Cult Insider


‘Au naturel’ in wine… what’s all the fuss about?

Written by - Tom Gearing, CEO & Co-Founder - Cult Wines

Ah, natural wine! The term ‘au naturel’ is tossed around so much in wine circles that it's starting to sound as chic as the regions it often hails from. Yet, for many, the term remains elusive. Today, we venture into the vineyards and cellars where this movement has taken root to demystify natural wine.

So, what exactly is natural wine?

At its core, natural wine is about minimal intervention in the vineyard, in the cellar, and in the bottle. Think of it as the wine world's answer to the slow food movement. Producers, like the revered Pierre Overnoy from Jura Valley or the trailblazing Domaine des Miroirs, practice sustainable farming, often without any pesticides or chemicals. In the winery, these wines are often fermented with native yeasts. And here's a biggie, they typically have little to no added sulphites.

Regions like Burgundy are seeing a surge in interest in this style. Houses like Prieuré Roch and Jean Yves Bizot are riding this wave, with some of their bottle prices skyrocketing in recent times. Why? Well, the charm of these wines lies in their transparency, showing off the terroir without the makeup.

Natural vs. organic - clearing the fog

Now, one might ask… aren't all organic wines natural? Not quite. While both organic and natural wines prioritise environmentally friendly farming, natural wine pushes the envelope further, especially in the cellar. Yet, herein lies a debate: Is more always better?

Here's the thing, managing a vast vineyard with strictly natural techniques can be a laborious task, exposing winemakers to risks from Mother Nature. However, a staunch natural wine advocate might overlook clear faults in the wine, claiming them as "characteristics". Personally? Give me an organic wine any day, made with care and passion in the vineyard and a conscientious, low-intervention approach in the winery, without compromising the finished product's integrity.

Does it taste good? And is it better for you?

When done right, natural wines can be a revelation, preserving the purity of fruit in a way that's utterly enchanting. They shine especially in ripe vintages, where nature is kind, presenting wines with vivid character. But like all good things, there's a flip side. These wines can sometimes go astray, becoming volatile, unbalanced, or, in unfortunate cases, mousey. The latter is a fault hard to describe but unmistakable once encountered.

On the health front, the limited use of sulphites are a boon. Sulphites, you see, are often added to wines as preservatives. While they're generally harmless to most, some folks can be allergic, leading to headaches or respiratory problems. So, less sulphite might mean fewer wine-induced migraines the next morning.

In conclusion, there's a romance to natural wines, a purity that resonates with many. They’re not just a trend but represent a broader shift towards authenticity in what we consume. While producers like Prieuré Roch and Jean Yves Bizot are gaining fame and fortune in this movement, remember that the world of wine is vast. Celebrate the natural, but also appreciate the organic, the biodynamic, and the traditional.

If you ever get the chance to taste a natural wine, especially from the likes of Pierre Overnoy or Domaine des Miroirs, dive in with an open mind. Relish its unique character and remember that, in the world of wine, there's no right or wrong, just personal preference.

Cheers to exploring and understanding one of the wine world's most exciting movements.


News in brief

News 1


French winegrowers protest Spanish imports

French vignerons in Boulou recently protested cheap Spanish wine imports by destroying 10,000 bottles of Cava and spilling a lorry load of rosé. Around 500 winemakers participated, expressing frustration over unfair competition and low foreign wine prices impacting local sales. Frédéric Rouanet, chairman of the Aude Vignerons Association, called for government action and warned of worsening conditions in southern France. The protest, which included a call for a halt in buying foreign wines, is part

News 1


Champagne Lallier's new chapter with Réflexion R.020

Champagne Lallier has unveiled Réflexion R.020, the first creation by new chef de cave Dominique Demarville since joining in January 2021. Launched at a themed dinner in Paris, this cuvée, primarily based on the 2020 harvest, marks a shift with a majority of Chardonnay in the blend. Demarville highlights the wine's purity, freshness, and intensity, reflecting Lallier's style. The launch, attended by international press, also showcased collaborations with craftspeople, echoing Lallier's philosophy and nature's influence in various disciplines.

News 1


Jay-Z's Champagne brand unveils £1,055 Blanc de Noirs

Armand de Brignac, the champagne brand co-owned by Jay-Z, has launched its Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four. Priced at £1,055, this exclusive champagne blends the 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages, offering an "intense and rich expression of Pinot Noir." Limited to just 7,328 bottles worldwide, each is individually numbered, and hand finished. Initially available at Harrods in a special £6,400 collection set, it will also be sold as a single bottle from 2024. This release continues the brand's tradition of luxury and innovation in the champagne industry.


Marcus Allen, Director EMEA - Cult Wines - Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Juilen, Bordeaux, 2012

What we’re drinking

Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Juilen, Bordeaux, 2012

Marcus Allen, Director EMEA - Cult Wines

  • We showed this wine at a recent event versus a similar blend and vintage from the New World, and the quality of this wine blew me away despite a score of “just” 94 points from Antonio Galloni. Having tasted many wines from various regions, I sometimes forget why Bordeaux still underpins our investment portfolios, but upon tasting this wine, I remembered why. This wine showed complexity, depth, and character but with a masculine youthfulness that shone through.

  • St. Julien is small compared to other major Bordeaux appellations in the Medoc, with 910 hectares under vine and an average production of 450,000 cases. But good things come in small packages, and this wine packed a punch! Showing classic “claret” vibes, I could taste red cherry, plum, cassis, mocha, graphite and lavender.

  • The blend is classic Left Bank, 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc to add the panache.

  • Château Léoville Poyferré is not all on the same piece of land. While the Château itself neighbours Léoville Las Cases, the vineyards lie, somewhat scattered, further to the west in the appellation of Saint Julien. They produce around 20,000 cases per year, and as a bonafide Deuxième Crus (Second Growth) at about £700 per case of 12, this is a wine to buy now for drinking, collecting, and investing.


Our fine wine feature

From tannins to tranquillity – the effort behind taming Sagrantino

Written by - Yue Chow (Daphne), Client Account Manager - Cult Wines

From my modest journey through the world of wine, Sagrantino stands as one of the most tannic black grape varieties. However, my perception underwent a delightful transformation at OperaWine 2023 earlier this year when I had the privilege of sipping the 2018 Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG by Arnaldo Caprai. This experience revealed a new dimension of velvety finesse that left me feeling genuinely fortunate.

Historically, Sagrantino is produced sweetly, a characteristic it surprisingly shared with many renowned wines. Its transformation from sweet to dry wine began only in the late 20th century, marking a significant shift in taste profile and winemaking technique. Rooted in the heart of Umbria, Montefalco Sagrantino embodies the essence of terroir, proudly wearing the prestigious Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG), a symbol of its origin and the quality it represents.

Tannins are natural compounds present in grape skins, seeds, and stems. In wines, they contribute to texture and structure, imparting a sensation often described as astringent or dry. While essential for the complexity and longevity of a wine, excessive tannins can make a wine feel harsh or unbalanced.

From tannins to tranquillity – the effort behind taming Sagrantino

Sagrantino's thick skin grants it a higher polyphenol concentration, a defining trait that shapes its quality, flavour profile, and ageing potential. For the health-conscious, it's a treasure trove of antioxidants. Yet, it also harbours massive tannins, a challenge that requires expertise to tame and balance. Arnaldo Caprai, a trailblazer in Sagrantino production, believes in the power of innovation to uphold tradition. Their commitment is evident through persistent experimentation in agronomy and oenology, enabling a deeper understanding of local wine-growing history and techniques. They've even established an in-house Research and Development laboratory focused on addressing the impact of climate change on vines and production.

Winemakers have honed specific techniques to tame Sagrantino's robust tannins and unlock its full potential. As Caprai puts it in a Forbes article by Liz Thach Master of Wine, "we believe that the best wine is made in a small barrel." The process involves fermenting in 100% new small oak French barrels with the guidance of their consulting winemaker, Michel Rolland. The Collepiano, for example, undergoes ageing for 22 months in French oak barrels, followed by at least six months in bottles. The result is wines that exude power and elegance, with tannins that promise to evolve beautifully over the next decade.

