We don’t drink Low Intervention wine, sometimes called natural wine, because it’s trendy. We drink and we enjoy low intervention because for us it is the greater expression of the vineyard, the vintage and the art of winemaking.
‘Hands on’ in the vineyard
Wine labelled ‘low intervention’ means labour intensive in the vineyard. Depending on the time of year the viticulturist is busy monitoring for disease and pests, pruning, arranging canopy for shade and protection. Animals are busy keeping errant weeds at bay. Biodiversity is encouraged along with organic or biodynamic (but not always certified) and environmental practices (water and energy conservation) for longterm sustainability. ‘Hands on’ in the vineyard allows grapes to develop a flavour more reflective of the terroir, climate and vintage. These farming practices are better for the environment, for the fruit and for you.
‘Hands off’ in the winery
Less intervention in the winery creates a wine that is a better representative of the vineyard. A natural wine will be free from chemical intervention and physical invention in the winemaking process. Consequently, the wines will speak more loudly of their maker, their region and the harvest. Minimal sulphur may be added for stability – no one likes a bad wine. Beyond that, enjoy your wine free from chemicals both in the vineyard and winery.
Embrace the challenges of vintage
‘Low intervention’ wines are not made to a style. A classic Bordeaux is wonderful to drink, no doubt about it, and the Bordeaux region is famous for its variance in weather from year-to-year, thus the announcement of an outstanding vintage one year and a not-so-great one the next. New technologies and chemicals in the vineyards, and significant intervention in the winemaking process, has meant that poor years are less common. ‘Low intervention’ wine embraces the differences in the years giving the avid wine taster something different every season, not just another wine made to a commercial style.
We all have a wine wanker friend; I am sure half my friends think I am one. Throw down the gauntlet to a wine wanker friend. They can probably pick a typical Barossa Shiraz, but can they pick a low intervention Shiraz from Basket Ranges. Perhaps they will, perhaps they won’t, but they’ll enjoy discovering that the wine they’ve just tasted and enjoyed hasn’t been twisted and tricked into tasting as something that it isn’t. And at a blind tasting isn’t it fun to pull something from left field. Be quick! Low invention is quickly shrugging off its niche status.
Low intervention is not new. It is only since the industrialisation of agriculture in the 1950s that agrochemicals were added to wine. With the post-WWR2 boom demand for wine grew and so the need for bigger crops. However there are countries sticking to tradition. Wine making in Georgia (the Caucasus, not the Southern US) has barely changed in 6000 years. Family-run vineyards in France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Greece etc. continue their tradition of making their own wine in the manner of their ancestors. Why would we change? In a time when we sometimes yearn for the simplicity and purity of the past – whether it is LPs or bikes without gears – low intervention wine is as traditional as it comes.
A small non-scientific study would suggest that some of the coolest labels in the wine world are on the bottles of a low intervention wine. I’ve seen beautiful labels designed by kid sisters, local artists, indigenous people, a collaboration of mates, labels made on recycled paper, the truly bizarre and the gorgeous. Cool labels are something the craft beer world embraced sometime back and it’s great to see the wine world doing the same.