We seek out Low Intervention wine, also called minimal intervention or natural wine because for us they are a greater expression of the vineyard, a vintage, the craft of winemaking and they’re naturally delicious! This niche category of wine are made by small-batch winemakers passionate about making honest wine.
‘Hands-on’ in the vineyard
Wine labelled ‘low intervention’ means labour intensive with vineyard activities carried out by hand such as pruning, canopy management, composting and harvest. 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 (prohibits the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides but may not be 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 and for the quality of the fruit.
“I have a strong belief in soil regeneration, to leave the soil in better biological health than when I found it” James Thomas, owner , viticulturist and winemaker “Heroes” Vineyard, Otway Hinterland-Geelong, Vic.
Image (supplied by Wine Revolution) James Thomas
Traditional methods in the cellar
Less intervention in the winery creates a wine that is a better representative of the vineyard and made with traditional techniques such a foot crushing, basket presses, wild yeast, skin-contact (for whites too) and fermentation vessels such as old oak, amphora clay or concrete. The wine will be made free from adjustments (example acid, tannin) and physical processes ( example include reverse osmosis, crossflow Filtration, flash pasteurisation, thermovinification) in the winemaking process. Consequently, the wines will speak more loudly of their maker, region, vineyard and the vintage. Minimal sulphur may be added for stability along the way, mainly at bottling – no one likes a bad wine. Don’t be surprised to find your white wines a little cloudy or ‘textural’ and a whiff of funkiness.
Image supplied Billy Button
Taste the challenges of vintage
Unlike commercial producers, a low intervention winemaker will not make wine to an an exact style each year. For commercial producers, despite the negative impact on the environment, conventional farming enables difficult vintages to be managed, yields protected, flavour profiles and styles controlled. The opposite is low intervention winemaking, which embraces the differences in vintages and is reliant on mother nature and the right climatic and weather conditions to produce quality fruit. The avid wine taster can look forward to some variables every vintage, not just another wine made to a commercial style.
Image supplied by Thousand Candles, Yarra Valley
We all have a wine-loving friend; perhaps they’ve completed their WSET 2 or have newly found wine knowledge thanks to COVID-19 online wine tastings. Throwdown the gauntlet to them. 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 like 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.
Image supplied by Wine Revolution
Low intervention is not new. It is only since the industrialisation of agriculture in the 1950s that agrochemicals were added to the wine. With the post-WWR2 boom demand for wine grew and so the need for bigger crops. However, there are countries sticking to tradition. Winemaking 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.
Image supplied Billy Button
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.
Wine Revolution Lighter Reds pack
Shop our range here and start discovering the wonderful world of low intervention wines.