Wine, like the food we eat, occupies a spectrum. On the one hand we have heavily processed foods, while on the other hand there’s fresh, organic foods.
Wine production occurs in a spectrum as well: there is highly manipulated wine as well as wines with minimal intervention. We refer to the wines at this end of the spectrum as Natural Wines.
Social Wines has a large collection of Natural Wines. These wines are not only organic and have little-to-no added sulfites, but no other additives as well. Other additives, you may ask? Modern wine-making can incorporate countless additives, chemical or otherwise, to enhance a wine’s flavor profile. These ingredients are not listed on labels (only sulfites are required by law) but are used to add or reduce acidity, add or reduce creaminess, add a particular fruit flavor, and so on.
Most of the smaller, less commercial winemakers use little of these additives. These are the winemakers we focus on. But some will go beyond organic growing methods, beyond adding little or no sulfites, and produce wine that is intended to be nothing but an expression of the grapes and true terroir. These are the Natural winemakers.
In our shop we highlight these wines with a leaf symbol on the price tag. If you’re familiar with us you’ll know we mark our price tags with the color green for organic and/or biodynamically grown grapes. The addition of the leaf symbol let’s you know they’re Raw/Natural wines as well.
What are some of our favorite aspects of Natural Wines?
- Longevity - Natural wines will usually be good to drink longer once opened. In fact, their characteristics will change over time. We’ve had bottles open for five-plus days and the wines were still delicious!
For this reason we also like to call them “parent wines.” Many of our customers with kids don’t want to finish a bottle of wine in a night, but have just one glass. They often wind up using the $11 or $12 bottle they chose for cooking after being open for two days. With a Natural wine they can have a glass a night, and know that their $18 purchase gave them four different glasses of wine from the same bottle over four days!
- Subtlety - Natural wines tend to be less extracted or jammy and are usually never aged in new oak; rather they utilize large, used barrels called puncheons / barriques or concrete egg-shaped tanks. They’re not necessarily light wines, but they’re more of a scalpel, less of a jackhammer.
- Intriguing Character - Natural wines may cause you to rethink your expectations. Should Syrah from a certain region always have the same taste profile, or should it more closely reflect the growing conditions, weather, and other considerations from a particular harvest? (Think zero manipulation / additives.)
There’s lots of debate about natural wines, both positive and negative. We encourage you to try for yourself and see what you think. If you want to learn more, stop in and pick up Isabelle Legeron’s book “Natural Wine: An Introduction To Organic and Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally.” Isabelle is a Master of Wine with extensive experience with Natural Wines. It’s a great place to start!
Here's a few of our current favorites:
- Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 10; Blend/Carricante, Grecanico, Dorato, Coda di Volpe, ITA $48
- Malibràn Gorio; Prosecco, ITA $22
- Martilde Bonarda Dell'Oltrepo Pavese; Bonarda, ITA $15
- Porter Creek Rosé; CA $30
- Brea Cabernet Sauvignon; CA $22
- Omero Cellars Pinot Gris; OR $30
- Fausse Piste Les Vignes De Marcoux; Syrah, WA $39
- Chateau La Grolet Cotes De Bourg; FRA $18
- La Volcanique; Gamay, FRA $20