Skip ordinary and go straight to extraordinary
By Sean Braid (WSET Level 3); Annoyingly enthusiastic swirler, sniffer and slurper of all sorts of things.
What is Natural Wine?
Natural Wine is about the enjoyment of wine in a way that doesn't require the consumer to be an expert or have a developed wine palette. And it's not about using words like palette either. It is flavoursome, whether subtle or full flavour, it is full of unique stories and produced naturally. The discussion around ‘what is’ Natural Wine, Authentic Wine or Low-Intervention wines (as they are also commonly known) is complex however, they are commonly narrowed down to mean wines that are:
- From grapes grown organically or bio-dynamically,
- Made with minimal intervention in the winery – meaning ideally no additions or subtractions and generally gently handled with minimal or no added Sulphur Dioxide (S02), and
- Made by smaller, independent producers – because natural wine is about treating wine as a craft rather than commodity. This allows, and even encourages, seasonal variability between vintages, expression of individual provenance (or terroir) and also a degree of personal expression on the part of the makers.
It is not only the product but the people.
Natural wine is about appreciating each wine, grape, region and producer for what it is and who they are. It is not only the product but the people. It is not designed to fit a mould of international perceptions of variety or locale. The stories about where it has come from. It is not that conventional wines (non-natural wines) can’t have these things. But there is a greater sense of authenticity with small, independent winemakers. The stories of the winemakers are important because they explain the journey of each wine.
Natural wine, for me, is about pure enjoyment and not snobbery.
Conventional wines by-design throw up very few surprises and generally one knows what they will smell and taste before they even open the bottle. And that is fine. Actually, in certain instances and market sectors (such as supermarkets) it actually makes complete sense. I advocate that all wine (within reason) has its place. Being a passionate advocate of Natural Wine doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy and appreciate conventional wines, because actually I do. My shift towards appreciation of natural wines was actually very gradual and, ahem, natural...
Because it just so happened that the wines that I found myself enjoying the most and found the most interesting were natural wines so my purchases (and recommendations) increasingly trended in that direction.
Contrary to many assumptions, not all Natural Wines are particularly wild. Many are actually quite true to variety and are classic in style. They do however express greater variety across vintages, vineyard and grape. A complete wine newbie could try two different natural wines of the same grape variety from two different producers and appreciate the difference as opposed to two conventional wines of the same grape where the wines are more likely to have been moulded to an international style.
Another key aspect of Natural Wine is about value and accessibility. Again, natural wine is produced by small producers and they really want you to enjoy it as much as they do. Also natural wine is more often about the vibrancy of the natural product and doesn’t utilise as much expensive equipment, procedures or expensive new oak barrels. Therefore, in general, it is possible to find much greater value in the natural wine market, certainly, as far as interest vs dollar/euro goes. And while it is rarely ever cheap (as it would be almost impossible to produce authentic and cheap natural wine) in my experience it is nearly always highly drinkable and interesting. It has a character and quality that is worth your money. It is not just another white or red that tastes like every other wine you’ve had.
Natural Wine vs Conventional Wine
Conventional wine appreciation is largely about nuance. Finding subtle faults or appreciating subtle differences. Generally, this is done with a view to categorising, ranking or even applying a score to a wine, often, for marketing purposes. To do this usually takes years of training and practice. For many, it is part of a wonderful career or hobby (or both). However, it is also substantially responsible for alienating many from wine. The appreciation of wine has through both circumstance and design become incredibly snobbish. Conventional wine appreciation is resplendent with clubs, vintages, estates, points and chateaus. Natural wine is not about nuance or snobbery. It is about vibrancy, flavour and fun. It is for the people.
Much of the above conventional appreciation effort goes towards marketing wines to ordinary consumers. In some cases overpricing average wine by giving it an award, number of ‘points’, a fancy title in order to add a few dollar signs. Certainly, some of the analysis and credit is merited and worthwhile, however, much of it also isn’t. The price, a score, a geographical denomination or award on a bottle of wine is no guarantee of the level of a wine's quality or how much the average consumer (of which there is no such thing) will simply enjoy it.
If you’re one of an increasing number of Lithuanians looking into the wonderful world of wine then you have a great opportunity. Our wine selection is simply natural, fun, vibrant and delicious. Whether you are a complete newbie, on your wine journey or an aficionado we are confident that you will find our wines interesting and delicious.