In essence, the smaller and newer the barrel, the greater its impact on the wine's structure. This is why only wines with sufficient structure, like Sagrantino, can harmonize with oak. It's a delicate dance, softening tannins while adding complexity and depth, ultimately offering remarkable longevity. This principle extends to other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which often follows the path of smaller and newer oak compared to its mellower counterpart, Merlot.

In the intricate art of taming tannins, especially for a tannin-rich variety like Sagrantino, winemakers employ various nuanced techniques. Beyond the strategic use of oak, these include controlled fermentation, where the temperature and duration are carefully adjusted to manage tannin extraction; extended maceration, allowing the grape skins to remain in contact with the wine post-fermentation to soften tannins and enhance complexity; micro-oxygenation, a process introducing small amounts of oxygen during ageing to mellow the tannins; and occasionally, blending with other grape varieties to achieve a more harmonious balance between robust tannins and overall wine profile.

Understanding these technical aspects illuminates how Sagrantino can be crafted into a wine that resonates with harmony and depth despite its bold, tannic nature. It's a testament to the artful fusion of science and the winemaker's craft, where a grape with formidable characteristics is transformed into a masterpiece of oenological craftsmanship.

Reflecting on Sagrantino's journey, from its robust, tannic origins to the exquisitely balanced nectar in my glass, I'm reminded that the winemaker's role transcends mere craftsmanship. It embodies a more profound passion and a commitment to turning challenges into triumphs. The vintners at Arnaldo Caprai exemplify this artistry, emphasizing that the heart of winemaking lies in the delicate balance between respecting nature's power and skilfully guiding it to reveal its finest expression.

Let's raise our glasses to these unsung heroes for their unwavering dedication in transforming Sagrantino's narrative into every sip we're fortunate enough to savour and delight in. Cheers!

Quote Source: Forbes


Explore & travel

Cornish charms – wine, dine and serene maritime scenes

Written by - Lauren Delahoy, CRM Manager - Cult Wines

Cornwall, a paradise for breathtaking vistas, warm-hearted locals, and an abundance of culinary delights to savour. I was fortunate enough to spend a week immersing myself in the beauty of this enchanting region nestled in the Southwest of England. The south-facing slopes that grace the rolling countryside lay the perfect groundwork for some truly remarkable English wines.

However, the capricious English weather, marked by strong winds and copious rain, forced me to abandon any notion of strolling through the vineyard aisles. Fortunately, Cornwall boasts an abundance of hospitality and unique bottle shops to counterbalance any weather-related setbacks. While meandering along the cobbled streets of St Ives, I stumbled upon Johns Wine Store.

Its black façade and dimly lit interior cast an aura of mystery and exploration. Inside, John's offers an extensive selection of wines from across the globe, spanning a wide range of vintages and bottle sizes. I even chanced upon a Pol Roger Churchill, a homage to the indomitable Sir Winston Churchill, a cuvée that had piqued my curiosity for some time. Notably, it's not just wines that grace the shelves; spirits, from gin to rum, also beckon, with the option to sample before purchasing, of course.

Cornish charms – wine, dine and serene maritime scenes

For those who prefer to sit back and savour the world with a satisfied belly and a splendid view, St Ives offers an array of waterfront establishments. It's impossible to resist the allure of fresh seafood, complemented by a selection of wines that perfectly enhance the flavours.

And if you have a penchant for the classic Cornish pasty, you'll find no shortage of those either. There's a bakery serving this local favourite on nearly every corner. No matter your preferred mode of exploration or enjoyment, Cornwall is sure to enchant and delight you.

So, whether you're indulging in English wines, discovering hidden bottle shops, savouring seafood by the sea, or relishing a Cornish pasty, Cornwall promises a journey filled with delightful moments. Cheers to the adventure ahead, and may you uncover even more hidden gems and tantalize your taste buds to the fullest!


CW Homepage an investment like no other

Join our wine newsletter

Wine investment insights delivered straight into your inbox