It has been delightful to get back into drinking wine after being pregnant for the majority of 2021, when I abstained from imbibing.
My return to wine has been fun, and I thought I’d share the best natural wines that I drank in the past year that would get your 2023 on the right foot.
#1: Keush Origins Brut
Courtesy of https://keush.com
Taste: bright green apple; dash of salt
Body: Medium-sized bubbles, high acidity, dry
If you know me, you know that one of my absolute favorite styles of wine is Champagne or Sparkling wine. Sparkling wines are the ultimate celebratory beverage and their effervescence immediately lift you up and put you in a bubbly mood.
I have plenty of Champagnes I could add to this year’s list (we’ve had plenty to celebrate…and it doesn’t take much for my husband and I to pull out a bottle of bubbly). However, I really wanted to highlight this beautiful sparkling from Armenia.
Raise your hand if you’ve tried Armenian wine before? My guess is that you are not raising your hand. It’s okay. You may have not even realized that Armenia makes wine. Well, I’m here to delight you in saying that they certainly do make wine and they make good wine at that.
Want to grow your Armenian wine knowledge? Check out this awesome mini documentary about Armenian wine and its rich history.
This particular bottle of Keush Brut is made with Voskehat 60% and Khatouni 40% Armenian grapes. I had never had Armenian sparkling before, and after the first few sips, I proclaimed to my husband, “This is one of the best natural wines I’ve had this year.”
It was dry with a delicate croissant characteristic to it. My kind of sparkling.
You may wonder how I know this is natural wine. It says “méthode traditionnelle” or “méthode champenoise” on the bottle, which means that they used a traditional sparking wine-making method to create this vintage.
When sparkling is made “méthode traditionelle,” that means the winemaker endured a multistep process over the course of several years in order to bring you this bottle of bubbles.
It’s not easy to make sparkling wine, and you want to advertise when you’ve taken the time to go the old fashioned route. For a great video detailing how traditional sparkling wine is made, check out the video below.
It’s no surprise that I am quite fond of Cabernet Franc. We produced a 2020 vintage of organic Cabernet Franc from Coquelicot Vineyard, and it is one of my favorite wines to drink. However, I’m not here to tell you about my cab franc, I’m here to talk about the Saumur from Domaine Guiberteau.
If you’re a Cabernet Franc lover like me, you want to make not of this French wine region located in the northwest region of Franc in the Loire Valley. (pictured on the map in red)
To preface, many French, Italian, and Spanish wine regions will simply write the region where a given wine was grown without indicated the grape variety.
They do this because it is often understood what various regions produces. So, “Saumur” is not a grape variety; it’s a wine region that grows and produces Cabernet Franc. They do, in fact, produce a few other reds in the region, but when the only indication on the bottle reads “Saumur,” it has to be their signature Cab Franc.
What made this one of the best natural wines that I drank this year was the fact that it was the perfect expression (in my humble opinion) of Cabernet Franc. First of all, a Cabernet Franc from Saumur is almost guaranteed to be made with organic or even biodynamic grapes.
My ideal Cabernet Franc is a little fruity and a little peppery. This wine captures that and more, which is why I think it is one of the best natural wines I could get my hands on in 2022.
If you’re curious where to buy natural wines, this natural wine in particular, or just any ol’ wine, you can visit Wine Searcher. It’s a great resource that we use whenever we can’t find a bottle we want in a natural wine shop. Of course, I wish I could have all the natural wines near me, but that just isn’t a reality.
#3: Scar of the Sea NV CoFerment Mondeuse & Newtown Pippin Apples
Courtesy of scarofthesea.com
Aroma: Raspberry, honey crisp apple
Taste: apple cider, raspberry, blackberry
Body: light, medium acidity, effervescent, dry
Okay, okay. You may be raising your eyebrows at me and thinking “how can a blend of wine and cider be one of Cleo’s best natural wines?” Well, honey. Let me tell ya. It was absolutely delicious, that’s why. It was such a creative blend of two beautiful naturally made alcoholic beverages.
Wine & cider. Who knew?
I tried this cider/wine from Scar of the Sea (a Central Coast winery) at Campfire in Carlsbad, and was stunned by how well the cider and wine balanced together. I sipped, I paused, and then I sipped again. I was absolutely floored.
I had never drunk anything like this before, I was so excited to be drinking it in that moment. I wish I were drinking some right now.
