Enjoying a glass of wine with friends, preferably right next to each other, sometimes via video conference is something many of us like to do.. This makes it difficult to find a new favorite wine. Especially when drinking a glass of wine has a semi-elitist reputation. How convenient that there are online wine shops that offer a very diverse and at the same time cool type of wine – natural wines.
As in many areas of everyday life, the term “organic” has also found its way into the drinking field of our society. For many, this term is too activist and too drastic. Especially in winegrowing, there are more and more organic labels and wineries that focus on organic cultivation and extraction. “But it’s not really accessible yet,” says Ramona Winter, the 33-year-old co-founder of 8greenbottles, an online shop for natural wines with a store in Berlin. “Especially in connection with the supposedly obligatory etiquette of wine drinking, á la “you absolutely have to know something about wines if you drink them”, many people continue to struggle. “They simply want to try new wines, be casual about this and not have to follow any kind of pretentious wine code. With natural wines, everything goes. Even drinking from a water glass – or straight from the bottle if you want,” Winter says.
But what is it about natural wines and the trend around them? Even more such natural wines can be found in the wine bars of Paris and Berlin and – if only there were no pandemic – the boom would not only continue digitally. Wineries, young winegrowers and, above all, young female winegrowers are focusing on the production of natural wines.
And yet, believe it or not, natural wines are fundamentally subject to a very natural form of cultivation, degradation and production. There is currently no common standard for this, as this form of wine production does not yet have a big lobby and the term is not defined by law. In order to make it easier, we therefore stick to the five guidelines that the team from 8greenbottles use for their online shop:
The grapes must be hand-picked.
The cultivation must follow organic or biodynamic guidelines. Ramona Winter adds: “This often means that organic seals are on the wines. But that is not a must. Especially younger – wineries that have newly begun to cultivate in this way have not received their seals it..”
The wine itself must not contain chemical additives and no or only very minimal sulfites.
“There is no fining process “, as the co-founder of 8greenbottles explains. “That means, unlike many industrial wines, for example, no lactic acid may be added, which, by the way, makes wine no longer vegan.”
The wine must not be filtered. This means that it is not necessarily clear.
“A typical characteristic of natural wines is therefore that they are cloudy and taste much more alive and complex,” says Winter. This appeals especially to younger people and those who are not in the mood for obsessive wine philosophy talks. According to the German Wine Institute, in the past wine year (i.e. from 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2020), domestic wines became more popular, especially among the under-30s (Source). Viewed in parallel with demographic change, this is fundamentally good news for all German wineries.
How convenient that a large proportion of the wines distributed by 8greenbottles come from German wine regions. “It doesn’t make sense to us to import wines from overseas when there are such great wines right outside our doors. We want to make the local natural wine market better known and thus support it,” explains Ramona Winter. The main reference regions are the Pfalz and the Rhine-Hessen area, in addition to other German and Austrian wine regions.
For those who have now acquired a literal taste for natural wines and would like to try them live and in a cloudy colour, the 8greenbottles expert advises: “To start with, you should stick to grape varieties and types of wine you know. In terms of price, my clear tip here is to stick to the lower price segment. After all, it would be a shame to spend 25 euros on a wine that, in case of doubt, you don’t even like.” The team at 8greenbottles, for example, offers a starter set with six bottles of easy beginner wines. “If you want to try something more, you can also try the so-called Orange Wines – my personal highlights,” Winter explains. These are white wines that are made like red wine; the co-fermentation of the berry skin adds more tannins and colouring to the final wine, which makes them taste much more intense than regular white wine. However, it is clear that natural wines are not regular wines – they are special from the moment they are grown to the moment they are enjoyed.
by Maximilian Immer