Lo-fi the new natural

Cult Wine has drawn a line in the sand and they deserve credit for that. (Photo: Edible Ohio Valley website)

The term “lo-fi wine” is new to me, so when I stumbled across it online I turned to Mr Google for help. The most useful and lucid explanation I came across was from the website of Wellington wine retailer, Cult Wine.

Cult Wine didn’t invent the term, but they support its use. The term “natural” has been overused and abused, they claim. Natural wine,

“… means either organic or biodynamic agriculture, indigenous yeasts (preferably those from the vineyard), little (if any) oak, no additions – such as acidification, and as little sulfur as humanly possible.”

The problem with the term “natural” is that, according to Cult Wine, it implies that all other wines are not natural, which is clearly not the case.

The problem with the term “natural” is that, according to Cult Wine, it implies that all other wines are not natural, which is clearly not the case. A product can only be natural if it has been created without human intervention. Human intervention is essential in the case of wine, therefore, no wine is truly natural.

Cult Wine prefers the term “lo-fi.”

“It means winegrowing with integrity. It is much more than sustainability. It’s a holistic approach to growing, making and even selling wine in the most authentic way possible. Likewise, hand-picking and dry-farming are ideals to be celebrated.”

Lo-fi winemaking is defined as,

“Nothing added and nothing taken away is our mantra. What does this mean in a practical sense? Well, fermentation on indigenous yeasts, ideally those cultivated from the vineyard, is non-negotiable. Next comes some less obvious stuff… No adjustments: no chaptalisation, acidification, tannin additions or overt use of oak. Certainly no mechanical interventions such as reverse-osmosis and micro-oxidation.

While none of these techniques are ipso-facto wrong or even problematic, all of these to a greater or lesser extent interfere with a grape’s ability to convey a sense of place and a sense of itself. Likewise, lo-fi means un-fined with minimal if any filtration. We can put up with a little haze if it means the wine is more vital and alive.”

They are moderately permissive when it comes to sulfur addition.

“We would much rather drink an amazing wine that has been stabilised with a lick of sulfur dioxide as it was bottled than to wax lyrical about how amazing a wine could have been without it.”

Cult Wine has drawn a line in the sand and they deserve credit for that. It should now be possible for them to apply their definition to the wines they stock and decide whether each is lo-fi or not.

Perhaps hi-fi might be a more appropriate label if the goal is indeed to allow wine to “… convey a sense of place and of itself.” Hi-fi suggests high quality, authenticity and purity. Conversely lo-fi hints at noise and distortion.

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