If you could go to Noma in Copenhagen in 2011 – it was just crowned one of the “best restaurants in the world.” You could have had one of their signature dishes, a single, uncooked razor clam, sourced that was caught from the North Sea, in a foaming pool of aqueous parsley and topped off with a coating of snow made from horseradish. It was a scientific and conceptual wonder intended to invoke the harsh Nordic coast in winter.
However, what was more impressive than the meal was the beverage that came with it, which was A glass of sour, cloudy white Wine sourced from an almost unknown winery in the French Loire Valley, which was sold at around PS8 per bottle. It was undoubtedly a strange selection for a menu priced PS300. This was a “nat”ral” wi”e, made with no chemicals, pesticides, or preservatives, and is the product of a movement that caused the most controversies within the wine industry in an entire generation.
The popularity of natural wines has seen these bottles becoming a standard at a number of the most highly rated restaurants, including Noma, Mugaritz in San Sebastian, and Hibiscus in London, which are endorsed by sommeliers who think that traditional wines have been over-processed and are out of sync with a culture of food which values all things local. A recent study found that 38% of the wine lists in London are now stocked with at minimum one biodynamic, organic, and natural Wine (the categories can overlap), More than three times more than in 2016. “Nat”ral wines are in vogue,” according to the Times last year. “The”weird and wonderful flavors will assault your senses with wacky scents and quirky flavors.”
Na”ural Wine has been growing in popularity and has become more popular; it has also made enemies. Many critics say it’sit’sype of Buddhism. A kind of anti-vax viticulture movement that praises the cidery, vinegary flaws that science has endured for the last century, painstakingly eliminating. In this perspective, it is an elitist cult that focuses on reversing advances in favor of Wine most suited to the preferences of Roman peasants. The Spectator has compared this to “fla”ed cider or rotten sherry,” th” Observer describes it as “an “crid, grim burst of acid that makes you want to cry.”
Wh”n you know what you are looking for; natural wines are simple to identify and generally cleaner, more cloudy, fresher, more acidic, and more faithful to the taste of the grape than traditional wines. In a sense, they are a return to the primary factors that helped Wine enthrall humans as we started making it about 6000 years ago. The advocates of natural Wine believe that virtually everything about this PS130bn current wine market – from the process of its production to the method by which critics determine what constitutes good or bad is ecologically, ethically, and visually unsound. They want to strip off the flimsy trappings that have grown up due to the boom in economic growth that has lasted for decades and let Wine be what it is.
For wine critics, there is a strong feeling that the movement for natural wines is focused on slashing down the rules and hierarchies they have been devoted to for a long time. The uncertainty of what is considered natural Wine is a source of concern to those who are traditionalists. “The”e is no legal definition of natural Wine,” Mi”hel Bettane, one of FranFrance’st influential wine critics, said. “It “exists because it declares it to be. It’sIt’sigment of marginal producers.” Ro” ert Parker, possibly the most influential expert on Wine, has described”nat “ral wine” as”an “und” fined fraud.”
For” those who love natural wines, however, the absence of rigid rules is one of the reasons why it is so appealing. At a recent natural-wine event in London, I met winemakers who grew crops according to moon phases and did not have computers. One man gathered his grapes from the wild grapes growing in GeorGeorgia’sntains. Georgia and a couple were returning to an ancient Spanish method of putting the Wine inside large, clear glass bottles outside to catch the sunlight. Other winemakers were aging their bottles in clay pots made by hand, which were then buried underground for cooling purposes, just as their predecessors did in early Rome.
Sebastien Riffault, who hails from the Loire Valley, runs the ten-year-old L’AsL’Association Vins Naturels trade group. Riffault told me his fundamental method was “mak” ng Wine like in a previous century, with nothing added.” Th”s is essentially using organic grapes picked by hand and then fermenting slowly using wild yeasts sourced from the vineyard (most winemakers use laboratory-grown yeasts that Riffault claims are designed “lik” F1 cars, to speed through fermentation”). “o antimicrobial chemicals are added to the Wine; everything is then bottled with all the bits and pieces without filtration. This means that RiffRiffault’scerre has a deep amber color and is extremely sweet, tasting like preserved lemons and honey crystallized. It’sIt’stastic, but it’s quite the “pal” yellow” wi”h “fre”h citrus and white flowers” de” described by the French government’s official guidelines for Sancerre. “It'”It’s suitable for all people. It’sIt’s created as fast food. It’sIt’se,” Ri” fault told me.
A mere 20 years ago, Riffault and his colleagues were largely ignored, but today they are part of the mainstream, and their ideas could alter Wine as we see it. “We “sed to struggle,” th” Burgundy natural winemaker Philippe Pacalet says. “Peo” le wereweren’tdy. Chefs change, sommeliers alter entire generational changes,” he” went on. “Now” they are ready.”
At”first glance, the idea that Wine should be more natural seems absurd. Right dowWine’sn to the labels, Wine’s iconography suggests a peaceful world of rolling green hills, village harvests, and vintners shuffling down to the cellar to check in on the mysterious fermentation process. The grapes arrive in your glass transformed but relatively unmolested.
But according to natural wine advocates, the way most Wine is made today differs from the picture-postcard image. The vineyards are inundated with fertilizer and pesticides to safeguard the grapes, fragile crops. In 2000 a French government report revealed that vineyards were used to cover 3 percent of the land for agriculture. However, they used 20 percent of all pesticides. A study in 2013 discovered pesticide residues in 95% of wines sold in French supermarkets.
As a result in response, a tiny but increasing amount of vineyards have adopted organic farming. What happens after the grapes are harvested is less scrutinized and less terrifying for those who love natural wines. Modern winemakers have access to an extensive array of treatments, including supercharged lab-grown yeast to antioxidants, antimicrobials, acidity regulators, filtering gels, and industrial equipment. Wine is often traversed through electrical fields to prevent crystals of potassium and calcium from forming, then injected by various gases to help aerate and protect it, or separated into its liquid components through reverse osmosis, then transformed into a pleasing alcohol-to-juice ratio.