This post supported by Natural Wine
I'm usually a martini girl when it comes to alcohol but there are times when a nice glass of wine makes me feel lovely. While I don't profess or even begin to hint that I am an expert on wine by any means, I do have an insatiable curiosity when it comes to all things imbibable. Like Alice in her Wonderland, if it says "Eat me" or "Drink me" I can usually be found there.
Lately, along with all the other organic foods, I've been noticing wines in the same section being advertised as organic and/or "natural". Organic is the term used for foods grown from non-genetically modified origins without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or chemical additives. That's straight forward. While the FDA has no definition of the term "natural", the intent seems to be almost literal in an attempt by a small amount of avant garde growers/winemakers to get back to nature, so to speak, to return the process to its more simple, natural, minimalist beginnings.
I compare the the two schools of winemaking to my own experiences in breadmaking. While I often use commercial yeasts to make bread when I want a certain consistency and flavor to count on as my result, at other times I experiment with wild yeasts by placing whole grain flour, a small amount of sugar, and water in a lightly covered sour dough crock and let nature take its course. The natural yeasts already on the flour grains will "eat" the sugars and multiply, yielding me a slightly different consistency and flavor each time depending on the grain and its origins and the amount of sugar. It's a wild card game that provides many pleasurable results. Some of the best bread loaves I've made have been from wild yeasting.
The same is true in wine-making. While most current wines are made in very standardized ways by stripping natural yeast and by adding commercially made yeasts, sometimes albumin (egg white protein) for substance, and rounds of sieving for clarity, natural winemakers go back to the minimalist basics of allowing the yeasting already on the grapes to proceed as it may and at times skip some of the other steps as well. The resulting wines can be just as beautiful and enjoyable but a little wilder in character hiding up their sleeve, so to speak. The concept of wild yeasting and keeping the process as simple as possible appeals to me in many ways.
I have a little experience with this from when I was a kid, young teen actually. My parents were very into gardening, the gardens of my childhood were huge and I spent long, hot summers with my mother in the kitchen canning. My grandmother happened to have started grape vines along her chain link fence and the first year that they produced, she and my mother canned quarts of homemade grape juice. I'm not sure what went wrong, or right depending on how you look at it, but the grape juice turned to wine. According to the adults in my family it was very drinkable. I was not allowed to taste it, but like all curious teens, I did anyway on the sly. I remember the sugary sweetness and the burst of alcohol on my tongue to this day. It was very good, even to me. Looking back and remembering, something I'll never forget as if I'm still in the moment, It was also interesting to me that unlike the perfectly clear wine we would normally think of today, this fermentation was very pulpy, like a freshly juiced orange, not unpleasant at all.
As with breadmaking and other food endeavors, there's a place on my palate for both types of wine. At times, with certain meals I crave the standard wines/labels/vintners I've come to know and love, and other times I feel a wild card moment coming on that allows me that appreciation for the natural winemakers craft as well.
BonTerra Cabernet--The wine pictured above is made in the standard way using organic grapes and was a wonderful accompaniment to a nice steak and garlic mashed potatoes