The guys at RedThumb are easy targets.
For starters, they’re based in L.A. Also, they print the following on their labels, which they refer to as their standards:
● Made with organic grapes
● Native yeast fermentation
● Natural farming practices, including organic and dry farming
● Minimal preservatives (total sulfites listed on label)
● No added sugars
● Vegan friendly
● Organic pea protein for fining
● Ingredients listing (organic grapes, native yeast, sulfur)
● Nutritional information
As co-founder Dave Schavone (a former buyer for a national chain and a boutique wine-seller) mentioned during a recent virtual tasting of their recent releases, “There’s people on both sides who don’t like what we’re doing. There are people in the Natural world who don’t think that we’re ‘natural’ enough. There are a lot of people in the conventional world who don’t like the transparency of the labeling.”
RedThumb’s other co-founder, hotel and restaurant sommelier Diego Vásquez added “it’s been a roller-coaster ride.”
RedThumb started up in 2018. Their first shipment of 2019s arrived at port at the beginning of 2020—along with the COVID pandemic; about the worst possible time in recent memory to be launching a new wine brand. Luckily, the wines held up.
Let’s back up a bit. The RedThumb idea began germinating when Vásquez attended a Raw Wine fair, and “wasn’t feeling” the wines. They hit upon an idea on how to make Natural Wines that were made to their standards of taste. In other words, Natural wines that were actually clean and tasty, and that displayed some typicity of their source. And so the hunt for such a source began.
“We had a friend whose father had run a massive negociant in France,” noted Vásquez . “They were a little behind on our Organic standards.” Spain, on the other hand, was much more progressive on that front. Amidst the 150 or so wines that they tried in search of the right winemaking partner, “we happened to pick two from the same producer.” That was the Spanish family outfit Quaderna Via, run by two brothers.
And as for that divisive label design: according to them, it’s based on transparency: “our standards on the front, nutritionals and ingredients on the back” explained Schavone. Interestingly, all of the current Red Thumb wines come in under 13% abv, with about 500 cases of each being produced right now. “The wines are fermented using indigenous yeast in stainless steel and cement vessels, with tangential filtration with minimal sulfur added at bottling” they mentioned.
I could get behind the divisiveness because, as many of you know, I am not a fan of the Natural wine movement calling itself “Natural,” and I don’t have much time for wines that I would consider flawed. I do, however, very much enjoy minimal-intervention vino when it’s done well, and RedThumb is indeed worthy of a thumbs up…
“We were really thrilled when we found this,” Schavone excitedly explained about the dry-farmed source of their Chardonnay. They were looking for a crisper, lighter, lower alcohol wine, “and this really fit the bill for that.” This is, indeed. very good. Perky, floral, and full of ripe pear and just-ripe white peach flavor action, with smatterings of rockmelon and chalky hints. The finish has hints of nut, honey, and toast, all mild but lingering and thoroughly enjoyable.
The deep, richer hues of this pink were intentional, according to Schavone: “We love the darker color on it, we love that it’s got more body [than a typical rosé].” In fact, it’s almost orange in hue. Not exuberant, this one comes on slowly. It feels weighty in the mouth, with lovely cherry fruits, wild strawberry, crushed flower petals, and just a hint of cotton candy. This is delicious, rather than obvious.
Schavone has strong opinions about upping the profile of Natural wines, citing this red as an example. “The DO was important to us. It certainly lends some credibility. So much of the Natural Wine world is ‘Vin d’France.’ There’s no reason that you can’t make wines in an ecologically conscious way in a DO environment.” Vásquez kind of nailed this one when he called it “a beautiful expression of Tempranillo. Grilled meats, a little bit of black pepper, potting soil, a little bit of mochas, cinnamon…” Add to that: cherries, plums, and sweet tobacco. It comes off lighter than, say, most Rioja reds, and the aromatic complexity really shines as a result. Another delicious effort, with very good bang for the buck.