We recently met with Gina Tringali of GT Food & Travel and Casa Mia Italy Food and Wine Tours for a wonderful and informative wine tasting. Natural wine was our focus. We’d had a glass here and there, but were excited to learn (and taste!) more.
Joined by my cousin Joe, we met Gina at Les Vignerons, a charming wine shop in Trastevere packed floor to ceiling with natural wines (and some artisanal beers, which we’ll be back to try as well!) The welcoming owners stock only wines made without chemicals by small-scale winemakers.
With Gina’s help, we selected a few bottles of natural wines to try, and then went a couple doors down to Il Bacocco, a bistro/enoteca, where we ordered some terrific cheese and cured meats to nibble on during our tasting.
Gina walked us through the differences between natural wines and organic wines. Organic wines refer to organically grown grapes, but do not mean a similarly organic process was used during the “cellar practices” stage. We also see the term “bio-dynamic,” which focuses on sustainable and ecologically-friendly production techniques. Gina discussed that the term “natural wine” is is a bit controversial since there is no legal definition for it. Natural wine is very focused on grapes grown without chemicals and sustainable wine production techniques. But it goes beyond that, such as no additives and minimal intervention during the fermentation process. So, these small batch wines may vary a great deal from year to year.
We tried the following wines while Gina gave us terrific insight into where and how they were made.
Lammidia Angora Bianca: The “funkiest” of the wines we tried. Made of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grapes, the wine left in contact with the skins for about 5 days, then aged in clay amphorae (talk about old school!). We found this wine very “green” — picture a meadow with tall grasses and flowers — with a hint of citrus and notable mineral tastes. Yes, it’s different. And yes, we liked it (except for Joe).
ValCerasa Etna Bianco 2013: A more “moderate” white wine than the Lammidia Anfora Bianca, and a very pleasant wine. Winemaker Alice Bionaccorsi’s vineyard is next to Sicily’s Mount Etna; the Carricante grapes are therefore grown in volcanic soil. Hints of apple or pear, maybe hazelnut, a little citrus, and a pleasant minerality.
Dario Prinčič Ribolla Gialla: Another interesting wine. “Orange” wines (i.e., where there has been more grape skin contact than a white wine, but less than a red wine) have been popular lately. We’ve tried a few, and this is one we liked. The vineyard is in northeastern Italy, in Friuli, near the Slovenian border, and owned by one of Italy’s first natural winemakers.
Calabretta Gail Gaio: A very pleasant and drinkable red wine also from vineyards in the volcanic soil of Mount Etna in Sicily, in the Calderara region. Made of Nerello Mascalese grapes. Nice hint of dark fruit, a hint of spice, and tannin from the volcanic soil. We found this one easily drinkable.
Indeed, we liked them all, to varying extents. Well, perhaps Joe was not as enthusiastic. But, we’re all still enjoying learning about wine… every sip of it! And, we’re looking forward to our next tasting with Gina — maybe she can even make Joe appreciate Amaro!