I’ve chosen this wine as the star of my first post because it’s my go-to bottle when someone asks about “natural wines,” which is 99.99% of the time. I would venture to say that, with just a slight edge on “orange wines,” natural wine is probably the most popular buzzterm at the shop right now. It seems that, in a fabulous turn of events, people want to know what’s in their wine bottles. They want their wine grapes as organically grown as the $6 table grapes they agonize over at the famers market. Goodbye 1 buck chuck, hello real fruit juice! But before we get too excited, let’s talk about what that term actually means, and finally, how it pertains to this beautiful (and highly chuggable) Contra Costa County sauvignon blanc.
Natural Wines: A Quick Definition
Simply put, natural wines are wines made with minimal intervention from the winemaker throughout the entirety of the wine making process. This means that the grapes on the vine, the fermenting juice, and the final bottled product are true expressions of the grape itself, and the terroir (or soil and climate) where the grape is grown. Sounds pretty nice, and also maybe how you thought all wine was made. But as it turns out, if wine bottles were required to have ingredients labels and you took a mass produced, grocery store wine and compared it to a natural wine, the list on the mass produced wine would be shockingly long. Winemakers can add a huge range of additives, from egg whites, fish bladders and gelatin to coloring and flavoring powders, acid controllers and wine stabilizers. A natural wine label should include one and one ingredient only: grape juice.
Back to the Lalalu
Okay so now that we’ve got that covered, let’s take a look at what’s goin’ on in this shiny gold bottle. First of all, this is a cool label. It tells you the wine’s producer, year, grape and region of production clearly and in bold letters. You don’t even have to squint your eyes and flip the bottle around trying decipher what the hell is in this thing. Quick note on labels, wines from the United States and other New World wine regions (i.e. New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Australia and South Africa) always display the name of the wine grape on the label. Wines from Old World wine regions (ie. Europe and the Middle East) feature the name of the region where the wine was made, not the grape. It’s confusing stuff. Luckily, this bottle lays it all out on the table. It’s modern, people. It’s downright aesthetically pleasing. And doggonit, you’re gonna love this stuff.
About the Winemaker
I find that one of the best ways to learn about wine is to learn about the person, or group of people behind the bottle. So before we drink up, let’s talk about Laura Brennan Bissel. Originally from Washington D.C., Bissel moved to San Francisco to become a tattoo artist, but after befriending a winemaker in Berkeley, she decided to pursue her passion for wine instead. Several years and internships later, she launched her own wine brand with the intention of producing low-intervention, affordable wines made for every day drinking. And at 11.5% ABV, I be drinking this wine on the daily too.
With that background biz out of the way, let’s pour ourselves a glass and get to the fun stuff. And boy is this wine fun. Can we just appreciate the insane color of this sauvignon blanc for a second? It’s pale yellow for sure, but also very cloudy — you may even notice a few crystalized particles floating about at the bottom of your glass. Cloudy + particles tells us that this wine is definitely unfiltered, which means it did not go through a clarification process to remove the leftover sediment or yeast that occurs during fermentation. Filtration is a hot topic in the wine world right now, with filtration diehards arguing that it cleans and stabilizes wine, while those who favor a more natural winemaking approach claim that filtration removes important aromas and character from the wine. And other people like me say, “Does it taste good? Great, pour me a glass.” There’s no right or wrong answer here.
So now it’s time for “The Five S’s”: Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Swish, Spit. Four our intents and purposes, the last word will be unnecessary, unless you’re pregnant, at an important work event, or…that’s it actually. Let’s start by swirling the wine around in the glass. This technique is used to get more oxygen into the wine, which helps to “open up” the wine and release its natural aromas. It also makes you look very cool and classy at any dinner party: a win-win. Once you’ve swirled a few times, stick your nose deep in the glass and inhale. It might seem odd but smelling the wine is a crucial part of tasting it. The aromas you catch in the glass will affect the way your brain processes the wine’s flavor, so get to sniffin’ people.
I’m smelling citrus, maybe lime and lemon peel. There’s a definite mineral component followed by a yeasty funk that you typically get from naturally made wines.
One sip and this wine is like an alarm clock on your tastebuds. It’s energetic, zingy, and totally refreshing. I am immediately transported to a summer’s picnic or a hot day at the beach. Swish, swish that wine in your mouth and you’ll probably notice the sides of your tongue start to sweat, pooling with water. That’s your mouth reacting to the the high-level of acid in the wine, just like what you experience when you bite into a green apple or dink a tart lemonade. It wakes you up and also goes down easy, while still creating a clear presence on your tongue. It’s mouth puckering yet rich and creamy. It’s a “glug, glug, glu- oh shit we finished the bottle” kind of a wine. It’s a bottle made for every day drinking, and a bottle you might find yourself drinking every day.
Here’s where you can pick up one of your own: