Most of my readers, y’all, haven’t heard I expect of Natural Wine. It’s a cultish little groundswell, like Organic was twenty/thirty years ago, as was agreeably pointed out the other day in Eric Asimov’sÂ article in the Times. It’s like sourdough bread and farmhouse cheese: wine as a truly agricultural product, made by a farmer rather than the various employees of a brand; tasting like the grapes that made it, rather than the grapes chemically and mechanically adjusted to fit the palates of focus groups, and critics.Â It’s a bit utopian, really.
For years, there’s been this problem for hippies (that’s what most of my readers would still be called, where I live. It means city folk out of place, more or less; not second-homers, but lifers: eccentrics. Approximately two fifths of the population of Vermont would qualify): how do I buy wine politically and healthwise like the organic food I buy at the coop? Lord knows the coop wine buyer doesn’t know. How do you find sustainably farmed, small-farmer wine that preserves ancient traditional obscureÂ endangered heirloom grape varieties and picturesque, arguably obsolete (I’ll say it:) artisanal techniques, etc. etc., that doesn’t break the usually very-meagre wine budget? Well, here you go: here’s the trick: it’s not the words Organic or Biodynamic, or a smiling cow on the label, or (Lord knows) Local (though there are some exceptions): it’s Natural Wine.
Not that it’s written on the label, or anything. Except in the name of the importer. Talk to your pusher. Tell ’em you’re innerested. Larn your local nat-wine importers. And be prepared for drink that may not taste like woody grape-juice concentrateâ€”it’s sort of, rather, like the warty heirloom tomato(s) of wine. Vs., the perfect softball pink supermarket tomatoes. Or the canned San Marzanos. Knamean?
Incidentally, this is kind of the pre-game week warmup for the second annual nat-wine-writing extravaganza over at saignee.wordpress.com. Thirty-two days of essays by a really, really good lineup of wine writers, on divers subjects related to all this crap. If you take an interest, take a look.