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Wine and Winemakers – Human intervention versus the “hands-off” approach.

Posted on 13th April 2018 by JN Wine

Wine and Winemakers – Human intervention versus the “hands-off” approach.

The two main schools of thought when it comes to wine making:  minimal intervention (mostly organic or biodynamic producers) and interventionist, where the winemaker adds certain elements to the winemaking process in order to add his or her own individual “stamp”. Both styles have their merits and in search of balance, the JN Retail team have discussed the pros and cons of both at great length and have compiled a list of our favourite “hands off” and “hands on” wines!


Hands Off

Chateau Musar 2006, Bekka Valley, Lebanon £28.50

In their youth, Chateau Musar Reds are dense and richly-textured, with intense ‘baked fruit’ characters: plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Bordeaux grape Cabernet Sauvignon lends black fruit flavours; Rhône grapes Cinsault and Carignan contribute fragrance and supple spiciness. Either set of qualities might dominate a particular vintage, but the style is always emphatically Lebanese: enticingly aromatic, with persistent fruit flavours.

The Hochar family’s philosophy of respect for the environment means that the 180 hectares of Musar vineyards are managed with minimal human interference and all the wines are made as naturally as possible. The bare minimum of sulphur is used and the Chateau Musar wines are neither fined nor filtered.


Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa £15.59

This vibrant Sauvignon Blanc bursts with gooseberry, honeydew melon, some white peach and hints of lemon zest on the nose. The palate shows a lovely brightness, firm acidity and definite flinty notes, unique to the Reyneke site.

The wine reveals multiple layers as it opens up, with rich undertones and great complexity and a long lingering finish. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are whole bunch pressed, thereby limiting the amount of soluble solids in the juice. The wine is aged for a further 7 months on the gross lees, before the wine in racked from barrel and prepared for bottling. Organic and Biodynamic, drink now or enjoy over the next five years.


Hands On

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand £36.50

Cloudy Bay that can claim to be New Zealand’s flag bearer. No other label has captured the imagination of so many markets. The reason is uncompromising quality, as exemplified in this fabulous Pinot Noir. The 27th expression of Marlborough Pinot Noir, echoes the style and quality synonymous with Cloudy Bay.  On the nose, subtle rose notes bloom in the background together with sweet spice. The palate reveals a taut structure with supple tannin and crunchy acidity. The complexity builds upon tasting with earthen notes of graphite, smoke and toasty oak character.


Alejandro Fernandez Alejairen Blanc 2015, La Mancha, Spain £18.59

The first Grupo Pesquera white wine is made from 100 per cent Airén grapes and aged in oak barrels for 24 months. A wine with huge potential, it improves and becomes more rounded over time in the bottle. The grapes are grown on sandy soils, affording them unprecedented quality. This Airen releases its pineapple and exotic fruit aromas and an unctuous, rich feel prepares the palate for a good balance between acidity and sweetness.

Concentrated fragrances of full-bodied yellow fruits like peaches and apricots merge with animated notes of dried fruit, yeast pastry, noble vanilla and wild herbs. On the palate, the Alejairen is full-bodied, dense, long-lasting and wonderfully harmonious.


Getting the balance right…

Domaine Gayda Chemin de Moscou 2015, Languedoc, France £22.39

Chemin de Moscou comes from old vines of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grown on the estate’s terraced vineyards which have been cultivated since Roman times. This wine spends 21 months in French oak and is fully organic.

“Deep crimson. Rich and refined. Not overdone and very appetising. A hint of salt and treacle. Very suave and polished. Quite rich but very appetising too. Good to see this important wine evolving with the times. Good freshness.
17 Points.”
(Jancis Robinson, J R Purple Pages, August 2017)

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