Four from natural winemakers who make wine fun again

John Wilson: How artisan producers’ low-intervention methods changed the mainstream

I recently watched Le Vin Se Lève (Wine Calling, in English), a film about wine. Skilfully made, it is an inspiring piece of work. Filmed in the wonderful wild mountainous landscape around Collioure in southwest France, it brings to life the bucolic romance of growing grapes and making wine.

It is a work of love from producer Bruno Sauvard who spent a year getting to know and gaining the trust of the wine producers. This was a small group who, unable to afford a winery, created a co-operative where they share facilities, knowledge and a lot of glasses of wine.

With the sun shining all the time, plenty of rock music, and with children and dogs frolicking in the garden, it seemed like paradise. Sadly, the one thing we couldn’t do was taste the wine. All the wine was natural, that is made from biodynamically or organically grown grapes without any additives.

The following evening, with a lot of cooking to do, I opened up a bottle of Spanish natural wine to sip while working away. It was 11 per cent alcohol, light, with delicious fresh, crunchy, juicy fruit. It was the perfect joyous aperitif, stimulating the appetite and perfect with a few nibbles as I chopped vegetables and chatted to my daughter.


It is probably similar to wine consumed by generations past, when wine (or in cooler climates, beer or cider) was the only safe thing to drink, water and milk frequently being contaminated.

France, along with all other wine-producing countries, used excessive amounts of fertiliser, fungicides and pesticides in the vineyard throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In the cellar, the simple but wonderful fermentation process was subjected to all sorts of manipulations and additions.

The natural winemakers (a term that everyone seems to hate) have helped bring about changes in mainstream viticulture and winemaking, lessening reliance on systemic spraying and the use of all sorts of additives in the winery. They have also made wine fun again.

At €20 or less, these wines, usually the work small, artisan producers, offer good value for money. However, at the risk of offending the new orthodoxy, I do find it difficult to part with €40 (or multiples of that in wine bars) for a light, refreshing, acidic wine, or alternatively a wine full of funky flavours that some would describe as faulty.

I suspect that the mainstream wine drinker agrees with me too. That is not to say there aren’t brilliant low-intervention wines at €40 or more; most good producers aim to interfere as little as possible in the growing and winemaking process.

As a possible added bonus, adherents claim that wines with no or low sulphites will not give you a hangover – I have never tested this theory.

This week four low-intervention wines made with little or no sulphur, all costing less than €20.

Barbarossa 2018 Marco Barba, Veneto (biodynamic)
12.5%, €18.50
From a blend of merlot, cabernet and raboso, this is a lively, light red with juicy, grippy red cherry fruits. Unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulphur. Try it with salumi, cheese, good bread and real butter.
From; Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, Galway,; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,

Cantine Rallo, Ciello Rosso 'Nero d'Avola' Terre Siciliane IGP (organic)
12.5%, €13-€14
Unfined, unfiltered and no added sulphur. Light, refreshing ripe plums and dark chocolate, with an attractive earthiness and a soft finish. On its own or maybe with pizza?
From Avoca, Ballsbridge and Rathcoole,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork,; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3,; Ely 64, Glasthule,; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth,; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,

Puszta Libre 2018, Claus Preisinger, Burgenland, Austria (biodynamic)
12%, €18
Crunchy dark fruits, instantly gluggable, this is Austria's answer to Beaujolais. Drink lightly chilled, by itself, with nibbles or chicken dishes.
From Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,; Loose Canon, Dublin 2,; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7,; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth;; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8,; Drinkstore, D7,; Ely 64, Glasthule,; Martin's Off Licence, Dublin 3,

Gran Cerdo Tinto Gonzalo Grijalba
13%, €13.95
Unfined, unfiltered with minimal sulphur, a fruity red with red cherries, raspberries and a clean mineral finish. Some grilled lamb chops or pasta with a herby, fresh tomato sauce.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork,; Cass & Co, Dungarvan,; Drinkstore, D7,; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2,; Gibney's, Malahide,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk,; Martin's Off Licence, Dublin 3,; Listons, Dublin 2,; Morton's, Dublin 6,; Ely 64, Glasthule,; Worldwide Wines, Waterford,