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Dec 1, 2011 06:24 AM

Wine like Lambic

I love Lambic. A Belgium beer made with spontaneous fermentation that gives it a complex sour taste. I know sour is a bad thing in the wine world but are there any wine drinkers out there who also like Lambics, Wil Ales, Guezes, etc that have found a wine comparable to a Lambic? I have heard the term natural wines that are supposed to be complex like a Lambic but this is a broad term.

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  1. Natural wines are NOTHING like Lambic ales . . . well, at least the good ones aren't! If a (quote-unquote) "natural" wine (WTF that means!) is made right, it is INDISTINGUISHABLE from any other wine . . .

    OTOH, when a so-called natural wine goes "south" (as many often do), it can become spritzy on the palate, very sour and "weird" (that's the scientific term) . . . AND, they can have Brett -- just like a lot of Lambics.

    You're not even comparing apples and oranges; it's more like mike shakes and chicken.

    That said, you may want to try Oak Knoll Winery's "Frambrosia" (aka Raspberry Wine) for Oregon -- as a very famous California winemaker once said to me, "It's the Château Lafite of fruit wines!"

    10 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Thanks....The reason I brought up natural wine was from this article-

      1. re: kriminalrat

        The only point of comparison I can see between Trimbach and lambic is that they're both delicious.

        I've found Lambrusco (don't laugh--there are some VERY high quality ones coming into the US market these days) can fit the same place at table as lambic.

        1. re: craig_g

          As the writer of that piece I should make clear that the aim was not to determine which wines are most similar from a technical perspective but what kinds of wines may appeal to lambic drinkers. Admittedly, this has a subjective component. And I only covered the whites to date.

          But there are some similarities that make some wines better candidates than others, for example: high acidity, dryness, fermentation by indigenous yeast, oxidation or brett notes etc. For example, I had some naturally fermented reds from the Jura and Loire that come quite close in approaching the character of some traditional lambics.

          Of course, some lambic makers blend their lambics with grapes, and these grapes participate in fermentation. Recently, Belgian lambic brewery Cantillon blended a lambic with a natural wine from the Loire.

          I do not necessarily agree that we can talk in unambiguous terms about when a natural wine "goes south." Similarly, I think there is a lot more to say about brettanomyces in wine than many wine writers have done. I briefly raise this point here:

          As someone who brews almost exclusively with brettanomyces, I can say that this yeast has such complex fermentation characteristics that it is hard to make any sweeping generalizations about the effect of this yeast (or any wild yeast) in alcoholic beverages, including wine.

          1. re: megapolisomancy

            I think this is a super interesting comparison. I had to give up gluten 3 years ago, right about when I decided that I looooooved gueuze. Not surprisingly, I still love tang. I've found a hard cider equivalent (Finnriver hopped cider) but I'm going to make a wine to-do list, based on your post. Thanks!

            1. re: Vetter

              A dry hopped cider? I did not know about this! Interesting.

              I assume you are aware of Isastegi Sagardo Naturala cider? As far as I have been able to determine, it is fermented by indigenous yeast and has some distinct gueuze-like brettanomyces notes.

            2. re: megapolisomancy


              I will accept that you know a good deal about Lambic ales and home brewing, but I cannot for the life of me see:

              1) ANY similarity between Trimbach and ANY lambic ale;
              2) ANY similarity between a Vin Jaune and a labmic;
              3) ANY similarity between a wine of ANY type and any type of lambic ale;

              >>> I do not necessarily agree that we can talk in unambiguous terms about when a natural wine "goes south." <<<

              I'm sorry, were terms like "spritzy" and "very sour" too ambiguous for you? How about a wine losing all of fruit, smelling of "dead daisy water," rather than the crisp apple-pear notes of an unoaked Chardonnay.

              >>> I think there is a lot more to say about brettanomyces in wine than many wine writers have done. <<<

              No wine writer I know dismisses Brett in a wine out-of-hand. At a minimum, they acknowledge that there are some "who like that character." (Usually, these are new writers at the beginning of their career -- or worse, self-proclaimed experts who blog and needn't prove their credibility/expertise to an editor or publisher.) At best, the writer understands that Brett/Dekkera is a microorganism which carries with it certain characteristics which, like oak, has a tolerance level that varies with the individual consumer. Some people, for example, find a wine like Cakebread Chardonnay or a Leonetti Cabenret, to be beautifully balanced and complex, while others find it to be undrinkable, more "oak juice" than wine. So, too, it often is with Brett. Its presence is NOT automatically a flaw; but at some point the concentrations of 4-ethyl-phenol are so high as to be objectionable -- just like a wine that is over-oaked. But there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer -- some may love it at levels under, say, 500 mcg/L, while others might find 3300 mcg/L not to be too much* . . .

              >>> Let us look at some similarities between lambic beer and wine. First of all, there is presentation. Lambic beers are often sold in 750 ml champagne bottles with distinctive labels . . . <<<

              Can I just say that if you START out by saying, "Well, they use similar bottles," then you're probably grasping at straws.


