Have you heard of raw, natural or low intervention wine but don’t know exactly what it means? We sat down with Gilles Lapalus, the man behind Bertrand Bespoke Wine and Maidenii Vermouth to find out some more about these interesting styles of winemaking and the best foods to match with them.
When did you first know you wanted to make wine?
I was born in a barrel.
Do you think natural wine is just a “trend” in Australia, or will we see greater uptake in the years to come?
Natural wine doesn’t exist , wine is manufactured . I much prefer the expression raw wine, which describe these wines with very low intervention, a little bit like raw milk . But like raw milk, if you go that way you have to be a lot more careful, otherwise nature will dominate and surely not produce the energetic drink we expect. Wine has been produced for a long time in this manner. Prior to the first World War, all the vineyards were organic. Prior to the development of oenology in the 60’s most of the wines were produced with little additives and process. The chance we have now, especially in Australia with a favourable climate, a technological know-how, and a non-restrictive legislation, is to be able to experiment with wine made the same way 100 years ago. I think the benefit of oenology has allowed us to be more in control, and the real question now is to use our understanding of the process with minimal interference .
Your range Bertrand Bespoke range features some very special labels. What’s so different about them?
The labels are designed by Lauren Bonkonsky from Two Poles Apart. We decided to use some of my photos, each relating to the wine in a way. The demi-john in Torino for Nebbiolo, the coast of Bandol for the Mourvedre, the freeway I was driving during vintage for the Syrah (a bit more abstract), a green paddock in Jura during summer for the Rosé, and a close-up of bubbles for the Ancestrale. For these last two, the printer proposed us to experiment with a new software, which can select a different part of the image each time, so effectively every label is slightly different. I like this idea, especially for the Ancestrale where every bottle is slightly different too.
Pet Nat. What exactly is it and are those floaty bits okay to drink?
Pet Nat is the short for Petillant Naturel in French. It refers to a method of sparkling winemaking preceding the more known method in Champagne. Basically, the wine is bottled before the end of the first fermentation, which will finish (eventually) in the bottle, creating the bubbles. This method, also called methode ancestrale or methode rurale, is a lot more varied, as every bottle might be sightly different. The difference comes first with the amount of sediment present at bottling. Therefore the disgorgement is often necessary. The benefit for the Bespoke label is to be able to make a wine with zero additives – grapes only. The deposit in the bottle is mostly dead yeast, in this case wild yeast, and just like a Cooper’s Pale Ale, it brings a little bit of texture to the wine.
You also make Vermouth, Maidenii. What’s special about the Vermouth you make?
The Maidenii Vermouth is very different to the European model for different reasons. First we make the wine specifically for the vermouth from high quality vineyard in Central Victoria (Heathcote and Bendigo), and then the wine is vintaged. Secondly, we don’t add any sugar or caramel as we fortify the wines during fermentation making each vermouth a vintage vermouth. This means the wine is fresh and not oxidised. We also use Australian native botanicals along with the more traditional ones and like all Bespoke wines, there are no additives and minimal or no sulfur.
How can people use Maidenii Classico Vermouth at home?
Maidenii Classic Vermouth is the most versatile from the range. For me, the best use is at the end of dinner as a light digestif, neat (or with a cigar). I also enjoy it on warm days, mixed with soda or tonic water as a very refreshing long drink. It can also be used for mixing a not-too-sweet Negroni.
After a big day of making wine, which drink do you grab to unwind?
Maidenii Classic and tonic water.
What would you eat with…
– Maidenii Classico Vermouth: Any Spanish tapas with a good salty edge, anchovy and olives.
– Bertrand Bespoke Pet Nat: It is a very delicate wine, and it tends to drink like lemonade, so probably on its own.
– Bertrand Bespoke Rosé: It’s a dry but quite textural rosé, this wine will be perfect with any salumi or other provencal summer dish like pissaladiere.
Bertrand Bespoke Wine and Maidenii Classico Vermouth are delivered by Tipple in under 60 minutes to select postcodes. Check out our website for further details.