Time for controversy. With natural wines I am usually in the proponent camp – when done well these wines challenge pre-conceptions and offer tremendous transparency. Sometimes, however, they are cocktails of winemaking flaws. Unlike other types of wine, there seems to be no happy medium.
An Original Naturalist
Angiolino Maule is one of the first evangelists for natural wine making in Italy. This dude is hard core. He regularly tests his soil for chemical contaminants – even though he uses no fertalizers, pesticides or herbicides in his vineyard – to ensure that runoff from neighbouring vineyards does not impact his land (though, putting my lawyer’s hat on, I have to ask whether he’d be willing to sue to protect his vineyards from chemical runoff and whether such a suit would be successful).
Do Bianci has a great article with much more detail on Maule and his practices.
A Line in the Sand
To be honest, this is a wine with which I have some difficulty. It is not ‘wine’ in the classic sense of the term insofar as it doesn’t taste much like fruit. Rather, it smells more like almond skins and belgian yeast esters (much like you get in Trappist style ales). The palate is light, dry and massively yeast driven, tasting more like cider than wine. One commonality I’ve noticed with natural wines is they tend to possess incredibly delicate textural qualities and this wine is no exception: it is silky and creamy on the palate unlike most wines.
This wine’s best characteristic is its sheer ease of drinkability. The flavours, however, will challenge many and might put off a few. Nonetheless, a hot summer day and a glass of the I Massieri could be replaced with far worse pairings. And, how often can you taste daring, mold-breaking wine for under thirty bucks. There are few better entry points to natural wine for the thrifty than this bottle.
100% Garganega from the Veneto.
Good+ to Very Good
$27 at Kits Wine
UPDATE: I have tasted this wine from several magnums subsequent to this article and have found the wine to be much more interesting in that format and also more to my personal liking. The wine has also been incredibly consistent in this format. As such, I highly recommend seeking out the magnums.