“Looking at it under a microscope, natural wine looks like a small universe.” ~Gilles Vergé, a natural winegrower in Burgundy, France
When natural wine hit the scene several years ago, I thought, meh, wine is wine. Pour me a glass of something delish and I’m good. Calling wine “natural” or “organic” was just another marketing ploy to differentiate one winery from another. Or so I thought.
The truth is, for centuries wine has meant fermented grape juice. But now wine is grape juice fermented with X, Y, and Z. In other words, most of the wine we drink now is (like so much of the food we eat) heavily processed and produced in a way that is removed from the terroir traditions that have been handed down for centuries.
Natural Wine author Isabelle Legeron explains why this matters. Natural wine – aka live, pure, raw, real, true, low-intervention, authentic, biodynamic, farmhouse wine – is healthier and more flavorful. By definition, natural wine is “farmed organically and produced without adding or removing anything during vinification.”
Legeron takes us through the wine-making process in a way that’s edifying for newbies and thought-provoking for even the most discerning sommelier. It’s a beautiful and timely introduction, infused with a deep appreciation of the natural world of the vineyard.
But what I really want to know is: will I taste the difference? Legeron offers this:
“All fine natural wines, for example are vibrant (sometimes even a little electric) and full of emotion. They have a broader spectrum of flavors and are usually wines of great purity, often produced without obvious oak additions or too much extraction. They are usually made quite gently, and growers often refer to the fermentation process as an infusion. In fact, as I write this, I cannot help but draw parallels with coffee. Delicious, lightly roasted coffee beans, for example, show far greater aromatic (perfume, acidity) and textural complexity (oils) when percolated rather than being exposed to the quick, harsh extraction of an espresso machine. The result is a drink with a gentleness and elegance that is not dissimilar to natural wine.”
Okay, I totally get the coffee analogy. Now I want to try some natural wine. Good thing Legeron includes nearly 100 pages of “The Natural Wine Cellar,” a helpful index so you can find a natural wine suited to your taste. From the light-bodied whites of Europe to the full-bodied reds of California, there’s something for everyone. I’m bringing this handy guide to my neighborhood wine shop this weekend to gather some bottles for a taste test among friends. It’s research, right?!
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