              * For the record, I have been drinking Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape since the 1978 vintage, and in the FWIW Dept., I loved the 1989, and found the level of Brett in the 1990 vintage to be obnoxious.

              1. re: zin1953

                Hi Jason,

                Thanks for your detailed response. It was not my intention with my post to trigger any kind of "discussion". My purpose was to wrap my mind around the wines and beers that I have been drinking. I prefer wine to beer but I prefer lambic to many wines. I have been drinking both for quite some time and these posts are shaped by my experience with that. Many people liked that post and helped them to seek out certain wines and others have suggested other wines.

                As for your assessment about some natural wines, I am glad you feel this way but I am afraid that we are not seeing eye to eye here and I suspect that you would reject certain wines that I would enjoy for more than subjective reasons.

                As for my general approach, if it is legitimate to describe wines by invoking the aromas and smells of food and other beverages than it is not strange to seek for certain properties associated with a beer style (aroma, taste, process) in wine. Wine and beer writers are doing this all the time, and perhaps a lot better. Sure.

                As a matter of fact, some people are forced to think about these similarities because they discover that they are gluten intolerant and want another alcoholic beverage that reminds them of what they drank before.

                When I wrote that post it did not occur to me sufficiently that the grape lambics are essentially co-fermented beverages where both the grains and the grapes participate in fermentation. This should have been an obvious point that I should have made. How grapes and grain behave together during fermentation is something that interests me, too.

                Yes, you are quite right about brett but my point is not that wine writers are ignorant of brett (I have studied quite some popular and academic stuff on wine and brett) but that the use of brett for primary fermentation in beer gives brewers a different perspective on the behavior of this yeast than if it is solely studied as a contaminant or minor player. That is why I suspect that there is more to brett than the quantity in effecting a wine.

                Chinon00, yes, some zéro dosage champagnes evoke similarities to gueuze - I had not thought of that either but I was reminded of it when I read a recent book on natural wine making.

                The first time that a wine evoked memories of a lambic to me was when I had a rather earthy and tart cabernet franc from the Loire. Presumably, a "flawed" wine ;-)

              2. re: megapolisomancy


                Thanks for your lambic site. I have learned alot. The reason I'm on this site and have such a passion for beer, wine, food, etc is the never ending search for new flavors and textures. I love to find different things and lambic is definitely a complex discovery.

                1. re: kriminalrat

                  You're welcome.

                  It is really unfortunate that word the lambic can be used for both spontaneously fermented barley / wheat beers with high acidity and dryness and for beers where this process is halted (or omitted) to make sickly-sweet beers - sometimes by adding syrup or sugar. This often makes exchanges about lambic going off in all directions. Also, lambic can be consumed without carbonation (Cantillon makes a great bottle of straight lambic) and with carbonation - gueuze. That sets it apart from most beers.

                  I am so glad that there is a major lambic renaissance going on - and all these American brewers experimenting with ambient yeast. It can hurt your wallet though - but so can wine!

              3. re: craig_g

                Hmmn, I just had a 2010 Grotta del Sole Gragnano Penisola Sorrentina with dinner last night. Very similar to Lambrusco and delicious. Maybe the comparison to beer comes because according to the K&L notes for this wine, Italians either drink beer or a wine like this with their pizza.

          2. Pasek Cellars, in Washington, has a number of fruity wines that are quite good. Definitely still sweet (but so is lambic) but with some bite. We had the cranberry wine on Thanksgiving and there was definitely still the pucker factor I assosciate with cranberry. The Pasek fruit wines are probably not as "sophisticated" as many other wines, but sometimes I enjoy sweeter and fruiter flavors as well. Still, something that tastes JUST sweet it too much for me. I also just finished off a bottle of Gewurztraminer from Eagle Creek Winery (2008) that had a really rich fruity taste but was still definitely wine.

            I should add the disclaimer that, while I enjoy drinking wines, I'm not especially knowledgable and I'm limited in budget so this is pretty much the opposite of an expert opinion.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alitria

              Pasek also makes an excellent Blackberry wine and I'm looking forward to the Eagle Creek I bought when I visited the Tasting Room in Leavenworth.

            2. Strictly in terms of trying to match a lambic for it's sharpness and acidity I'd suggest a Sancerre or a very dry Champagne.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Chinon00

                I know it's seen as one dimensional but I like the acidity, tartness, and minerality of Vinho Verde.

                1. re: kriminalrat

                  If you think of Vinho Verde as one dimensional, you haven't had the good ones!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Yeah I enjoyed a Vinho Verde this summer at the Jersey shore from Vera. It was like a nearly still Champagne. Seriously

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      You can -- if you look hard enough -- probably fine Coteaux Champenois, but a truly good Vinho Verde will be produced from Alvarinho grapes, rather than Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal. Alvarinho is the Portuguese name for the grape called Albariño in Spain, and comes from the Vinho Verde sub-region of Monção . . . much better, more complex wine(s).