Thursday, August 2, 2012
How do natural wines last so long once you open them?
Mas Coutelou’s Le Vin Des Amis 2011* we’d left in the fridge a week before. It was delicious - as good as the night we’d opened it.
It’s not the first experience I’ve had of that recently. Thierry Germain told us that the Terres Chaudes we tasted the other week had been open for 8 days. And some wines even taste better the second day than they do when they're first opened. So what’s going on?
In my experience that doesn’t happen with conventional wines - certainly not at this price. Often I’ve had some bottles hanging around from a tasting and tried them the following day with food and they’ve just fallen apart.
The most obvious explanation is that these are ‘living’ wines or vins vivants as the French put it. Because there is very little, if any, sulphur in them, because they’re not fined or filtered bacteriological activity is still taking place (precisely what those opposed to natural wines disapprove of).
Wines that are clearly heat-treated (see previous post on soupy reds) by contrast or which are made with aromatic yeasts seem to fall apart very quickly. The producers and retailers who sell them probably assume - quite rightly - that most people will drink them in an evening well before they get to that stage but with the greater awareness of alcohol intake at the moment I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case - certainly in households of two like ours.
The yeast aspect is interesting. The wines I’m referring to - indeed almost all natural wines - are made with wild yeasts and therefore presumably don’t need the enzymes required to make commercial yeasts do their job. Sourdough bread also lasts a great deal longer than bread made with commercial yeast. So maybe that’s it?
Or is it the tannins - both the wines concerned were red? Or the fact our wine had been kept in the fridge which I imagine must have helped?
Winemakers, what do you think?
* a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre