A ridiculously fun pet nat that sports a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay from Borachio by wife-and-husband duo Alicia and Mark in Adelaide Hill, Australia. We’ve been told that this is one that goes down a little too easily. While you’re at it, try googling Pash Rash.
Natural wines. The talk of the town in recent years and on everyone’s list of things to try. If you keep your ears peeled on your next rendezvous at some of the hottest wine bars in town, at some point, you’re bound to hear people – from young wine enthusiasts to serious oenophiles – discussing natural wines from across the room. Keen to learn about it? Join us as we get cosy with Caitlin Schriner, one of the four founders of Wine Mouth and Joyce Huang, Wine Mouth's weekly curator to acquaint ourselves with the fun and fresh bevvy that’s even got the co-sign of the cool kids drinking it.
So what are natural wines?
With all the recent hype around natural wines, it’s hard to believe that they were first produced some thousand years ago – millenniums before winemakers started introducing additives and other complications. Understanding this phenomenon requires a little more breaking down of the rather complex winemaking process from the growing and harvesting of grape varietals before they ferment and become wines.
Natural wines are often made from grapes that aren’t treated with any nasties – pesticides and herbicides – and painstakingly harvested by hand instead of machines. When turning them into juice, they are usually small-batch crafted in accordance with organic or even biodynamic methods of winemaking without including conventional winemaking additives such as sugar, acid, and artificial flavourings. This also gives them a cloudy look due to their unfiltered bottling process.
You also might have noticed that some labels proudly display “no sulfites” and that is quite contentious amongst natural winemakers. Well, sulfites are a preservative that acts as a stabilizer to help retain the integrity of the wine characteristics since it is first bottled – a practice that can be observed as early as the eighth century BC. While some natural winemakers avoid the use of sulfites completely to produce “zero-zero” – the epitome of an unadulterated natural wine, some use them in minute quantities as compared to conventional winemakers who easily use ten times as much.
Without sounding overly technical, natural wines are essentially pure fermented grape juice that is mostly free from chemicals.
How did natural wines come about?
Basically, sometime in the 60s leading up to the late 70s, there was the beginning of a modern natural wine movement that saw a return to producing wines naturally. European winemakers (especially in France) started experimenting and found succession with less intervention and eliminating the use of sulfites. That gradually caught on in California and Australia, with the latter being more open to experimentations due to the lack of strict regulations as compared to the EU. Thus, allowing winemakers to exercise more creative freedom with grape varietals and blends that oftentimes come as a pleasant surprise to enthusiasts.
How does it taste?
The result is something quite peculiar, expect bright and easy drinkability with funky aromas on the nose, an inviting fizziness that makes it perfect for warm-weather drinking, and diverse fruity profiles that most commonly reflect pears, apples and lemons.
Why are people drinking it?
Both Caitlin and Joyce shared that they’ve noticed a rise in natural wine consumption in line with the pandemic as people started being more explorative during the lockdown, especially pét-nats in general. “They’re also pretty approachable as one could afford to try out different labels in one sitting due to its low to medium alcohol nature,” Caitlin shares with a rosy grin on her face.
In recent times, natural wine also came into relevance with pop culture references which would indefinitely gain awareness – those who caught the reboot of Gossip Girl would have definitely spotted the cameo of these funky libations. Though we’ll have to leave the question of whether the highly anticipated reboot was successful, for another day.
Drinking natural wine won’t give you a hangover? Busting the myth.
There’s a widely adopted belief that natural wines won’t give you hangovers after imbibing but that simply ain't true. Guess what? Natural wines still consist of alcohol which directly causes dehydration and is the prime suspect for your nasty hangover. Myth busted!
However, it does take a few more glasses to cause a hangover as compared to commercial wines that are cheaply and massively produced as they include the usual nasties that can only accelerate the level of discomfort you’ll soon come to experience. So yes, you can definitely indulge in a couple more glasses and be fine but it doesn’t mean we’re advising anyone to binge. Rule of thumb? Just have fun!
How to identify one?
With so many wine classifications out there, it’s definitely not a walk in the park for the curious or even budding enthusiasts when shopping for one. Phrases such as "no sulfites", "sans soufre", “bio” or “organic” on labels are good signs that point towards a bottle of natural wine while "ancestral method" or "methode ancestral” usually mean that you’re looking at a pét-nat – natural sparkling wine. Some playful winemakers would try and lead you searching high heaven for these terms (low-intervention, naked, or raw) beneath the quirky labels so pay close attention.
In a nutshell, good shopping indicators are cloudy bottles, a spectrum of labels that range from minimalistic (or boring?) to artsy avant-garde illustrations, and sealed with either a cork or a familiar crown cap – similar to beer bottle caps. Otherwise, your best bet is to simply have a chat with your friendly bottleshops crew and ask if they stock it.
Peek Wine Mouth, nested in Joo Chiat since December 2020, is Singapore’s first-ever wine retail store fully dedicated to natural wines. What started as weekend explorations of “natural wines” amongst four bosom buddies led to the birth of Wine Mouth, what is today a convivial haven for wine enthusiasts and oenophiles. Naturally (pun intended), they've got us sipping on some of the hottest bottles in town.