I’m a luddite and proud of it. For those who don’t know the true definition of the word and where it originates, then I’ll be brief. A Luddite is someone who is opposed to new technology and industrial processes. It stems from the English working class during Victorian times, who began destroying industrial machinery that they thought were threatening their jobs.
Yes I’m a hypocrite. I write these words on a laptop, but I still use a note pad, as I feel pen and paper are more creative, romantic and make me feel more human. I ride a bike because I want my senses to feel the wind, cold air and rain on my skin, I want to hear the birds sing and smell the freshly cut grass on my commute to work. I also want to see my favourite bands play live, even if the lead singer has the flu, if there was no proper sound check and the guitarist keeps accidently flicking sweat on my face, as he thrusts his head back and forth. All these incidents make me feel alive, they’re the imperfections that make life what it is, a true and original experience. So why is this a problem when it comes to wine? It seems people want consistency, familiar flavours and maybe just something to make them a bit pissed. The concept that the grapes were grown in a particular field, by a particular person and the weather was particularly different that year, is not in the interest of the average consumer. But I feel differently, the ebb and flow; the peaks and troughs indicate that something is alive and I don’t want my food or drink to be dead. Fermentation is a natural process, why sterilise and kill it?
As a food business we're passion about food and drink, obviously, otherwise why would we be in this inhospitable world they call the hospitality industry? One thing we've been loving since starting the bakery back in 2011 has been Natural Wine. We would buy the most unusually fun bottles from Whistle Wines next door, sadly that shop doesn't exist anymore, hence us now selling a small selection of these "Natural Wines". But we loved the fun labels, the small inconsistencies from bottle to bottle, the wine was without the stuffiness so rife in that industry. This wine was alive, young and fresh, much like ourselves. It wasn't corrupted by wine wankers scoring it 90 points or fixating on grape variety, region or price. It felt like a new age of wine, where class, knowledge and pretentiousness didn't play a part. Wine for punks!
Admittedly "Natural" is not the best term to describe this wine, as it's so vague and a little confusing. But let me explain a little, the term natural is referring to the process in which the wine is produced, and bloody hell there is a spectrum. A wine that is produced from organic or biodynamic grapes could be described as natural, to the other extreme, where some young farmer has produced a load of grapes without any herbicides/ pesticides/ insecticides (doesn't have organic certification), picked them by hand, shoved them and pressed them into a large clay pot and left to ferment for a few weeks without added yeast, sugar, or sulphur. The grape juice is strained into bottles and has had no chemical intervention whatsoever. This bottle has no appellation controlee (AOC), there's no grape variety as it's just a field blend of red and white grapes. They then get a local graffiti artist to design an interesting label and the 200 bottles produced are sold to various wine bars in Paris and London, where the intelligentsias are hanging out. You can see how this type of wine has also been referred to as "Hipster Wine" or perhaps could be perceived as more pretentious than wealthy people knocking back Burgundy, and filling their cellars with the latest Chateau Mutton. But it’s a change in direction, a movement, a wine revolution.
There are perhaps lots of negative associations with Natural wine. It can sometimes smell farmy, taste like cider, be cloudy, inconsistent, it has to be drunk young and doesn't age. Perhaps undoing all the hard work over the last 100 years, where the wine industry has been refining techniques, creating consistency, striving towards quality and perfecting the most polished drink on earth. Hence me being a ludddite, I want things to go back to grass roots, against the grain of so-called progression and it’s not just about the flavour of the drink.
Natural wine is anarchy, an up yours to the stuffy wine establishment. It’s a reaction to distance itself from the chino wearing bellends who’ve dominated the wine world for decades. This is wine for people who don’t give a shit about getting 25% off, if you buy six bottles at Sainsbury’s. It’s grape juice from the gods, made with ancient techniques for a modernist world. I’ve had enough of technology micro managing my life, it’s time to escape, or at least for an hour or two, so I’ll pop a cork, start pouring and let all those social media anxieties drift away. It’s time to be alone with my own thoughts and not give a shit about where Chablis comes from.