Wine Without Walls is a blind wine tasting created by VinItaly International as part of its more general 5Star (‘Five Star’) competition. The sole focus of WWW is Biodynamic, organic and natural wines. The wines can come from anywhere in the world, not just from Italy. See here for the Italian translation.

Wine Without Walls 5Star Wines 2018

For the 2018 competition, wines must have been made with no more than 40 milligrammes per litre of sulfites, either added during winemaking or produced naturally by the yeast as a by-product of fermentation. Wines must also be made without recourse to must concentration, reverse osmosis, micro-oxygenation, thermo-vinification, and the blocking of malolactic fermentation. The 2018 ‘Wine Without Walls’ award winners are given their own section of 5StarWines – The Book 2018.

Wine without walls 2018, Chairperson’s report by Monty Waldin

Italy is in pole position for organic, natural and Biodynamic wine-growing. Italy has the largest surface area of vines under certified organic management worldwide, ahead of both Spain in second place and France in third.

In addition, Italy’s natural wine movement is both well established and thriving. VinNatur is Italy’s best-known natural wine producer group. It is drawing up a set of clear, sensible rules in an attempt to define what natural wine is, and how it might be grown in the vineyard and subsequently fermented and aged in the winery. This gives clarity to natural wine producers and also protects consumers because the ethos of minimal intervention is at least tentatively benchmarked, just as the rules for organics and Biodynamics were laid down way back in the 1920s and the 1940s respectively.

As for the 2018 Wine Without Walls blind tasting, the panel of judges was unanimous in agreeing that the wines far exceeded their expectations in terms of quality, complexity and, most importantly, value.

The judges also noted how the wines came from not just small, artisan producers but also from medium and larger scale ones who, despite their size, showed they are well organised enough to be able to bring grapes into the winery at optimal ripeness and with diverting flavours.

One of the delights of judging wines made by people working in tune with nature, rather than working against it, is that the wines show a brightness and levity which makes wine tasting a joy rather than a chore.

We all felt refreshed at the end of the day’s judging as these natural, organic and Biodynamic wines tend to have lower levels of alcohol compared to conventional wines because the vines are in balance.

In addition, Wine Without Walls wines also have an unmistakably savoury quality allied, in the best cases, to clear flavour and aroma profiles and effortless drinkability.

This savoury quality is mainly due to the vineyards having soils which are full of earth worms and other beneficial life forms (beneficial fungi and bacteria) which make the vineyard soils smell earthy, just like how a healthy forest floor smells in the wild.

Livelier soils produce grapes with tastier flavours and juice with all the food the wild yeast need to convert the sugar in the grapes into wine naturally.

The result is winemaking which can be unforced, leading to wines which fully express local soil and climatic conditions.

During the first two editions of Wine Without Walls former Chairperson Alice Feiring devised the following judging criteria: ‘liveliness’, ‘evolution’, ‘balance’, ‘drinkability’, ‘savoriness’, ‘sense of place’, ‘emotional impact’, and ‘transparency’. From this edition I continued to use six of these descriptors, whilst replacing ‘emotional impact’ with ‘individuality’ and ‘transparency’ with ‘clarity.’

I chose to use ‘individuality’ because the individuality of a wine can only come from vineyards in which each individual vine is transmitting its particular piece of terroir: the exact soil and sub-soil it is on, the exact part of the slope, the exact amount of sun, rain, and wind that it gets. Individuality also stems from the human factor, how the vines were planted, picked, and pruned. These aspects all influence how each berry will taste and can be measured, whereas descriptors like ‘emotional impact’ are less measurable and therefore more subjective.

I substituted ‘transparency’ with ‘clarity’ because clarity in a wine comes from the winemaker as much as the grapes. A wine of clarity shows the winemaker has a clear vision of how the wine will be made. The aim of winemakers who wish to make a wine as naturally as possible is to guide, to intervene in every step of the winemaking process with their mastery and knowledge—date of harvest, choice of fermentation vessel, choice of bottling date—in such a way that the wine is as clear an expression of terroir, grape and the human hand as possible. A transparent wine, a wine which is easy to read, may have no clarity to it at all. A wine of clarity will always be transparent.”

In sum, the benchmark by which the judges awarded their scores was based on positive answers to the following questions: did the wines have a sense of both the place they were grown in and the grapes they were made from; were the wines clear and balanced; and did they have that umami quality which makes one’s mouth salivate in readiness for the next sip?

We hope you enjoy these wines as much as we did.