15 May Natural Wine: Is the easily slung term just a buzzword?
You may have seen prominent wine lists from top sommeliers and restaurants run by the “new cool” recently embrace natural wine. It’s often featured prominently on Instagram pages and publicised across a variety of digital and print platforms. Even chef and rapper Action Bronson has been sprucing the style via Vice’s YouTube series, Fuck That’s Delicious. What these features usually fail to mention is what the term actually refers to and why you should or shouldn’t be drinking it.
Natural wine has undoubtedly polarised the traditionalist wine writer and enthusiast with many finding it nothing but faulty amateur plonk. At a dinner I was lucky enough to sit next to Andrew Caillard MW and mid meal we swapped bottles and I was left scratching my head as he and I had just paid north of $100 a bottle for wine that slightly “off” for no better term. It wasn’t bad by any stretch it was just wasn’t familiar. Was this what it was supposed to taste like? Did I miss something or was I uneducated? My superiors in the wine world were champions of this new style and I felt that I needed to dig a little deeper.
In order to understand natural wine we need to first look at the origins of wine. Prior to modern winemaking processes and equipment such as packet yeast, powdered tannin, temperature controlled fermentation and stainless steel, the wine that was produced was created by fermenting crushed grapes and the process was natural by requisite. This old world process has since been emulated by new world winemakers with notable entries from Australia, New Zealand and South America.
Natural winemaking opposes the use of chemicals, with grapes organically and often farmed in a biodynamic way. The wine has minimal intervention from the winemaker or secondary processes and additives which can often result in oxidative, cloudy and unpredictability, that brushes with faulty. It can also can also produce delicious lively and emotional wine that perfectly reflects the region and producers, and defines the essence of the term terroir.
One of the most interesting elements about natural wine is the avant-garde winemaker behind the wheel. It can be likened to that punk or independent band you discovered that sounds raw, does no marketing and releases obscure b-sides. The winemakers’ character, ethos and style are often transferred to the bottle which makes traversing the natural wine world an intimate yet often challenging exploration.
As a thirsty society we value natural characteristics in other beverages such as cloudy pulp filled juices, kombucha, coffee and beer, however natural wine for whatever reason is still sitting in a grey area of controversy and opinion. It shouldn’t be. Natural wine is made to drink and drink now. It comes in many different forms however at Thievery we aim to serve natural wine in its most approachable and easy drinking form that tells the story of the winemaker and the place of origin, after all it is just fermented grapes.