The tides are turning on natural wine. While the category has weathered skepticism for decades, dismissed as a fleeting trend or, for some, a bit of a sham, many more producers are getting into the craft, meaning it’s now easier than ever to find exceptional, actually “natural” wines.
What is a Natural Wine?
At their core, natural wines embrace organic farming, minimal intervention during fermentation, and a commitment to preserving the essence of the grapes and local traditions. It’s a manual, hands-on process, resisting the pull of automation or mechanization (which, while not inherently “bad”, can diminish the quality of a wine for the sake of efficiency).
Is a Natural Wine the Same as an Organic Wine?
Not always. While both share a commitment to minimal intervention, the key difference lies in the certification. Organic wines adhere to strict farming practices, forgoing synthetic pesticides and chemicals, while natural wines emphasize a hands-off approach throughout the full winemaking process.
What is a List of Natural Wines to Try?
Now, the exciting part! While I’d typically suggest natural wine newbies lean on the expertise of their local wine shop to discover what is available most sustainably, there are a few general recommendations I’d suggest to savor this year:
- 2Naturkinder Black Betty Landwein 2019. A sublimely light red made from a blend of near-black domina grapes (hence the name) with pinot meunier and pinot noir.
- Lucy M Sauvignon Sensuel 2020. A properly refined, fermented Sauvignon Blanc with all the aromatic, cloudy goodness you’d hope for.
- Ruppert-Leroy ‘Fosse Grely’ Champagne Brut Nature NV. The best natural champagne I’ve tasted to date, the subtly bitter ‘Fosse Grely’ is packed with notes citrus fruits, peaches, and biscuits.
- St Nicolas de Bourgueil La Ferme des Fontaines 2019. Made by Cabernet Franc maestro Xavier Amirault, this is an incredibly plummy bottle bursting with blackcurrants and smooth, ripe tannins. A delight.
- Rallo Vicoletto Catarratto. A dry yet vibrant orange wine, this is the kind of bottle you could bring to any dinner party. Expect lots of grapefruit, apple and fresh acidity.
- Renner&sistas Gewurz 2021. These ultra-talented Austrian producers nailed the gateway drug orange with this one; it’s floral, ripe, and a tiny bit spicy (thanks to the biodynamic blend of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris).
- Patricia & Remi Bonneton La Tangente ‘Meandres’ 2021. A deep rosé pet-nat ideal for impressing the wine connoisseur in your life. Made using a direct-press of Syrah and Cinsault, red berries mingle with dry herbs and sour cherries. The result? A truly unique wine.
What Type of Wine is Pét Nat?
Ah, Pét Nat – the wild child of the wine world. Short for Pétillant Naturel, this sparkling wine is crafted using the ancestral method. It captures the effervescence of the grapes naturally, resulting in a lively and slightly cloudy wine that’s semi-sparkling and sophisticated.
What Does Natural Wine Pair Well With?
The beauty of natural wine lies in its versatility. Pair natural reds and whites with a range of dishes, from earthy mushroom risottos to tangy cheese boards. Natural wines, particularly orange wines, complement the complexity of flavors in farm-to-table cuisine and tend to add something special to dishes with vibrant spices. For a cozy evening, try a selection with charcuterie or savory vegan nibbles – subtle flavors are ideal for experimenting with these expressive and unfiltered gems.