I’ve been tasting a lot of wines promoted as “natural,” how about you? I would bet that unless you’re in the industry (like me), and unless you’re under 35 (I am not), you probably haven’t. I bet you’ll be hearing more and more about the general concept as it weeds its way slowly, but determinedly, through the traditional wine world.
For the past couple of Novembers, London-based Master of Wine, Isabelle Legeron, has brought her RAW WINE Fair to Brooklyn, featuring over 100 growers of fine, natural, organic, and biodynamic wine. In step with the natural food movement, the mission of the Fair is to showcase wines “that are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health.” This movement is all about transparency. “We believe that in an ideal wine world, any processing and additives will be clearly communicated to the drinker so that you know exactly what is in your glass,” says the RAW WINE team.
As one attendee and wine-writer friend, Elin McCoy, describes the movement, drinking natural has become a lifestyle choice for some that says you’re a person who values honesty, openness, and emotion. Her rationale was that if natural wine makes people think harder — if at all — about how the wines they drink are produced, that’s a good thing. I agree.
Of course, mainstream critics murmur that a lot of them stink, playing on the double-meaning, because, quite often, natural wines, possess earthier aromas that might be off-putting for the uninitiated. This trend is happening in every winemaking country, and seems to be putting a little pressure, perhaps, on mainstream wineries by encouraging a conversation about freshness, or the complete opposite of the long-popular big oak, big alcoholic trend.
I recently attended the Slow Wine US Tour here in New York to check out the latest entries. Slow Wine is the liquid counterpart to Slow Food, Slow Food, an Italian organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking. It was founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 as a rebuke to the proliferation of fast food, and has since spread worldwide. Though the annual Slow Wine Guide, which debuted in 2010, only featured a couple hundred Italian producers, it has since debuted a Slow Wine Guide to California and Oregon, as the natural wine movement has, ahem, taken root here.
“… wines ‘that are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health.'”
All of this influenced a wine dinner I hosted recently at a café called, The Cliff, in my hometown of Jersey City. The Cliff is mostly vegetarian, but the owners made a pescatarian exception for my menu to showcase how a light-bodied red with high-acidity could easily be paired with fish. For the wines, I partnered with a local importer named Chris Leo, whose portfolio, Maritime Republic, features only natural wines. Here’s what we came up with.
We kicked off reception with cheese & crudit and Il Folicello Montuni Frizzante Bianco (Emilia-Romagna, Italy, 2017), a fizzy, almost cloudy white version of Lambrusco.
With a starter of beets, grapefruit, goat cheese, and herbs, we paired the goat cheese (aka pecorino) with Le Cantine di Castignano ‘Montemisio’ Pecorino DOCG (Le Marche, 2017). The grape gets its name because it traditionally grows where the sheep (pecore) graze up at high altitude; it was nearly extinct, but rediscovered in 2003 when the pendulum swung back towards indigenous grapes rather than high yield international varieties in Italy.
With a pasta course: gorgonzola walnut ravioli with sage, we poured a gorgeous Gaglioppo, Cantina Malena Ciro (Calabria, Italy, 2017), a medium-bodied red with just a hint of barnyard aromas (but not enough to put anyone off).
Finally, with seared Arctic char with new potatoes, and truffled mushrooms, we poured Dufaitre Cote de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France 2017), brimming with soft raspberry aromas, and juicy, mouthwatering acidity. I served it properly chilled, and it was a fabulous pairing.
If you’d like to join Anthony Giglio for a wine tour of Italy, please contact him at email@example.com