“Judith is an impressively calm, thoughtful person and that sense of relaxation seems to transmit itself into her wines, which possess a lightness of touch not always apparent in this region.” Importer, Les Caves de Pyrenne
What I love about Judith Beck is her complete authenticity. Yes, she’s young. Yes, she makes natural wine. Yes, her labels look cool. Yes, she defies tradition. Tick, tick, tick, tick. All criteria are met for selling to the growing swathe of natural wine aficionados out there. Call me cynical but there are some natural wine producers finding success based on the quality of their Instagram accounts over what’s in the bottle. Judith is certainly not jumping on any band wagons. She, and indeed her family, have followed a path. Starting with her grandparents owning a small farm, taken over by her parents in the 70’s, her parents were dedicated to sustainable farming methods from the outset. Judith took things a step further. After taking over the estate in 2004 she started using Biodynamic farming methods in 2006. (Biodynamics is a holistic approach going further than organic farming more info here).
As the quality and diversity of life increased in the soil and the surrounding vineyards, Judith started to notice a marked difference in the vitality and vibrancy of the grapes. The fruit was so full of life and flavour. It was an obvious progression to eliminate additives from the wine making. This choice was not made to follow a market trend, it was based on not wanting to spoil something that nature had provided, something that was already exceptional. It was time to rebel against what she’d been taught in winemaking school and work in a way that respected, with the help of nature, what she’d worked so hard to create in the vineyard.
All the wines are produced using native yeasts. This means that because the grapes are healthy, their skins are abundant with wild yeasts which will spontaneously ferment when the grapes are crushed. Conventional winemakers use sulphites to kill any yeasts present and will add an off-the-shelf synthetic or selected yeast. Selected yeasts are often cultivated to change the characteristics of the wine. The aromas maybe altered to make the wine meet a profile that perhaps perceived as being more fashionable. The altered aroma may be quite pronounced, but may not ring true. It can sometimes actually smell quite synthetic. By using native yeasts the expression is much purer and more authentic.
Modern winery located within the vineyards at Gols
Once fermented, red wines partially go through something called carbonic maceration. Without getting too technical, what this does is reduce the amount of tannin extraction whilst retaining a very fresh, juicy, fruity character. It is not a process that involves any technological or chemical intervention and has been used in wine making for centuries. Reds are matured in old barrels made from acacia wood. Old barrels don’t impart much flavour, it’s more about the nature of the wood allowing a little air into the wine to soften and age it ever so gently.
Judith might make wine the way she wants to, yet she is not unbalanced in her approach. She hasn’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater. She adheres to the wisdom of traditional practices where it makes sense. For example, there is a real emphasis on using native grape varieties. Names such as Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt are not known to the average wine drinker and make for a tougher sell, but these grape varieties have evolved and adapted to the landscape to create wines of exceptional quality. They are unique in flavour and allow Judith to create wines that are unique to their origin. The wines speak of the land, the pocket of countryside she inhabits and its ancient history. They speak of the vineyards that have evolved over time and the weather conditions in which they were grown. And they speak of Judith’s intuitive relationship with that land. The relationship that results in the harvest. So when it comes to converting that beautiful harvested fruit into wine, the less that’s added in the process the better.