Ok, so what’s natural wine? I have written a pretty extensive column on a past blog exploring the subject, and you can read that by clicking here. But if you are wanting a short answer...I always say that natural wine begins with sustainable (if not organic) agricultural practices but then takes it one step further with minimal intervention in the cellar. Specifically, I believe this means lower amounts of sulfur dioxide (wine maker’s preservative). Of course, by reducing the sulfur dioxide you can end up with some funkier yeast strains/microbial activity -- BUT not necessarily. There are plenty of very “clean” smelling and tasting natural wines out there, and I am pretty picky about seeking those out.
Here’s a very brief lineup of some favorites from around the world. I figure with so many folks having smaller holiday gatherings this is a great time to drink outside the box!
If you happen to live in Charleston or would like wine shipped, we are running a sale on 20% off all natural wine at the shop I manage, The Exchange at Edmund's Oast. And you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org for more info! Or seek out these wines at your own local wine shop! Prices listed below are shelf prices before the 20% discount.
Lisa & Bertrand Jousset Bubulle $41
(Loire Valley, France)
Well if you know me then you know I have to include a Chenin Blanc in the lineup, and sparkling Chenin is EVEN more apropos! The Joussets are first generation winemakers with a profound respect for nature and an obsession with Chenin! This tastes of ripe golden apple with a touch of Chamomile tea.
Justin Dutraive Beaujolais Les Tours $37
The Dutraive family is one of the royal families of the Beaujolais. (If royal families worked their butts off 24/7 out in nature and had a passion for the Gamay grape!) But seriously Justin’s father has been a longtime leader in the region. And Justin has followed in his footsteps -- working on the family’s project but also creating his own. This is ethereal Gamay from 40-year-old vines in the Cote de Brouilly sub-region. This tastes of tart red fruit and dry, dusty earth.
Laura Lorenzo Portelo do Vento $34
(Ribeira Sacra, Spain)
This is another tale of young love (with wine!) Laura Lorenzo decided at the age of sixteen she wanted to become a winemaker and enrolled in the local enology school. After several apprenticeships (as far flung as South Africa) she returned to the northwestern corner Spain and took over at Dominio do Bibei, a pioneering producer in the Ribeira Sacra region. She worked there for 10 years before starting her own Ribeira Sacra project, Daterra Viticultores, with the help of her chef/artist partner Alvaro Dominguez. They focus on native grapes of the region especially highlighted in this red field blend (primarily made from the Mencia grape). This tastes of blackberries, blueberries, wild herbs, and fertile garden soil.
Costadilà Sparkling Wine $33
I am reluctant to call this Prosecco even though it is from the Veneto region of Italy where Prosecco hails (and made from the Prosecco grape(s)). But the work of is most decidedly a reaction against the boatloads of mass produced, mediocre Prosecco that flood our markets. At the Exchange we are lucky enough to bring in a couple of high quality Proseccos, but honestly Costadilà is another level of natural. These are single parcel sparkling wines named according to the elevation of each site. Sadly, the founder Ernesto Cattel passed away in 2018, but his legacy lives on through his partners and these outstanding, unique wines. These are unfiltered, naturally cloudy sparklers that taste of cider and fresh bread and just a touch of funk. We have the 280 and the 330 (both are priced at $33 before the discount).
Phaunus Pet Nat Rosé $29
(Vinho Verde, Portugal)
The man behind the Phaunus and Aphros wines is Vasco Croft. Vasco is a mystical guy; there is no other way to put it. And this mysticism brought him to wine after a profound encounter with a Buddhist monk set him on the path of resurrecting an ancient family property in 2003. There he practices biodynamic viticulture to craft wines that destroy any preconceived notions you might have about the Vinho Verde region. This is his Pet Nat or Petillant Naturel (i.e. the old school method for making sparkling wine)! It tastes of just ripe strawberries, pomegranate, and your favorite mineral water!
Vinedo de los Vientos Anarkia $19
Viñedo de los Vientos is located along the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantida Uruguay, a sub region of Canelones, one of the coolest growing regions in Uruguay. Pablo Fallabrino is the owner, grower, and winemaker of Viñedo de los Vientos and he lives on the estate with his wife and two children. Pablo is following in the steps of his grandfather and father who worked the land before him. While he focuses largely on Piemontese varieties as an homage to his Italian heritage, he also makes this fresh, dark fruited Tannat. This grape that originally hails from southern France somehow became the poster child for Uruguay wine, but honestly many Tannats are big, brutish beasts. Pablo’s is another take entirely; sure there is structure but there’s also that aforementioned freshness that makes for a wine that goes down quite quickly! P.S. Pablo is also an avid surfer!
Innate Tocai Friulano $40
(San Benito County, California)
Nathan DeCamps grew up in rural South Carolina on a family farm filled with hundreds of fruit trees: plums, nectarines, peaches, cherries, pears, figs, a 100 different kinds of apples! As an adult Nathan grew to love wine, but ultimately decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enrolled in medical school. After four years of an intense study he still found his heart truly inspired by wine, and he decided to simply -- go for it! He moved to California, interned at several wineries, and founded Innate Wines where he strives to let his grapes express their "innate attributes and characteristics." This Tocai Friulano (a native white grape of northeastern Italy) fermented to dryness on the skins and then rested on the skins for another month -- giving it a lovely orange hue and enough texture to stand up to many dishes!
Walter Scott Aligote $44
(Willamette Valley, Oregon) (not pictured)
Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon have poured all of their energy (and life savings) into their winery in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Ken worked at several noted Oregon wineries -- St. Innocent, Patricia Greene, and Evening Land before they decided to go all in on Walter Scott (named for Ken’s grandfather). In 2014 he quit a wine sales job that he had taken after Eveningland, and Erica left her job as wine director for a Portland restaurant group. They focused their energy entirely on their own creations -- including having a baby! Honestly, I would confuse the Walter Scott wines for their French counterparts in a blind tasting. This Aligote (cousin of Chardonnay) tastes a bit of green apples but mostly of intense minerality. Think gun smoke and wet stone! It is pure loveliness!
Happy holidays y'all! However you are celebrating, I hope you find some joy this holiday season and sheer bliss in the knowledge that 2021 is just around the corner!