Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LA Natural Wine Week: Natural Wine Symposium

On Sunday a symposium on natural wine was held at LACE in Hollywood as the culmination of Los Angeles Natural Wine Week. Lou Amdur of Lou on Vine moderated the panel of wine experts Jonathan Gold and Alice Feiring, and vintners Randall Graham of Bonny Doon, Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project, Jared Brandt of A Donkey and a Goat, and Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine.

Photo above: the full panel. Photo below: moderator/organizer Lou Amdur.

A full room of wine enthusiasts, including a large contingent from Venice's the Tasting Kitchen, filled the seats in the art gallery to taste some of the panel's wines and hear their opinions on natural wines and what makes them special. Feiring said, "Give a shit about natural wine because if you really want to taste terroir, get a terroir driven wine."

Many on the panel espoused the merits of dry farming (not irrigating the vines). Amdur noted that the fruit has more flavor when it is dry farmed. Graham said that "irrigation is not compatible with terroir," and Schoener said "for me, the most important question is irrigation."

Beckmeyer commented on how it can be difficult to change the prevailing momentum to continually be doing something to the vines/farm, "I look to do as little as possible, because I'm basically lazy. The natural tendency is to do things all the time."

Now that the market for natural wines is growing, not only can biodynamics make the vineyard more itself, as one winemaker noted, but as Brandt said "biodynamics can help sell wine."

Photo above: Beckmeyer and Graham. Photo below: Schoener, Feiring and Gold.

The panel had a spirited discussion about sulfur, which is the only additive that many of the winemakers on the panel use. Sulfur acts to preserve the wine and without it, most white wine would turn brown. Additionally it prevents some bacteria from forming or making a presence in the flavor of the wine. Graham said, "Sulfur adds a predictable trajectory," and Feiring commented that "not using sulfur can obscure terroir."

Natural wine does not have to mean funky, although some wines do fall into that category and they have their fans, including Gold. He said, "There is a certain time at which you just have to embrace the baby diaper. Wines with a little something rank in them are those I tend to love the best."

Note that LACE is having a benefit art auction Thursday May 20th - click here to learn more.

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