Something Rich and Strange
Michael Smith loves Natural Wine
Is it supposed to taste like that? You’d be forgiven for asking this question, it’s one I asked myself a lot, until something finally clicked and I “got” it. Bruised apples, barnyards, cider, maybe even a note of pear-drop sweets. It wasn’t what I understood wine to taste like at all.
Natural Wine is such a fundamental sea-change in the way wine is made, drunk, and appreciated, it can be hard at first to get a handle on what you’re tasting, let alone work out whether it’s nice or not. We’re so used to drinking a refined, designer product, we don’t realise how synthetic conventional wine has become; an industrial product filling the aisles of every supermarket. Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten wine is a form of farming, along with wellies and pig shit.
The basic idea of Natural Wine came about in Beaujolais in the 70s, when a lunatic fringe of hippie farmers took the radical and ridiculous-seeming step of only allowing their wines to ferment with the ambient yeasts that lived around the vineyards. Occurring naturally in the local microclimate; in the air, in the soil, on the skins of the grapes. This might seem the obvious way to do it, but contrast it to the prevailing techniques, of killing off all the microflora with sulphates – in effect sterilising the eco-system – and then adding a designer yeast synthesised to produce the quickest, most efficient and predictable fermentation.
When you realise how most conventional wines are made, it’s hard not start seeing them as artificial, clones with all the awkward edges smoothed off. A uniform product closer to Macdonald’s hamburgers than the wine drunk for most of human history; the wine tasted by our ancestors when humans first fell in love with the stuff. I want to taste that kind of wine, wine as nature intended, a wild, murky, chunky beast, with all the funk of the farmyard.
• Borough Wines are currently expanding their range of natural wines and are hosting introductory tasting events. See facebook, instagram or
their newsletter for details.
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