This co-ferment is easily added to my list of natural wines that I will forever cherish because I don’t think it can be replicated. Maybe they’ll try to make some more one day. I sure hope they do.
#4: Maison des Ardoisières Silice Rouge 2021
Photo by Cleo de la Torre
Aroma: Chocolate covered strawberries
Taste: bright red fruit, fruity chocolate
Body: light/medium, medium acidity, dry…you may have noticed a trend in wines that I am particularly fond of…
I loved the Scar of the Sea co-ferment because it introduced me to a grape varietal that I had not tried before–Mondeuse. This grape is light, fruity (but not sweet), and has a beautifully balanced minerality without being overpowering.
It is certainly reminiscent of Gamay, which is one of my all-time favorite grape varietals. You heard it here first, Mondeuse is the new Gamay. Bottles that are now $30 will go for $60 in the next few years. Mark my words.
This particular bottle was absolutely lovely. It was the perfect mid-week, light/almost medium bodied red wine that I needed as the weather finally began to shift from summer to fall. I like easing into my bigger reds, and this hit the spot.
I’ll definitely be searching for Mondeuse in the future, and I guarantee you’ll hear that grape variety more frequently if you like to hang around natural wine bars.
#5: Beaux Frères Pinot Noir 2016
Photo by Cleo de la Torre
Aroma: Cedar, dark chocolate
Taste: bright red fruit, fruity chocolate
Body: light, medium acidity, dry
There was a point in time when Jordan and I were members of several wine clubs. I’m talking around six or seven wine clubs. Needless to say, we built a healthy wine cellar over the years. However, with the production of our own wines and our own wine club membership, we had to suspend our several club memberships.
The one we held on to the longest, however, was Beaux Frères’ wine club membership. They are located in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and, in my opinion, make some of the best natural wines and Pinot Noir in the country.
Of course, we are absolutely in love with our 2018 Pinot Noir, but a Central Coast Pinot Noir is just different from an Oregon Pinot. I could pick them out in a blind tasting in a heartbeat, and I’m sure with some practice, you could too.
They operate an 88-acre farm and experiment with biodynamic farming, which is evident in their delicious wines. Farming this way, as discussed in a previous post, allows for the terroir to come through the fruit of the grape.
We decided to open this particular bottle when we learned that we had finally closed on a recent house purchase. This was the first house my husband and I have ever owned, and we were thrilled to celebrate the occasion with one of our favorite producers.
Naturally, we would typically reach for a Champagne to mark such an occasion, but we made the habit of cracking open a bottle of Champagne for celebrating moments of the house-buying process like our bid getting accepted and the inspection going well.
We had also recently celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. We had a lot to celebrate and we were actually out of Champagne in our house–this is not common, let me assure you. So, we reached for a tried and true banger–a Beaux Frères Pinot Noir.
It was rather a poetic pairing, if I’m honest. It was wineries like Beaux Frères–wineries that put the soil first–that inspired us to get into the wine world. And while we do not manage our own vineyard (yet), this new house will be a major step in that direction.
No, no. We won’t be planting vines on this property. Well, we might plant some, but it would not be enough to produce wine. However, this property will allow us to polish our green thumbs.
We would love to manage a serious garden and several fruit trees with the hopes of being able to source a large portion of our produce from our own backyard. Yes, we even want chickens.
We have been such nomads these last few years, and we are thrilled to finally plant some roots–both literally and figuratively. And how dreamy does that sound? We will be able to wake up in the morning, good feed the chickens, collect some fresh eggs, grab whatever might be ready for the picking from the garden, and go make breakfast.
It is all so simple and idillic, I could cry. In fact, I am. I am tearing up at the thought of this life–one that I will get to share with my beautiful daughter– and it is going to begin quite soon.
And this wine, this beautiful Pinot Noir made from good soil and good fruit, this wine made by good winemakers who farm the right way, allowed us to pause. It allowed us to think of time, to think of the old, and to think of the new, and to honor where we had been with hope of what was to come.
We could not have picked a better wine toast us into our new reality.
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Cleo de la Torre is the owner of Más Allá Wines. She is also a mother and former high school English teacher. She taught for several years before she and her husband, Jordan, took a wild leap into the wine world. She loves wine and its rich history, and much of her love is explored and explained through her blog.
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