Populis “Wabi Sabi” Zinfandel Blend 2017
I have to admit – when I first heard the words “Wabi Sabi” I thought I was about to be drinking tequila from some aging heavy metal rockstar.
Instead, what I learned is that Wabi Sabi is a traditional Japanese aesthetic centered on modesty, intimacy, and the appreciation of natural objects and processes – a far cry from “I Can’t Drive 55.” It’s a perfect description for making wine completely naturally and for a delicious, honest price.
In my belief, all wine is natural. As I was taught, all grape juice wants to become wine, and all wine wants to become vinegar, and all vinegar wants to separate into water and solids, returning back to the earth. The difference among all of these substances is only time – time ripening on the vine, time letting yeast ferment, time letting bacteria do their thing, and the time of full maturity to reach a full conclusion. Nothing added, but wonderful things gained through the process.
But, as it happens, you can do a lot to vineyards, grapes, fermenting wine, and bottled wine. You can add sulfur, copper sulfites, tartaric acid, bentonite, or fish isinglass; you can rectify wine; put it through reverse osmosis; pass wood chips or blue copper through it; add Mega Purple, PVPP, pectinase, pectolase or even a little spritz of C02. All of these additives and preservatives can be done to wine, and arguably, it remains wine.
Arguably is the key word there. There is a “new school” of wine in California – producers who, to varying degrees, believe in letting grape juice take its natural course with minimal intervention and minimal additives. And this idea, I believe, links wonderfully well to both California’s old vine heritage, particularly with Zinfandel, as well as California’s abundant natural agricultural beauty. If there was a place on Earth where wine could attain a natural high, it should be here.
That’s what the two young winemakers at Populis are doing – trying to attain a great natural wine high. They’ve aesthetically linked the concept of Wabi Sabi to natural winemaking and old-vine California sunshine. It comes as no surprise that the result is a delicious, fresh, and spirited blend:
Crack open a bottle and oodles of raspberry fruit, bramble, spice, cranberry ocean spray, and juicy cherries pours out. The palate has got a rush of fruit, but it’s also tightly fresh, skipping and singing across the palate with its bright happiness. This is not a jammy palate, and maybe to some of you, this wine will be “too light.” Yet that is, of course, the point. It’s meant to be drunk in cases at picnics and barbeques and out in the sunshine (if it ever comes back to Wisconsin). Serve it at room temperature, serve it slightly chilled, serve it with grilled foods or crisp freshly picked greens, no matter – here is a delicious pairing partner.
So what exactly does “natural” mean to Shaunt Ogoulian and Diego Roig, owners and winemakers at Populis? “Because it’s all about you, our friends and allies, our brothers and sisters who want to drink delicious, honest wine. There is not enough wine with soul that we can afford to drink… and we like to drink!”