And don’t call it organic or biodynamic.
Natural wines cost more because they are produced in small batches. The average price is $65-$70 at The Straits Wine Company.
It’s hard not to talk about Game of Thrones before we come to what natural wine is. Why? Because if anyone would be drinking it, it would be the characters in the HBO TV series. And watching the characters drink copious amounts of it would help to throw out the prevailing thought that natural wine is hard to swallow. To help us understand why everyone (Europeans, Japanese, Australians and, recently, Americans) is drinking as much as of it as Tyrion Lannister, Moritz Deyle, 36, deputy head of sales and sommelier of The Straits Wine Company, describes its “minimal intervention” appeal and taste. Here, he breaks things down:
• Like normal wine, it starts with the terroir “Natural wine farming works with the terroir – a particular climate and soil for the best grape variety, and when to harvest and when not to. You’ll still get your chardonnays, pinots and so on, not some funky experimental vino.”
• It has fewer chemicals, if any “The vines are grown in an ecosystem/environment that takes care of and complements the vines, not in a monoculture (the cultivation of a single crop in a given area). This lessens the need for chemicals, which is what big wineries use from the get-go.”
• Sulphur isn’t added to grapes prior to pressing “Sulphur, a controversial additive, is the most widely used in wine making as it makes the grapes biologically stable – it kills unwanted bacteria. It also kills natural yeast, nature’s way to ferment, which brings us to the importance of natural fermentation, the heart of natural winemaking.”
• Natural instead of “artificial” yeast “Normal wines are beautiful, perfect, like a top model. Why? They are engineered to such specifications – down to the yeast used to ferment them – that there is no room for spontaneous fermentation. Basically, they ferment the way wine producers want them to. It’s fermentation made easier, cleaner, faster and controlled. Nature’s yeast is a wild card. It gives room for ‘mistakes’, which make wines more interesting, not boring, not standard-issue.”
• Natural wine is not always clear “When normal wine is in the barrel, it’s actually a bit cloudy, and it has to be filtered – similar to filtering coffee – so that consumers get a stable and nice looking product. Some natural wines are not clear, some are, and some have sediments but they will settle.”
• It is more acidic “Wine needs acidity for it to be refreshing, so that it doesn’t feel so full. More acid also means less sulphur is used, as acid naturally kills bacteria.”
• Who is drinking it “People who are sick of tasting good wine that tastes kind of the same. And people who are more open-minded and want to try diff erent things. Natural wine really shows the trueness of the wine.”
• Who stocks/offers natural wine “Artisan Cellars at Palais Renaissance has a very good selection. The Straits Wine Company has been stocking them for the last three years. You can also get them at restaurants that really care about their food and produce: Burnt Ends was the first to serve natural wines; Tippling Club and Open Farm Community are others.”
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR NATURAL WINE IS “TOO NATURAL”
• It shouldn’t be fizzy when it isn’t supposed to be.
• It shouldn’t taste like vinegar.