In order to fully appreciate the delightful nuances and intricacies of natural wine, we need to go right back to the very beginning and pay a little visit to - yes, you guessed it! - France, which is where the burgeoning natural wine culture that we’re blessed with today was first cultivated.
Over the last few years, interest in natural wine has exploded - and not without excellent reason, of course, since the tipple is a direct reflection of the region from whence it came, expressing the heart and soul of that particular vineyard and those particular growing conditions.
The same cannot be said for non-natural wine growing these days, which features the use of everything from synthetic fertilisers to pesticides, herbicides and sulfites, all of which inevitably has an impact on the end product. Ever wondered why different wines often end up tasting the same as each other? It’s the corrective wine-making approach that’s to blame.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and, to the relief of many an oenophile the world over, there is an ever-expanding wine counterculture that started in France back in the 80s as a resistance movement against the industrialisation of wine.
There were various natural wine pioneers but arguably the most important of these was the Beaujolais vigneron Marcel Lapierre, who really served as the inspiration for many to embrace the idea of purity in wine production.
During the 1980s, a strong natural wine-making friendship was struck up between Lapierre, wine scientist Jules Chauvet (who had been experimenting with sulfite-free wine since the 50s) and consultant Jacques Neauport (Chauvet’s assistant at the time).
Between them, they successfully produced various wines without the use of sulfites and without filtration processes, and this collaboration quickly expanded to include many of Lapierre’s friends throughout the region… and thus, the natural wine phenomenon was born!
From its inception in the Beaujolais, natural wine then made its way to none other than gay Paris, where natural wine bistros in the City of Light started to spring up here, there and everywhere.
This in turn led to the emergence of high-end luxury bistros that specialised in this kind of wine and then, from there, wine shops started stocking it alongside complementary food dishes and the rest, as they say, is history!
Younger generations have been switched on to the delights of natural wine thanks to wine retailers turning their outlets into wine bars, with little kitchens serving up simple food to go alone with the wines on offer.
These were known as ‘caves a manger’, or ‘wine shops where you eat’, something that has really proved appealing to up-and-coming wine aficionados who have been truly charmed by the food, drink and casual dining setup.
So there you have it! That’s the (very pitted) history of natural wine. Stay tuned to the blog over the coming weeks to find out more about why this could be the next big thing for your dining room table.