand wine making (or at least a bit more about it!) 

Days were back-breaking and heavily reliant on the weather. Rain meant no picking, while sunny days meant early starts, big beautiful lunches and then long afternoons finishing our picks. I got to see first-hand the effects of hail damage on poor, defenceless crops and understand not only how much hard work went into making a bottle of wine, but also how much luck contributes to making the best one and how merciless you are to the effects of Mother Nature in the vineyard. 

My first day picking was rather anti-climatic. I piled into a small, rundown Panda with two Canadian guys and a Romanian grandfather Giuseppe, as we struggled down a hill to the vineyard of the day. It was early morning and we were shivering in the cold but also with excitement, eager to impress. The leader of the group, Massimo, came over to us with a pair of shears each and gloves. He demonstrated a simple snip of a good looking bunch of grapes and threw them into a big empty red pallet. And that was it! 

Days were long, and I had never had such a feeling of physical exhaustion and tired muscles as that time. But nights were joyful as the vineyard owner’s wife prepared delicious dinners and we were invited into their cellar every night to try limitless amounts of interesting, ‘natural’ wines. Conversations around the dinner table centred on wine, tastings together and shared thoughts about what we were drinking, what we were eating, local and natural vs conventional and mass-produced, and our way of life. Never before have I lived in such a bubble of pleasant routine. 

So, while I can’t transport you to this winery myself, I can share with you some of their wines and other delicious, naturally-minded wines we enjoy here in Italy. 

Read on to discover my picks for the 6 top natural wines you should try for just a flavour of Italian wine beyond that bottle of Sangiovese…


White Wine 

1. Cascina Iuli Barat

The winery of my tale! Cascina Iuli is run by winemaker Fabrizio Iuli and his wife Summer who started New York’s first natural wine importing business back in 2011 (Indie Wineries). 

Made from 100% Baratuciat, a nearly extinct grape that is native to the Val di Susa, this is the first white wine by Iuli and grown in a region where red reigns supreme. Baratuciat actually means 'cats balls' in the Val di Susa dialect because of the small oval shape of the fruit and this fun, playful name is reflected in the wine too. It’s deliciously crisp and way too easy to drink. Organic.

2. Vino di Anna Palmento Bianco

Helmed by an Australian woman who moved to Sicily, this is made from a blend of indigenous grapes including Grecanico, Catarratto, Minnella Bianco, Carricante and Insolia. A deep hay colour, this macerated beauty is delicate with floral and lemon notes.

3. Fabbrica di San Martino Colline Lucchesi Bianco

Making our way to Tuscany, I’ll skip the classic Chianti Classico call-outs to talk about an interesting macerated white wine made on the outskirts of Lucca. A blend of Malvasia , Trebbiano  and Vermentino grapes, the wine is macerated for one day and aged in wood. It has a more-ish saltiness that pairs well with seafood. Biodynamic and certified organic.

4. Cascina Degli Ulivi Montemarino

Macerated for three days on the skins, this is a full-bodied white wine with flavours of ripe fruit, hazelnut and caramel, combined with a salty-savouriness, Biodynamic & sulfite-free. 

 

Red wine

1. Cascina Iuli La Rina

Back to my favourite winery, Cascina Iuli, this is elegance in a bottle, perfect for a hot and balmy summer evening. Made from 100% Slarina grapes, native to Piedmont and almost extinct, this lady carries notes of red cherry and earth. Organic.

2. Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini

I’ll leave you in the Langhe in Piedmont now with this full-bodied 100% Nebbiolo. Juicy red fruits with herbal notes, this is an artisanal wine made with indigenous yeasts and aged for a year on oak.