Ten years ago, a wave of small, or “micro,” breweries changed the way Americans thought about beer. Could the wine industry be having its own “craft” moment?
Yes, many would argue; and it’s happening in the form of natural wines—an approach to wine that re-emerged in earnest in France but is now spreading like a vine throughout the world.
Natural wines are wines made like they used to be made before modern industrialization took over the wine business. They are made by small, family winemakers who use pesticide-free (organically farmed) grapes and often nothing else. In fact, it’s what’s missing from natural wines that makes them so interesting.
Conventional wine makers (even the ones who use organic grapes) use many additives in the winemaking process once the grapes are harvested. These additives may include added tannins, sulphites, artificially concentrated flavors, egg whites and even fish bladders, to mention a few. (Ever wonder why there are no ingredient labels on wines?)
“There are about 200 [types of additives that commercial winemakers use], depending upon how you count them,” says Alice Feiring, one of the early evangelists of natural wine and author of The Dirty Guide to Wine. “But now it’s like a renaissance for natural wine making.”
In Paris, France—the epicenter of the natural wine movement—there are now more than 400 wine bars and restaurants that offer natural wines. But the trend can be seen here in the United States, too, and two early adopters here at home include the Ocala Wine Experience and Stella’s Modern Pantry.
“We’re always looking ahead to what’s next,” says Stacey Atsides, co-owner of Stella’s. “That’s why we’re proud to offer the first natural wine section in downtown Ocala.”
Be it for health, the planet or even small-business empowerment, people are drawn to natural wines for a variety of reasons. But at the end of the day, what’s keeping the natural wine movement healthy is that many people simply enjoy how natural wines taste.
“We just started exploring natural wine options to complement our menu” says Jean Garden, general manager of Craft Cuisine restaurant in Ocala. “We have a new natural rosé that’s just delicious—and just in time for rosé season!”
If you’ve never tried one of these “hangover-free” wines, maybe you should. After all, humans have made “natural” wines for about 8,000 years—perhaps their time has come (again).