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How to understand natural wines

How to understand natural wines

‘Natural’ has become the latest buzzword in wine, but what does it mean and, more importantly, what does it taste like?

The Natural Wine fair in 2011

In 2011, London importer Liberty Wines emblazoned the first page of its trade list with the words ‘you won’t find any of the so-called natural wines on our list’.

According to David Gleave MW, Liberty’s managing director: ‘It is important to me that a wine expresses the character of the grape and the place in which it is grown. Almost all of the natural wines that I have tasted have this expression marred by one fault or another.’

Gleave is not alone in his reservations. Critic Tim Atkin MW recently wrote in his blog, ‘natural wine lovers do seem to be indulgent of faults… that have nothing to do with good winemaking or terroir.’

So what exactly is natural wine? Where did it come from, why does it elicit such strong reactions and is it a passing fad or does it really have a future?

Today the natural wine scene is exploding. According to Sylvie Augereau, a wine journalist and author of the natural wine guide book Carnet de Vigne, there are about 400 natural wine producers in France alone, ‘and if you include those who make the odd cuvée, perhaps double that number’.

Natural wine fairs are now two-a-penny: France and Italy have a handful, and the UK