Wine 101: What’s the go with natural wine?

If you’ve visited any fancy wine bar or restaurant in the past year or so, you’ve probably heard the term “natural wine” bandied about.

Once the domain of a relatively small fringe of wine-makers and drinkers, natural wines have exploded onto the scene over the past few years and have found no shortage of esteemed wine lists to call home. But what is natural wine and, more importantly, is it good?

Blackhearts’ Adam Cotterell says natural wine is “a collision of ethical farming and low intervention wine making”. Shunning the well-worn formulas that produce classic wines, natural wines instead embrace – well – not much at all. The wines have little interference from the makers, and are fermented with no synthetic additives and little to no preservatives. At the end of the day, Cotterell says it’s all about “adding less.”

Due to the reduced additives, natural wine is more susceptible to common wine faults, but there is an element of excitement to walking that tightrope. When you come across a good natural wine, in all its purity, vitality and freshness, it can be an epiphany. On the other side, some natural wines might be too funky, or worse – faulty.

The taste of natural wines can be polarising. To the converted, it tastes bright, bold, savoury, and a little funky. To others, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Natural wines can be cloudy in appearance, and darker than other wines. The taste can be sour, musky, or even a little fizzy, almost like the sensation of eating either overripe or under-ripe fruit. If you like it depends on if you a) enjoy natural wine at all, and b) have found yourself a good bottle of it.

The reason natural wine is super popular right now is that it’s something new and more fluid. “It’s not constrained by classical winemaking styles,” says Cotterell. “It celebrates imperfections and differences. It’s a style of wine that is less structured, very moorish, and a bit less serious. It’s lo-fi. They’re thirsty wines.”

As fans of experimental, unique and high-quality drinks, we take great care in selecting the natural wines we stock in our stores. Here are some recommendations that the curious should consider.

Our picks:

Manon Wines – Adelaide Hills, SA
2016 Geoponika Chardonnay Savignin, $42

Cobaw Ridge – Macedon Ranges, VIC
2016 Il PInko Rose, $40

Mallaluka – Canberra, ACT
2016 Sauvignon Blanc, $26

Hochkirch – Henty, VIC
2015 Hochkirch Riesling, $34

Gareth Belton (Gentle Folk) – Adelaide Hills, SA
2016 Gentle Folk Positive Vibrations, $38

Tom Shobrook (Shobbrook/Didi Wines) – Barrossa Valley, SA
2017 Didi Wines Nouveau Shiraz, $36

Jean-Jacques Morel – Burgundy, France
2014 JJ Morel Les Genouvrees Bourg Blanc, $75

Jean-Francois Ganevat – Jura, France
2014 Ganevat Grusse en Billat Chardonnay, $109

Cappellano – Barolo, Italy
2012 Cappellano Pie Rupestris Barolo, $152

Claude Courtrois – Loire Valley, France
2013 Courtois Racines Blanc, $64