Alright people, I thought I would write something helpful for you to have a read of. I am well aware that us “natty heads” go on about stuff like sustainability, soil health, chemicals blah blah a lot and you’re pretty tired of hearing about it; I know I am (I’m not but I wanted to try and connect with you the reader on some level). So, I thought I would go for something a little more practical and fun. A bit of a discussion about how to drink natural wine and get the best from your bottle. Clearly, I am not content with just telling you what to drink, I am now telling you how to drink it too. Get me.
I am deliberately using the word drink over taste as that is why most of us buy wine, to drink it. Obvs we taste it on its way through our mouths, or at least I would hope so, but this is not about the technical skill of tasting. That is a vastly different beast and not something we are concerning ourselves with. This piece is about the joy of drinking and getting the most from your bottle of natural juice.
If you have made it this far you are probably thinking, “alright dickhead I know how to drink wine, you pour it in a glass and drink it”, and you are not wrong. I am not here to teach you how to suck eggs. However, there are important things that can and should be done before that act to get the most from your wine. This is because natural wines often require a little more care and attention from YOU the drinker in order to be at their best. It is not a big ask really. The guys who make this stuff toil year-round, often by hand and in any weather to create the stuff, the least you can do is show a fraction of the same care and attention when consuming the fruits of their labour.
That is not a telling off, it might be, but seriously we are dealing with a truly natural and unadulterated product that is alive and evolving. Show it some respect. That was point one in how best to drink you wine…it wasn’t meant to be but there we go.
Don’t Be A Knob
Okay wine storage sounds boring and sort of is but it is also important. If you are grabbing a bottle from your local awesome Independent natural wine shop, taking it home and drinking it immediately or soon after then you can skip this bit. Except you can’t, as its still pretty relevant so stick with it. When it comes to it storage is pretty straight forward. Wine likes to be kept at a relatively constant cool temperature and out of direct sunlight. If you intend to keep it for a long time then lie it down, this only applies to wines with corks as anything with a screw cap is not intended for ageing (I am generalising, chill out wine geeks). Crack those bad boys open and get drinking. Don’t keep your wine in a hot kitchen, near a radiator or on a windowsill. Use your common sense, don’t be a knob.
Open Your Mind
Right next, opening time. No not opening your wine, I am talking about opening your mind and approaching without preconceptions. If you have bought a bottle of natural wine it is because you want an experience, you want to try something new or you are curious. So don’t come into it with some set in stone bullshit ideas of what it should taste like. You want normal, then go buy normal. You just want to get pissed, then fuck off down the supermarket and buy a £6 bottle of piss and get on with it. You want to experience real wine, then don’t enforce your preconceptions on something that will not necessarily conform to them. I say necessarily because there are natural wines that will feel closer to more conventionally made wines, just a lot better. There are others that really wont, and they will challenge your taste buds and make you think. There is room for all in the natural wine world and that is why it is so great. Talk to your wine shop owner/staff and allow them to help you choose. If they say something is going to be a bit different then expect it to be very different to what you may have tried before. Be open minded, don’t just have one sip and say no because it doesn’t immediately taste how you want it to. Give it a chance, let it show you something different and take you on a journey. Which brings us onto….
We Have All The Time In The World
Give your wine time and it will reward you. When we talk about natural wine we are discussing wines made without any chemical alternations, preservatives or other shit. One of the reasons conventional winemakers use all that nefarious crap is to create a homogenised, sterile and lifeless liquid. For the consumer it means you can open that bottle and down the lot in a joyless frenzy and it will taste just as unpleasant as it did when they engineered it according to their chosen recipe. If that is your bag them cool, but natural wines are not going to behave in the same way.
Natural wines are a living and breathing thing, a bottled expression of a single vintage and moment in time. They evolve and develop over time, changing with the years and giving something new every time you open a bottle. Almost all bottles will change from the moment you open them to the final bittersweet drop. Some will not always be at their best from the moment you open them. They might require some time to show their true colours, remember this living thing has been trapped inside a bottle and will need a little air to breathe some life into it. If have a decanter use it, why wouldn’t you. A few hours or even days in a decanter will transform a wine. If you’ve not planned ahead and have a decanter or carafe still use it, it will help you aerate the wine and help it come to life; you can also deal with sediment which we will mention next. Failing both those things, stick it in your glass and swirl that fucker until it cannot resist showing you its best side.
Bits And Pieces
Still with me? Probably not but I will plough on, we are nearly there I promise. Sediment and other bits of stuff are normal in wine, get over it and move on. If you cannot handle a few bits in the bottom of the bottle you are probably the sort of person who cannot eat a fish with its head still on. Get over it. Wine is an agricultural product, those bits in your wine are there as a result of its creation and without them your wine would be a lesser thing. A natural wine may also look a bit hazy or get hazier as you work through the bottle. This is normal, in fact it is a good thing. Both mean your wine has not been filtered and so all the things that make it taste good and give it texture are still present and correct. Learn to embrace difference, this is a choice of the winemaker and an expression of their style. It is not up to you to tell them whether it is correct. Remember, open you mind.
Do What You Want
Last but by no means least, there are no rules to any of this and that is exactly why it is so great. I just want you to get the best out of your bottle, beyond that whatever you do with it is your business. Drink what you want, how you want and when you want. Just remember to enjoy it and wherever possible share it with those you love and whose company you feel most happy. I know that is difficult right now, but soon we will all be able to raise a glass together; and when we do be sure to fill it with something memorable and worthy of the occasion.