No style of wine receives such attention (or causes such radical debate) as natural wine. Beloved by many, critiqued by some, and above all, misunderstood by most, the category of natural wine seems to breed more and more confusion as the days go on. This month, we’re going to change that.
So what exactly makes a wine ‘natural?’ Honestly, the answer isn’t that simple. Believe it or not, the most controversial argument surrounding natural wine comes down to what it actually is. Although the definition varies from person to person, most passionate aficionados will agree that natural wine is, at minimum, produced from organically and/or biodynamically-farmed grapes, vinified with native yeasts, and crafted with a ‘minimalist’ mentality in the cellar, meaning that nothing is added or taken away. (This usually means that the processes of fining and filtering are eschewed, too.)
One of the bigger natural wine world debates centers around the topic of sulfites. Purists will say that adding sulfites upon bottling is technically not natural, though many natural wine producers will happily admit to partaking in the practice. No matter which side you stand on, it’s imperative to know that sulfites are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, meaning that there’s actually no such thing as a sulfite-free wine. On the contrary, sulfites can actually be beneficial to wine, as they act as a natural preservative. Additionally, sulfites also get a bad reputation for ‘causing headaches/hangovers,’ which is absolutely not true, unless you are allergic (and in that case, you wouldn’t be able to eat french fries, dried fruits, or basically every other pre-packaged food out there).
At Verve Wine, we love natural wine. However, we (myself included) are always clear that labeling something as ‘natural’ is not an excuse for flaws in wine, including excess volatile acidity, brettanomyces, ‘mousiness,’ and beyond. We hold our natural wines to the same standards that we do any other bottle. In order to have a home on our shelf, the wine must be sustainably produced, reflect the place from which it comes, and above all, taste really good. With all of those things in mind, this is what you can expect from this month’s Natural Wine Box.
We’re starting this month’s tour in Germany’s Württemberg region with a delicious, white field blend from Jochen Beurer. This ex-BMX champion is breathing new life into this southerly German region. Jochen’s passion for biodynamic farming, minimalist winemaking, and cultivating varieties beyond Riesling set him apart from many of his neighbors. As a person, he’s soft-spoken and nurturing, yet wildly intelligent and vibrant – so it’s no surprise that his wines encompass the same energy.
Next up, we’ve got a varietal Carignan from Railsback Frères. If you’ve been following us for some time, you know that our love for Eric and Lyle Railsback knows no limits. These dynamic brothers continue to shed light on the untapped potential for French-inspired natural wine in Santa Barbara. Their ‘Cuvée Speciale’ Carignan is inspired by the great Maxime Magnon and is carbonically macerated, fruit-driven, and almost too easy to drink.
For your third bottle, we’re flying back to France to hit the unofficial capital for natural wine: Beaujolais. This lively region was one of the first areas in the world to really pioneer natural viticulture and vinification, so it only makes sense that you taste one of the OGs for yourself. Domaine Dupeuble never disappoints. Juicy, acid-driven, and food-friendly – this is natural Gamay in one of its finest forms.
Lastly, we’re in Vinos de Madrid, one of my current go-to regions for delicious natural wine. Spanish viticulture is seeing a renaissance like never before. Although the country’s production was formerly dominated by mass-produced swill, a shift towards organic/biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking has quickly shaken up the country’s scene. 4 Monos is the brainchild of four close friends with a shared passion for honest farming and winemaking. If you love whole-cluster juice, chillable reds, or Grenache/Garnacha in all of its forms, you’re going to love this bottle.
When it comes to natural wine, the takeaway is simple: the wine should be held to the same standards as any other juice, and above all, should taste really, really delicious. These four bottles are excellent examples. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier
Beurer ‘In der Luft’
BMX champion-turned-winemaker Jochen Beurer is shaking things up in Germany’s Württemberg region. His organic/biodynamic certified vines produce fruit as energetic as the hands that farm them, which ultimately lead to bright, vibrant cuvées that are super delicious to drink. ‘In der Luft’ is a lively field blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and a handful of other varieties. This unique wine bursts with flavors of citrus, tart stone fruit, wet stones, and freshly cut herbs. The juice is bottled unfined and is lightly filtered.
PAIRING IDEAS: The bright acid and tart fruit flavors found in this wine make it perfect for pairing with a variety of grilled fish, schnitzel, and Asian-inspired takeout favorites.
Railsback Frères ‘Cuvée Speciale’ Carignan
Varietal Carignan from California? You bet. Inspired by the world-renowned wines of Maxime Magnon, our buddies over at Railsback Frères decided to try their hand at a carbonically macerated Carignan – and the result is seriously delicious. Thirst-quenching flavors of cranberries, strawberry skin, white pepper, and sweet spice dominate the wine’s juicy and easy-drinking palate. The wine’s light body, nearly absent level of tannins, and low ABV make this juice the definition of chuggable.
PAIRING IDEAS: This varietal Carignan’s vibrant acidity and undeniable fruit-forwardness make it perfect for pairing sipping chilled with charcuterie boards, roasted veggies, or pizza night in.
Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Rouge
Domaine Dupeuble’s Beaujolais-based roots run deep. Since its founding in 1512, the estate has only changed names three times and now comprises 40 hectares of vines across the region. The family farms their vines with a lutte raisonnée approach, and a minimalist mentality (native yeast fermentations, no fining/filter- ing, and beyond) is used in the cellar. This succulent and easy-drinking Gamay is loaded with flavors of crushed raspberries, cherry compote, rose petals, and pepper.
PAIRING IDEAS: This crushable, carbonically-macerated red is best enjoyed with roasted poultry, #TacoTuesday favorites, or French-inspired bistro dishes.
4 Monos Tinto
4 Monos (4 Monkeys) is the brainchild of four wine-loving friends who met whilst hiking in the Gredos mountains. After realizing their shared passion for non-interventionist winemaking, the group joined forces and began organically farming ten hectares of vines in the Vinos de Madrid appellation. Their village-level Tinto is produced mostly from Grenache and is rounded out with a handful of other local varieties. The fruit is 50% whole-cluster fermented with native yeasts and is aged in used barrels for nine months. Earth-driven notes of red and black fruits, black pepper, granite, and spice dominate the wine’s silky palate.
PAIRING IDEAS: This ripe and savory red is ideal for sipping chilled alongside cured meats, barbecue favorites, and Spanish-inspired tapas.