Natural Wine’s Time To Shine
It seems these days that our food and drink culture has hit a point where it could not get any more ridiculous. As the show Portlandia made light of in an excellent sketch a few years back, people these days want to know exactly where their food came from; they want to know that it was sourced ethically, organically, bio-dynamically, on and on and on. While some may think that this trend is pretentious, realistically it is a good thing for the world.
In our contemporary urban lifestyles, it’s easy to forget the work that goes in to farming and butchering. We’re even at a point where companies have invented products like soylent – a soy based beverage developed in Silicon Valley that you could purportedly live on – that completely eclipse the notion that food comes from the earth in a process as old as time itself. Before the agricultural revolution, humans lived off of the fruits of the earth through hunting and gathering, but since then we’ve erected endless boundaries between ourselves and nature’s bounty, which is a bit disturbing (consider factory farms).
So it makes sense that people would come back around to being curious about the process by which their food and drink is sourced and processed. With this in mind, the term “farm to table” becomes more understandable; people want a relationship with the things they consume, not to just shovel gruel into their mouths interminably.
In the past few years, wine culture has evolved alongside the organic and farm to table movements, emphasizing wines that are made with little technological interference, and without adding sulphites and sugars (the ingredients in wine that most kick your hangover into high gear). This movement is called natural wine, and while there is no certification that can prove a wine is natural, if you do your research you can find vineyards who are taking the time and care to make clean, delicious wines that will leave you less hung over than your average merlot.
More and more restaurants and caterers are getting hip to this trend. Woodlot in Toronto, for example, has an extensive list of natural wines and the catered mobile bar services from Bartendo allows you to customize a wine list that is heavy on naturals with the help of their experts. Boxcar Social, which has recently expanded to include several locations through the GTA, also pride themselves on offering a thoughtfully curated wine list featuring zero sugar added wines.
Oddly, the emerging poster boy for natural wines seems to be the comedian Eric Wareheim.Wareheim is semi-famous for his sketch show Tim and Eric Awesome Show Good Job, but since he began co-starring on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None he has become a legitimate celebrity.Wareheim met San Francisco bay-area winemaker Joel Burt at a tasting a few years back and this summer, their collaborative vineyard called Las Jaraswill produce its first wine: a rosé made from carignan grapes and cabernet.
While celebrity wines have developed a bad rep over the years, foodies who are hip to the scene have a lot of faith in Wareheim. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Arnold’s (Wareheim’s character in Master of None) fictional friendship with protagonist Dev is largely based around eating and discussing delicious foods and wines. Whether or not natural wine is here to stay, it’s certainly having a moment in the sun.