A Tuscan town famous for its health bearing waters and a being luxury spa destination who’s glory days were back in the early part of last century is now becoming a focal point for the modern incarnation of the natural wine phenomenon. Here in Montecantini Terme, about an hours drive from Florence, growers, wine makers, vintners and casual drinkers gather once a year for the Slow Wine festival held in balmy early October.
The event covers organic, biodynamic wines and those made with minimal intervention. So what does that actually mean? While no legal definitions exist into what can be labelled as natural, the industry is slowly moving towards the idea that a few key principals should be followed. These include grapes being grown in the vineyard and not mixed with others sourced from away; no additional chemicals should be added with perhaps some copper and sulphur used to minimise pest damage; a bare minimum addition of sulfites (used to prevent oxidation and keep the wine fresh) maybe added to the wine; no temperature control be allowed during fermentation; no yeast added; no fining or filtration, and finally no pesticides or herbicides should be used in the vineyard itself.
This year’s event saw dozens of vineyards representing all the Italian regions and a handful from neighbouring Slovenia showcasing their wines. Lots on offer to taste and all in a spectacularly picturesque former spa building.
Explaining why they’ve opted for creating such wine, several wine growers said it was the only way they felt they could express the soil, and the ‘unique interpretation of our terroir’. On the other side of the table, tasters and dabblers said the quality of wine was noticeably improving year on year. Less ‘watery’, with more balance and structure, especially for the reds, and less so the sparkling wines, a couple of sommeliers told me.
Great stories were shared from vineyards such as Burja and Guerila in Slovenia, which in addition to world class cellars and canteens, hand pick grapes following the biodynamic calendar for impressive wines. And, if you get a chance to try some wines from Liguria, particularly from the epically steep terraces of the Cinque Terre, do because they are just too good and delicious and need our support!