As promised, I finished the orange book ("Il vino capovolto") and here I am writing about it. It was a really interesting read, at times quite complex and I didn’t necessarily agree with a few aspects of it, but certainly something that all natural wine lovers should read. So here are my highlights.
From natural grapes growing through to natural wine making, relating terroir to minerality, the complexity of a natural wine demands for a new type of approach to tasting, taking into account its weave, substance, density/viscosity, smoothness, vivacity, minerality and length. And as you can guess, the concept that stands out most is minerality. If earlier this was described in a more philosophical way, this is now presented as a the fundamental structure of a wine, mirror of the land where it comes from, difficult to identify but nonetheless reachable through tasting and directly correlated to our salivation.
The tasting act is perceived by Jacky Rigaux as a moment of culture and art. When you are tasting something you should collocate it in its own environment, which is often a place full of history. This is where terroir becomes a key factor - a terroir that reveals itself through the vineyard, where only the strictly necessary work is done to enable the grapes to reach an optimal ripening point, and through the winemaking process, where human intervention is minimal. In this way the terroir is free to manifest its complexity, its distinctiveness and true nature.
The first part of the book terminates with a geo-sensory tasting template which is actually a lot more demanding than I thought. It focuses a lot on the different aspects of salivation (hello, minerality), which is not so straight forward, but also including colour and length. So if someone out there knows how to follow this model, please do get in touch! I am very keen to understand it.
The second part of the book is a collection of very insightful compositions about natural wine. While reading these I was completely blown away by how deep these thoughts and theories are.
Something that really stood out to me was the association between wine and art. Natural wine as a work of art is a concept I have been inspired by for quite a while now, opening my eyes to the natural winemaking world as well as the “game of labels” that can often be seen when handling bottles of natural wine. How colourful, minimalistic, unique are many of them? What are they communicating to us? There is an artistic effort to push the wine bottle quite far, to reach that form of art not only on the inside, but also on the surface, outside. But this is not what Sandro Sangiorgi says so I’ll stick to his wine philosophy for now and I will keep my thoughts for another post! For Sandro not only wine is art, tasting the wine is also a creative act that can be done by those who are able to feel deep emotions and let the wine touch their feelings, in places that are otherwise hard to reach. Instead of elaborating the wine and categorising every single aspect of it, a natural wine should be felt with our emotions. And this is the step that then leads wine to become a way of discovering something new about ourselves and what is around us.
Now while this is all very well, it’s also very complex and summarised like that probably doesn’t even make too much sense. But maybe it doesn’t have to make sense, perhaps you just have to feel it.
When we taste a wine, we normally categorise every aspect of it under the conventional tasting methods. But do you ever stop there, in front of the glass, and feel a natural wine? Do these conventional tasting notes even apply to a natural wine any more?
However you like it, stay cool!