Natural wine – fad or future?

Biodynamic Pinot Meunier vines in Champagne

Natural wines are everywhere at the moment, they have caused quite a stir and the Natural Wine Movement seems to be gaining momentum all the time. People are talking about them and asking about them – which is great as I want people to talk, ask and think about wine.

As a name ‘natural wine’ sounds wonderful, it sounds pure and well…natural. It also implies that all other wines are somehow NOT natural.

Is that fair? Are all wines that do not declare themselves to be ‘natural wines’ not natural or somehow un-natural?

I know of many producers who do not like to make much of a song or a dance out of their ‘natural’ credentials, but to let their wines speak for themselves – so you can enjoy their wines without knowing that they are made from or organic grapes or on biodynamic principles. So, are their wines unfairly assumed not to be natural? I think so.

A part of me thinks that the term ‘natural wine’ is so massively positive towards a small minority of wines that it becomes overwhelmingly negative to the remainder – it implies that there is something wrong and artificial with all other wines. It is a bit like the anti-abortion people describing themselves as ‘pro-life’ – as if those of us on the other side of the debate are somehow opposed to it. Continue reading

A sight for sore eyes – Estrella Damm Inedit

Like much of the wine trade, whenever there is a lot of wine around I start thinking of beer – wine can make you pretty thirsty and there is something magically refreshing and restorative about a clean, cold lager or ale. It gets the red wine stains out of your mouth better than anything else too.

So, whilst browsing around the London International Wine Trade Fair Last week these cool, moisture beaded bottles really caught my attention. They looked so refreshing and enticing on that hot day when I was stuck in a vast badly air conditioned hall.

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Franciaorta – sparkling wine with a future

The lovely Azienda Agricola Villa

I have long wanted to try the sparkling wines of Lombardy’s Franciaorta region, so I leapt at a chance to attend a tasting and dinner hosted by the Azienda Agricola Villa.

It was quite an event and it took place in the wonderfully stylish Dego just off Great Portland Street near Oxford Circus in London. This is an Italian restaurant and wine bar that is incredibly chic and nothing like your normal stereotypical Italian eatery. Continue reading

Lovely Pinot Gris?

I have very clear thoughts on many wine styles and varietals – as far as personal consumption is concerned I seek many out, while others I tend to avoid. Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio dominate my avoid list for the simple reason that in most cases they do not have enough acidity for my taste. This makes them feel unbalanced, hot and bitter to me. However, I try to keep an open mind and so try some every now and again for professional interest.

Well I recently tried that rarest of all creatures, a Pinot Gris that I found to be delicious! Continue reading

Mastering the vernacular – Getting to grips with Vernaccia di San Gimignano

San Gimignano

My recent trip to Tuscany included a wonderful visit to San Gimignano. I had long wanted to see this place and it certainly lived up to my hopes – it is very beautiful and quite extraordinary. I loved the town, the sense of history, the dramatic, almost bizarre buildings and the feeling that I was in a complete medieval town with nothing of the 21st century around me.

As lovely as the place was, I was there to try the local wine and I did not really know what to expect. It is an oddity in Tuscany as it is white and made from a grape peculiar to this place – Vernaccia. Of course there are many other wines called Vernaccia dotted around Italy, but it seems that they are all unrelated to each other – indeed a couple of them are even red. One reason is that the word Vernaccia comes from the same linguistic route as the word vernacular and simply means local or indigenous. However, I have heard it claimed that the Tuscan Vernaccia and the rarely seen Ligurian Vernaccia may well be closely related. Continue reading

The Little Wine Shop Around the Corner

For a long time I have been close to despair about the wines a great many UK consumers buy, where they buy them and how they are offered for sale. Nowadays the majority of wine is bought from supermarkets and in the main the ranges are pretty dull and reflect what sells rather than a desire to lead and excite the customer.

Well, perhaps there is the beginnings of hope that this could change. The demise of Thresher/First Quench two years ago was both a blow to the independent wine sector and a huge opportunity, which coupled with Oddbin’s double collapse could well transform the landscape of wine retailing in this country.

Thresher’s end meant that there were hundreds of places all around the country that were no longer served by a dedicated wine shop – of any quality. This was then exacerbated by Oddbins also going under which left Majestic as the sole multiple independent. However, many of the people who worked in these stores had a real passion for wine which it seems they want to share with the British wine buying public.

A huge number of truly independent wine shops are opening up to fill the gap left by the former multiples and it seems that many of them are run by former Thresher people. These vary in size from small groups, like the new Wine Rack to one off stand alone stores. Some of them are fine wine specialists, some specialise in specific regions, some have an interesting angle and some are good traditional general wine shops.

There might be something wonderfully perverse and British in dozens of people working for a company that falls in ruins around them and when they come out the other side think – I know what I’ll do, I’ll open a wine shop. Hope over experience? Let’s hope not.

I will report further on some more of these places soon, but thought I would start with my new local wine shop. One of the owners used to work for Threshers Wine Rack and the original plan had been to revitalise one of their sites, but life brought them to Worcester Park in Surrey where there had never been a Thresher or a Wine Rack, so they had to start from scratch.

Arét & Mislav Kapetanović

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