This is the origin picture of my love affair with natural field blends.

Taken years ago, in Salvo Foti’s high-elevation Vigna del Bosco vineyard on Mt.Etna.

I was lying in the vegetation amongst the vines in this tiny plot with my friends Wink Lorch and Brett Jones, soaking in the afternoon Sicilian sun, watching the smoke wafting out of the top of the volcano above us.

And talking about biodiversity.

It is one thing to know intellectually that a field blend wine is made from one place with indigenous grapes, red and white together, that is grown, harvested and vinified together.

Quite another to be lying amongst this natural jumble of vines (in this case Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante, Carricante, Visparola,Minnella, and Grecanico), surrounded by groves of Sicilian Oaks, Chestnut and Juniper trees in this tucked away hillside on Mt. Etna feeling it moist and cool against your skin.

A melting pot where the diversity of the vineyard becomes the structure of the taste in a bottle. In this instance, a 2010 Vinudilice harvested from underfoot where we lay and chatted.

I just got it and never let go since.

Natural wine makers do of course blend wine, pick some varieties earlier or later. Field blends are different though as there is a haphazard choice of what to plant, then a natural selection over time of what survives.

Neither better or worse, but special. As a vineyard ecosystem potentially the truest to what a place tastes like.

We train our palates to taste when a wine is made in a natural way. There is invariably a vivacious exuberance to the structure.

We can certainly learn to identify the experience of certain grapes like Cab Franc or Vitovska and in many cases where it is from and who made it.

And for specific approaches to wine making like skin fermented whites, you can easily see, smell and taste the skin in the wine.

But with a field blend it’s different.

I don’t know if I can taste it clearly though it works as a way to communicate what we are drinking where it is beyond varietal and emblematic of place in a specific way.

Truth is that no website or shop I know of categorizes its inventory by field blend but they are there if you ask.

Just last week I strolled into Chambers Street Wines and challenged my friend Ariana Rolich to pull the most interesting, most natural field blends from the shelves.

She outdid herself with these three below:

Celler La Salada 2016 Penedes Roig Boig

I had two bottles, a still and a Pet Nat from the same organically farmed, field blend vineyard. No added SO2 in either.

Winemaker Toni Carbo makes his Roig Boigs in Penedes, heart of Cava country in Spain from broad medley of  Catalon varieties, red and white (Sumoll, Roigenc, Mandó, Cannonnau, Monica, Torbat, Parellada and Xarello).

What’s fascinating is that each bottle is unique from each other though harvested together from the same vineyard.  The still Roig Boig (meaning Crazy Red in Catalon) has a longer maceration on the skins for part of the blend that could be the key to why.

So quaffable, lively, satisfying with a telling saltiness that sits well with the berries of the taste.

I’ve drunk Cavas from that area for decades and these speak to something else completely.

Crazy Reds indeed!

Salinia Sun Hawk Farms 2013

What a find!

This is a project of winemaker Kevin Kelly in Mendocino from a Biodynamically farmed field blend vineyard with at least ten varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc and Muscat Blanc). A small plot surrounded by Olive groves, lavender fields and California Oak.

This bottle is intense on the palate, smooth on the edges with some spice and really bright acidity. No sulfur added

Great natural juice.

Wine is all about the joy of discovery and the excitement of finding new ways to communicate what makes this social experience so special.

This category of field blends is a way in to this very end.

Most field blends are naturally made. Most are the handiwork of people embracing a biodiverse approach to farming. All are by definition an attempt to discover the taste of place.

Some places like Austria with their tradition of Gemischter Satz have embraced this for generations. I’m sure there are others.

The bottles above are well worth a try.

You might also do what I did, and ask your local shop or somm for the most interesting natural field blends they have on the shelves, then share what you find.

And if you can point me to other areas or winemakers who embrace this approach as a focus, please do share the info.

Field blends are joyous, delicious, thoughtful and a bit ambiguous.

Perfect actually as a way to get to know a bit more and enjoy wine in a new way.



Original post on my trip to Etna is here.

Ancient post where I discovered my first field blend in Austria while at an EWBC conference and tasted a Buchertberg White from the crazy talented Gottfried Lamprecht of the Herrenhof Vineyards from the Styria region of Austria is here.