Natural wine culture

Drinking and exploring natural wine has been a significant trend in many social circles for a few years. More and more wine drinkers are reaching for natural wine instead of generic supermarket brands, as they are becoming increasingly aware of the amount of chemical additives that are often added.

According to federal regulations in the US, there are more than 60 extra ingredients that wine producers can add to their products, without having to place them on the label.

Therefore, most of the time wine consumers are not aware of all the components that make up the wine that they are drinking. Wine can be manipulated heavily during its production, but one of the biggest benefits of natural wine is that the process is said to be completely transparent.

During winemaking, are three major steps – growing the grape on the vines, picking the grapes and then beginning the fermentation progress. ‘Conventional’ winemakers will often grow grapes that are sprayed with chemicals (pesticides or herbicides) and use machines to harvest them.

close up of wine bottles standing on the shelf

Natural wines have a much longer history than those appearing on our store shelves today. [Unsplash: Scott Warman]

Instead, natural wine is usually produced by a farmer who cares about the sustainability of their grapes and who avoids the use of chemicals whenever possible. This means that they needs to follow specific rules, when growing vines, for example, they need to adhere to the principles of organic or bio-dynamic agriculture.

The grape harvest is done manually, which allows a more accurate selection of the best grapes. Using native yeast is also crucial; yeast naturally found on the skins of chemically untreated grapes allow the wine to ferment properly during wine making.

There is no use for flash pasteurisation, adding sugar, egg white, flavouring yeast or acid, which would change the natural qualities of grapes. The only additives necessary are minimal amounts of sulphite, which is used during bottling to preserve the taste of the wine.

There has never been such a large selection and such easy access to good quality wines as we have now, however the demand for natural wine is still growing.

close up of a glass of red wine, bottle and a meal on the table

Natural winemakers are a very supportive community, they meet at natural wine markets, and share their wine experiences on the Internet rather than create high-budget advertisements. [Unsplash: Cristiano Aveiro]

Over the years, common winemaking techniques have led to a generic taste for a lot of wines. Although they come in different bottles, we often have the impression of drinking the same wine. Instead of the grapes primarily determining the taste of wine, winemakers can add up to 200 different ingredients, which impact the flavour greatly.

According to EMBO Reports, ‘conventional’ wine has only been on the market for less than 100 years. The main change in wine production happened after World War II, when pesticides and commercial yeast came on the market.

In the 80s, wine critic Robert Parker created a wine rating system that affected the wine industry and its economy for years to come, as many winemakers changed their wine recipes to fit his taste.

Some of the downsides of natural wine are that they require more work, attention and above all, financial outlay. Producers that want to make natural wine need to follow organic certification standards, which are expensive to uphold.

In London, natural wine drinking culture has been growing rapidly. Many wine bars and restaurant offers natural wine to accompany sustainably sourced food.

One of those places is The Remedy. The restaurant and wine bar, located in Fitzrovia, is run by two friends Renato and Andrea, who wanted to open a relaxed and intimate bistro where they can share their passion for food and wine with customers. 

interior of the restaurant, people sitting at the table and talking

Inside The Remedy [Oliwia Dworakowska]

close up of the "Le Combal" wine bottle and a glass

Le Combal, from Cahors, south-west France [Oliwia Dworakowska]

“The restaurants’ style is inspired by traditional European enotecas and has a cosy atmosphere. We wanted to create a place that feels nice and homie,” they tell us.

“All of our dishes on the menu are made from fresh products and the wine we serve is imported from different small producers all over Europe. We love explaining the history behind every wine we sell and make the customer feel they can transport to the place the wine is made in just for a few seconds,” explained Lai, who has been a part of The Remedy team for a few years now. 

The Remedy has a broad selection of wine form red and white, to orange and rose, champagne and dessert wine.  

The food menu suggests a sharing platter concept. It changes weekly as the kitchen bases its dishes on the season, to make sure they serve food using the best available ingredients from their local suppliers.

The wine that was recommended to me, Le Combal, is a natural red wine from Cahors in south-west France. The taste is powerful and earthy, but, it was a perfect match for a tuna tartare and grilled octopus with potatoes and paprika.

interior of the restaurant

The Other Naughty Piglets in Victoria, London [Instragram: theothernaughtypiglet]

Another venue that offers natural wine in London is The Other Naughty Piglet in Victoria, the sister restaurant of the Naughty Piglet in Brixton. The owners Joe and Margaux Sharratt decided to open a place above The Other Palace Theatre that has a similar atmosphere, but more space than their first establishment in Brixton.

The Other Naughty Piglet is a modern European cuisine restaurant that also offers natural and organic wine. Its main focus is small fusion meals made from seasonal, fresh and organic products from local suppliers.

The wine list contains carefully chosen wines from independent producers that create low intervention wine. Speaking to Louise, a wine specialist in the restaurant, she introduced the concept of The Other Naughty Piglets:

close up of food and wine on the table

[Oliwia Dworakowska] dinner at The Other Naughty Piglets

“Our restaurant is created with passion and love for food and wine. Every dish has a rich and exciting taste and is prepared from the best products available. We decided to go for the concept of the sharing plate because it brings people together and allows everyone to try many different recipes.

“Every one wine we sell is natural, bio-friendly and has an independent history. We work with small producers that make low intervention wine because introducing this concept to customers is important to us.”

I decided to try 2018 Le Temps Retrouvé, Michael Georget from Roussillon, France. It is a natural dry white wine with a floral flavour.

Both places offer a unique experience with delicious food and excellent wine. The restaurants also host many events, including wine tastings and nights with special chefs from all around Europe. Visiting The Other Naughty Piglet and The Remedy is an experience that helps understand the natural wine culture and concept of enjoying clean, organic, food and wine.

The passion behind the owners of the restaurants are inspiring and it encourages people to treat wine drinking as a ritual and time to explore different and unexpected flavours.

The emergence of The Natural Wine App: Raisin, also aims to encourage the natural wine drinking culture by offering a mobile app, with many useful features, that helps guide people who want to know more about natural wine.

It shows all the bars, shops and restaurants in your area that serve natural wine with customers review and important information. You can create your own profile and interact with other users. Raisin has a label scanner so you can get information on the wine you’re drinking and a map of winemakers all over the world.

Many people say that natural wine is just another ‘trend’, that will disappear sooner or later. The truth is that natural wine has been and always will be a part of our culture and exploring this world can be a fun and exciting journey that reveals our taste and preferences.

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Naughty Piglet is open Monday – Thursday, 5.15 PM – 9.15 PM and Fri–Sat, 5.15 PM – 9.15 PM.
Moderate Pricing £££

The Remedy is open Monday to Saturday from 4 PM to 12 AM. Moderate Pricing £££


Featured image by Caroline Attwood via Unsplash.

Edited by Livia Likurti, Kesia Evans, Hiba Hassan & Franziska Eberlein.