An introduction to natural wine
Collected into a large container and crushed under their own weight, grapes will start to ferment. Press out the alcoholic juice and you have crude wine.
It's something people have been doing for longer than they have been able to read or write.
How far we should seek to control this process, and under what conditions it produces the best wine, are fiercely debated questions.
At one end of the scale is the kind of wine you find in a supermarket : mass produced and chemically manipulated to give a safe, predictable result.
At the other end of the scale is natural wine.
Most European wine is categorised by place of origin, most New World wine by grape variety.
Both of these things are important in determining the taste and quality of the wine. But more important than either is how it is made.
Differences of place and of grape variety are secondary because these differences are damaged or destroyed by conventional grape farming and winemaking techniques.
They are sacrificed in favour of predictability and volume of production.
Mass produced wine is bland and uninteresting, regardless of where it's from and regardless of the grape variety from which it is made.
There is bad Burgundy and bad chardonnay in every supermarket.
Natural wine is wine made in a particular way.
It might be a grand cru Burgundy or a vin de table. It might be pure pinot noir or a mixture of ten different grape varieties. It might cost £5 or £5000. There are natural wines in all of these categories.
What they all have in common is purity and honesty of expression. Natural wines taste of the grapes from which they are made and the place where they have grown.
Conventional wines taste of the same few manufactured flavours.