Think natural wine is for hipsters and neophytes? Not anymore. We’ve officially reached tipping point, and small, independent wine makers are leading the charge.
In a not-totally-unsurprising-move, given the direction social change has been heading in for the last couple of decades, wine drinkers have been well and truly seduced by the philosophy of natural wine. It isn’t regulated and it’s not very well defined, but the idea behind it chimes with the modern desire for authentic, artisanal products made with respect for the earth and its resources.
There is currently no one set of rules that natural winemakers have to follow in order to use the term. However, natural winemakers will almost certainly employ organic farming methods – no chemical fertilisers here thank you. They’ll probably have stripped their processes back to a minimum, as the pendulum has swung from years of highly industrialised intervention to simple, ancient practices. They may even follow biodynamic principles, which bring an almost spiritual element to working with the land. The dominant theme is individualism over industrialisation; character over uniformity. Natural wines celebrate the terroir, the climate, the fruit and the process – and accept the unpredictability that comes with that.
London is bursting with natural wine bars now, but Top Cuvée in Finsbury Park remains one of the best. Here you’ll find wine without any hint of pretension – the team definitely know their stuff but the focus is firmly on fun. The pandemic forced the opening of Shop Cuvée which turned into a very successful – and now permanent – pivot, and the recently added Cave Cuvée brings the brand to Bethnal Green Road.
Orange wine – or more properly, ‘skin contact’ white wine – is a totem of the natural wine genre that has mushroomed in popularity in recent years. The colour comes from the skin, seeds and sometimes stalks of the vine, which are left to macerate in the juice of the grapes. One of the loveliest is the New Zealand Pyramid Valley Orange Wine, a beautiful copper-coloured drink with floral aromas and suitably citrusy notes of negroni.
The Subscription Box
Club Monty, Monty Wines’ natural and organic wine subscription service, gives natural-curious wine lovers the opportunity to sample new products from the world’s best small producers. Each box comes with tasting notes and ideas for food pairings, as well as information about the winemakers, their philosophies and credentials.
Winemakers to watch
Luis Moya Tortosa, owner of LMT wines in Navarra, Spain, takes a ‘nomadic’ approach to wine making: rather than operating a single estate winery, he finds old vines in other wineries and rents them. His objective is to make ‘pure and honest’ wine – which means no herbicides or pesticides and minimal intervention in the fermentation process.
Nadège Lelandais has been practicing organic and biodynamic winemaking in the Loire since 2005, and has always emphasised quality over quantity. Her natural wines, made without sulphites, come from a mix of very old and new vines across four plots. Sighting the Indian adage ‘We do not inherit the land of our parents, we borrow it from our children,’ as inspiration, Nadège’s aim is to add to the land rather than exploit it.
Maria and Alex Koppitsch
Tending a vineyard on the sandy shores of Lake Neusiedl in Austria, Maria and Alex Koppitsch can trace their family’s winemaking legacy back an impressive 500 years. Fortuitously, those previous generations resisted the technological advances that most wine producers employed, so chemicals have never been used on their land; and today Maria and Alex still work with the tools they inherited from Alex’s grandfather. They describe their desire to bring joy with their wine, and to do so in a sustainable way.