What you need to know to drink [wine] like fantastic.

  • Follow the DLF instagram and drink what I drink. Use #DLFWine to show people what you are looking for.

  • Ask for unfiltered wines, wines with no or minimal sulfites, and of course, natural wines in restaurants and bottle shops.

  • Natural wines should have minimal intervention—no added yeast, chemicals, colorants, or non-organic sulfites, but minimal organic sulfites are ok.

  • Ask for "orange wines", "effervescent reds", cloudy or hazy wines, and ask for bottles from the craziest wine makers. In my experience, the more intense and passionate the maker, the better the wine.

  • Ask about maceration times and skin contact. Maceration has to do with how long a wine was in contact with the fruit. This affects its color and flavor. But, for what it’s worth, simply using the word “maceration" or the phrase "skin contact” when describing what you want will likely get you to the good stuff.

  • If a wine professional tries to tell you too much information like the region, variety, soil composition, vintage, appellation, etc. that might be smoke and mirrors. What you want to hear is information about what it tastes like. Is it delicious? Is it dope? Does it taste like apricot? Pineapple? Candy? Berries?

  • “Organic" doesn't mean it's a quality wine. And it doesn’t mean natural wine. All it refers to is the grape growing practices. Not the wine making practices. The majority of wine makers making natural wine do use organic grapes, but not all organic wines a natural process. Long story short: ask for natural, not organic if you want delicious.

  • Compare and contrast. Try your old favorite wines against new ones. Try these new wines against even newer ones, and so on. Most importantly, keep exploring new natural wines.

  • Find your “one wine.” Your “one wine” is the wine that truly blows your socks off. It’s the one that gets you to say “I never knew wine could taste like this!”

  • Once you find your ”one wine,” look for others like it. Use its name when asking at the restaurant or bottle shop.

  • Once you find a place and/or person you trust to deliver excellent wines, use them as a guide and resource. If they're obsessed and great at what they do, they'll love sharing their passion and showing you the way.

  • If a wine “professional” doesn’t know what you're talking about when you ask about natural wine, get a cocktail. We all know there’s nothing worse than dropping money on a bottle of disappointing wine.  

  • Drink what you like. Trust yourself. If it’s delicious, it’s delicious!

 

The Story

I’ve always wanted to be punk rock, but I’ve never been able to play the part. The closest I got was an affinity for emo in the early 2000s—which kind of counts? The Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols were major influences on all of my friends and still are today, but for some reason I could never get into it. Eventually I gave up and accepted that I would always be a diehard Coldplay fan. Then something happened to me years ago, something that would give me hope to channel my inner rebel and lift my fist in the air “en résistance,” I discovered...natural wine. I know wine doesn't seem edgy, but give me a chance to explain and you'll see what I mean.

In the minds of most, wine is either something elite or something that comes in a box. Conventional but expensive wine and cheap swill represent the majority of the wine out there. But neither, not even the expensive stuff, usually tastes very good. Natural wine is the future. And The old guard wine establishment isn't that worried about it. Yet. 

For the moment natural wine is predominantly a European phenomenon, and most bottles remain hidden in Parisian caves and Japanese bistros—the Japanese are wise to it and buy up large quantities. Though it isn’t dominating the mainstream yet, the natural wine revolution has been quietly happening underground since the ‘70s. This change in the way wine is produced, discussed, and enjoyed is as important as the revolutions that have taken place in coffee and beer over the past two decades.

So what is natural wine? What’s the difference between it and conventional wine? Simply put, natural wine is better for you, tastes far more delicious and complex, and in most cases, it’s cheaper too. The best way to define it without getting too technical is that it's minimally tampered with. It’s wine made from little more than sun, dirt, water, grapes, and passion. Conventional wines, on the other hand, contain added commercial yeasts, colorants, steralents, sulfites, and a host of different chemicals and additives that are truly poison. 

In the process of industrializing wines, the product needed to be consistent and margins needed to increase. So relying only upon the harvest, the weather, a spontaneous fermentation, and a refermentation in the bottle—as natural wine does—wouldn't cut it. Winemakers add all that artificial stuff to control the wine, to make it look and taste the same every time, and it essentially kills the wine. Natural wines are living, constantly evolving, and never the same from harvest to harvest or even bottle to bottle.

And why is it my one punk moment? Because natural wine is truly counter cultural. It isn’t about marketing or money, and it flies in the face of what soms have been learning and teaching for decades. A natural winemaker must love what they do. Being a natural wine maker is not a get rich quick scheme. Far from it. The productions are smaller, the harvest and aging takes longer, and the risk of something going wrong—and therefore losing money—is greater. Yet in spite of all of that, you can still buy the best wines in the world for $35. This is the first reason why natural winemakers are punk: they aren’t in it for the money. They’re in it for the love of wine.

I’ve called it “natural wine” for the sake of communication, but the truth is, I hate the term "natural wine”, like i hate the term specialty coffee, because it implies that it’s something other than just “wine”. It seems to hint that it’s something not quite wine or something better than wine, but this is wrong. The incredible thing about the “natural wine" movement is that in seeking greatness in wine production, makers have discovered wine's essence. "Natural wine" is just wine. All the other stuff is some Frankenstein grape juice abomination.

Natural winemakers are the new rockstars and they are playing at every dive bar without giving you any notice that they are performing. If you make it to the show they will be your best friend, but if you can’t they’ll be just as thrilled to play for their real fans. They might sign a record deal, they might not. The only thing you can count on is that they are going to keep making music.