The natural and organic movement has infiltrated our skincare routine, our fashion choices and our food shop (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). So it won’t come as much of a surprise that it’s taking over our tipple, too. Sales of natural wine in the UK have increased by over 30% in the last 18 months. Consumers are opting for natural wine over more traditional styles, with the trend for natural wines set to double by 2022. It begs the question – what is natural wine and why is it so popular?
Technically undefined (much like in the beauty industry), there’s currently no firm definition of ‘natural’ wine. However, the most common interpretation is wine that’s been made on a small scale, by winemakers who leave the grapes to grow naturally with very little intervention – such as spraying pesticides. Many types of wine can fall under the ‘natural’ umbrella, including organic and biodynamic wine. They’re generally viewed as an environmentally friendly option and by avoiding adding preservatives like sulphites and unnecessary chemicals, winemakers are making wines that are aligned to their consumers values.
Of course, natural wine isn’t new, but environmental concerns, health benefits and aesthetic appeal are all adding to its deepened popularity. The boom in clever marketing has helped drive the reputation of natural wine. Colourful label and design collaborations with young artists have sparked further interest (French winery Vin des Potes choose a new artist for each wine), while natural wine retailers like Top Cuvee are using social media to reach their tribes.
Then, there’s the fact that the winemaking techniques of natural wine allow for even more experimental and interesting flavours. The lack of chemicals means the oxidation and bacterial growth come with their own flavour profiles.
Natural wines tend to be a little funkier than traditional wines. Some can have sourness or tartness, some can have earthy and farmyard flavours. There are still the usual oak, fruit and spice flavours, but natural wine is known for the strange flavours they can produce. One reason for this is the unpredictable nature of the wild or indigenous yeasts that are found on the skin of the grapes, these yeasts are temperamental and produce many different flavours.
As for finding a flavour you like, there are many different styles of natural wine, from the usual red and white wines, to lesser known styles like Pet Nats and orange wines.
Orange wines are white wines that have been left to macerate (they’re left to mature after being crushed). Their skins give the wine an orange hue, these can also be called skin contact.
Petillante naturale or “pet nats” are gently sparkling wines made in the ancestral method (they’re bottled before the end of the fermentation to trap a small amount of gas) – think Cava but with less fizz! They are often found with a crown top instead of a cork.
Before you buy
Bear in mind that natural wine is often cloudy and hazy because there is a lack of filtration and clarification. This means there is often sediment in the bottle and though it might look odd at first, it’s completely harmless and doesn’t affect the taste.
Another thing to remember is that natural wines have a lot of vintage variation, so the same wine can differ year on year. The wines are mainly made in such small quantities, therefore it may be hard to find the exact same wine again (though this adds to their uniqueness).
The good news is the increase in popularity means more retailers and suppliers are jumping on board, so there are many more styles available and more wines to explore!
These are 6 of the best natural wines to try now…
Landron Chartier Naturlich, £21, Juiced Wines
Pet Nats are a great place to start if you are new to natural wines. Landron Chartier’s Naturlich is a soft sparkling rosé which is dry with a hit of acidity, fresh raspberry and strawberries. Easy drinking with no surprises in the taste, it’s a perfect introduction to natural.
Chin Chin Vinho Verde, £10.75, Juiced Wines
Arguably the most popular wine on the ‘gram, Chin Chin is a natural Vinho Verde – zesty with a slight spritz. The Portuguese wine was made for exclusive London wine bar, Noble Rot, and rightly gets rave reviews.
COL 19, £30, Tillingham
Tillingham is a Sussex based winery that makes very well-made, delicious English wines. Always very popular (and frequently sold out) COL 19 is a Pet Nat made with the same grapes used in Champagne. The wine is complex, fruity and has great balance. The ethos, winemaking and biodiversity at Tillingham make it a great place to support and visit when you can.
Patrick Bouju Mol 2018, £25, Juiced Wines
One of the most celebrated natural wine maker’s is Patrick Bouju of La Boheme, known for his collab with rapper Action Bronson and his expressive wines. Though his selection is small, his wines are widely coveted and celebrated, and for good reason as they definitely live up to the hype. For natural wine at its finest check out Mol, a blend of undisclosed red grapes. It has plenty of depth, flavour and complex berry aromas.
Chateau Barouillet O’Ranch, £28, Gnarly Vines
Heard of orange wine but not sure what to try? Chateau Barouillet, a domaine with eight generations of winemaking experience makes the Orange wine O’Ranch. The wine is
definitely a bit natty, with straw and oxidative qualities, but it tastes peachy too. It’s an interesting wine and a perfect example of what orange wine should be.
IPG Mer Egee Greek Connection, £29, Dynamic Vines
The beauty of natural wines is that they don’t have to come from well-known wine regions, so you can take the opportunity to try wine from lesser-known locations. Greek Connection is a very drinkable Greek wine from Vin des Potes, made from the Greek grape Assyrtiko. It is a skin contact wine that has freshness and fruit but also seasalt and minerality. It’s a seriously good wine that will transport you to a Greek island by the sea.