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TASTE WITH A SENSE OF PLACE, NATURALLY

MY first encounter with what has come to be called 'natural wine' came some five or six years ago during the Salon des Vins de Loire at Angers.

One evening, a young Belgian journalist gave us a tasting of seven or eight wines, an assortment of red and white, saying: "It is the wine of the future." Twirling a glass of cloudy liquid before taking a generous swig, your man pronounced, "One day all wine will taste like this". If it does, you will find this writer swigging craft beer with his Sunday dinner. Since then wines made from hand-picked organically or biologically grown grapes, with minimum intervention in the winery, using naturally present yeasts rather than strains cultured in chemistry labs have mushroomed. Their proponents have coined a term -- 'natural wine' -- to describe the product. Principally, they believe that wine today is too processed. They prefer to let nature take its course.



Weedkillers

Natural wine makers are against the addition of tartaric acid, powdered tannin and grape concentrate, the tools of commercial wineries. These guys are looking to make wine with a 'sense of place', wine that reflects its terroir -- the soil, the aspect, the micro-climate in which the grapes are grown -- without using pesticides, fungicides, weedkillers or other synthetic chemicals or fertilisers. Online wine merchants Le Caveau, major stockists of natural wines, recently hosted a tasting in Dublin. These were the ones I gave top marks to.

NV Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. DOC Casa Coste Piane, €17.95. Lively stuff with a crisp, clean nose and on the palate a good weight of fruit -- crisp green apples and citrus, with hints of walnut. Tasty. 14.5/20

'La Dilettante' AC Vouvray Sec 2010, Pierre et Catherine Breton, €18.50. Tasty, clean, classy wine with 100pc fidelity to grape and region. A gem. 16/20

AC Morgon, Cote du Py, Jean Follard 2009, €27.50. Enjoyable, pristine expression of Gamay with lively cherry flavours with a hint of russet apple. Smart kit. 15/20

DO Ribiera Sacra, 'Pezar do Rei' Cachin/Dieguez 2009, €18.25. Smart red with lovely weight of cherry and cranberry and a refreshing minerality, the sort I could drink all night. 15.5/20

Gran Cerdo Tempranillo Vino de Mesa 2009, €12.50. With a spot-on fruit acid balance, this easygoing and enjoyable red was bang on the money for the modest ask. Decent wine. 13.5/20

Sicilia IGT, 'Vino di Anna', Anna Martens, 2009 €19.95. Endearing strawberry, raspberry and morello cherry flavours, I really liked this. Characterful and at the same time well made, it's what 'natural wine' should be all about. 16/20

Available from Le Caveau, Market Yard Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny 056 775 2166 or via www.lecaveau.ie