Ton Rimbau, Natural Born Lover in D.O. Penedes

85/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Vilobí del Penedès – Ton Rimbau – Porcellanic Vi Xarel.lo 2011

Natural Born Lover…..

by Muddy Waters, did he make natural wine? If there is such a thing as a perfect wine, which one is it? Please let me know, so that I can avoid it! Progress might lead to perfection and yes, Spotify, digital music and so on, it’s all very handy, dandy and good in every way. But sometimes, you just want to hear that scratchy 78′ on the record player. For all of you out there, reading this, younger than 30 I guess, look it up! The sounds that you don’t like, the scratches, are there to provide that additional dimension. There are wines, similar to music that come from old records. Is it perfect? Don’t know, but what I do know is that I don’t mind listening, because it is damn good!

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Unnatural, natural wine! Do I like it? Do I resist it, just for the sake of it? Do I agree with the philosophy? You know what, try it yourself and decide. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you that natural wines are better or worse, due to the way they are made or the thinking behind it. Oh, and if you feel, after reading this post, that its unstructured, you’re absolutely right. But how can it be anything else, the man has colored balls in the vineyards, according to the instructions from his color consultant, because the colors affect the vines in different ways. I agree, unstructured and crazy! But then again, I’ve said ti before, crazy is good!

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Many years ago I heard a story. If it’s true or not, is really not the point. A businessman from Sweden had, during his lifetime, collected an impressive number of Single Malt Whiskies. As a treat to himself and other whisky lovers, he decided to open them all on his sixtieth birthday. Now, amongst the bottles was a very rare MacAllan and as the story goes there were only two other people in the world with the very same bottle. Very rare!

Most likely, not the one!

Most likely, not the one!

The word spread, that indeed they had indulged themselves and enjoyed this very fine beverage. One of the other two men called the man in Sweden, as he heard about what had transpired and posed the question “So, how was it?” To which the businessman replied, “You’ve got one of your own, why not open it?” Alas, whether true or not, I know one thing. Beverages were made to be enjoyed and not to collect dust. Opinions and tasting notes were meant to be written and shared, if you feel you’ve got the time and interest to read them, that’s totally up to you. If it’s called natural or something else, I really don’t care. Give it a name, call it what you wish and if it is a good (or even semi-good) wine I for one will try it. If I’ll enjoy it, remains to be seen.

Manel Avinyó, Porcellanic oenologist In full emergence of organic wines.

Manel Avinyó, Porcellanic oenologist In full emergence of organic wines.

Out of all the wines I have written about, this one is probably the most exciting and the most disturbing at the same time. I can’t really put my finger on it and I don’t really know if I want to classify it as a wine, but yes, sure, it is a wine. I guess it’s just that feeling in my backbone, or that I just want to be different in my opinion?

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With the organic and foodie movements, it was only a matter of time before it moved into wine. Organic wines have been on the market for several years, following the same ideals as organic food: the absence of chemicals during growth and production. But while the organic label is a legal certification, involving several rules and regulations, the natural wine movement is a horse of a different color, cropping up all over the world. Some of us have been subjected to natural wines all our life, just not knowing it.

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Natural winemaking, unlike organic or biodynamic winemaking, is not a legal certification, but rather a term applied to wines made only using native and natural yeasts. Sulfur dioxide is usually used as both an antimicrobial and an antioxidant in winemaking; it has been an important part of winemaking for centuries. The resulting sulfites can, however, cause allergic reactions in some people, and the natural winemaking movement seeks to eliminate its use in the making of wine. While natural wines can be organic, biodynamic or both, these criteria are not required.

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The starting point for a good wine (natural or not) is the vineyard. The first thing that strikes me at Ton Rimbau’s vineyards is the difference between surroundings vines and vineyards, the difference between the crop that nowadays is called “conventional” and the “alternative viticulture” (conventional in the past). At first sight these vineyards may seem neglected because the are not ploughed, herbs grow everywhere, everything is wild and human intervention is limited to mowing the grass or pass over with a roller to flatten them and make a cushion that retains the moisture below.

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In these vineyards fauna and flora life coexist with the vine, in harmony. As a matter of fact, the importance of flora and fauna is immense. All living things, birds, boars, fox and so on, coexist with the vineyards at some time during the day or night. Ton is helping out by creating bats nests, as they help to keep mosquitoes under control. Balanced nature, that’s the basis of the vine and its success. Chemical treatment is reduced to a minimum. Artificial fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides are just not welcomed in these surroundings.

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Purpose being, for the wine to reflect the terroir, and the vintage as far as possible. As an additional part of the philosophy, the wines are not filtered or clarified, as to not change its characteristics. Apart from this and continuing with the idea of preserving the wine from all that can affect it, the wine is stored in ceramic bottles, opaque, thus protects it from light. And to preserve the wine from temperature changes, it’s stored in old dipping winepresses filled with water, as it keeps the temperature stable.

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Ton Rimbau produces three wines: a natural sweet wine, a Xarel.lo and a Xarel·lo sur lie, all of them organic. In addition to the still wines, he also produces sparkling wines. The wine is fermented with the fine lees in French oak barrels during 9 months. After this, the wine is bottled in ceramic bottles to preserve the wine from the effects of the light and the aging process is done, bottles being submerged in water.

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Porcellanic Vi Xarel.lo 2011

It’s appearance is unclear, misty carrying a orange-gold color. The tearing is slow and fatty. The first aromas indicate well integrated wood and in great harmony with the white fruit aromas of the Xarel.lo grape. Citrus notes appear, the lees are high in presence and if I didn’t know it was wine I might be fooled to think it was cider. The palate is balanced, integrating elegant and soft fruit such as pear and apple with oak. This is now, how it will be in an hour or a day, nobody knows. That’s the catch of natural wines. One day it’s great, the next undrinkable, make sure you pick the right day!

295 to go!

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