Customers had been asking about the "Natural Wine" trend so we set the stage at Group to taste and learn.
Katerina Dordelman of Sour Grapes took us through the world of "Natural Wine" first explaining the differences between this style, organic and biodynamic.
Much time and work goes into making a "Natural Wine" which essentially means no manipulation of the wine, no additives or deletions, no nothing! The product is vine to bottle. All this labor means the process is not for big grocery store national brands.
Natural Wines are mostly made at very small wineries from very carefully chosen grapes. And that means these wines tend to cost a bit more. That also means that a naturally made Pinot Noir, or any other grape, will taste quite different than most Pinot Noir Wines on the shelves. One of Group suggested that these wines be on a rack by themselves as it is difficult to compare "Natural Wines" in taste or price to their new world counterparts. We agree and will do.
Four wines were presented and, while there was agreement on the first and last wine, opinions ranged widely on the other two wines.
The first wine was an Aligote, Qu'est-ce queen Crest Aligote?, from Burgundy, France. Most liked the minerality to this wine and some thought it was good to find a French Chardonnay alternative at such a reasonable price. Almost everyone liked this wine and thought it should be in the shop Done.
This Aligote was also a good example of how "Natural Wines" can appear a little cloudy. This is because these wines are unfixed and unfiltered. Remember, nothing is done, no additives, no deletions! Katarina suggested this wine pairs nicely with Thai food and told us that it has been on the menu at Little Bee Thai. And people thought this wine might be a transitional wine for beer lovers. Makes sense.
Next up was a Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Atena Sauvignon Blanc, Valle de Casablanca, Chile, by Couvelier in Chile. The wine presented less acidity than some had come to expect in a Sauvignon Blanc and was disappointing to some for that reason, but others (me included) found that aspect to be a positive. Nevertheless, most enjoyed this wine and thought it was very drinkable on its own. A possibility for our all new "Natural Wine" Rack!
The next wine, 2016 Atena Pinot Noir, Valle de Casablanca, Chile, by Couvelier, presented was where the rubber met the road. Over the 16 months that we have hosted Focus Group, staff and Group have disagreed on a few wines but not like this one! The Pinot Noir made by Couvelier was divisive, you were all in one way or the other. Overall, Group did not care for a natural version of Pinot Noir. But staff (including me) loved it! We thought is was very similar to a high end naturally made Oregon Pinot Noir at a third of the price.
The last wine, 2017 Anella Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain, was the winner of the overall preference in taste and best quality to price ration. Again, staff disagreed but Group bought every bottle we had to sell! And that is what we are here for at Group: what YOU want.
The bottom line is that "Natural Wines" DO, for the most part, taste differently than new world wines. Often, "Natural Wines" are described as "raw" and there is a sense of the wines being unrefined, a bit wild, not smoothed out to please every palate, somewhat unfinished.
For me, I would say there is a historic quality to the wine that appeals to me. When you think about, as we speculate in our emails, what Caravaggio might have had in the flask or what was on Vermeer's table, THIS is what IT was. Real wine. Vine to bottle. No manipulation. No nothing.
Wine, and especially "Natural Wine," is one of those links that binds us to the past. Thank you Katarina for a special night.
And Katarina had a great time and has already agreed to return in October!
Extra Info: HERE!