In Vino Päritas – Voices on Natural Wine

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Lately I have been fortunate enough to visit our neighboring capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. It has a great scene for wine-lovers and foodies and the range of wine bars, restaurants and small niche stores dedicated to natural wine is just amazing. These places are bursting with the most interesting bottles the natural wine market has to offer, and all at a very decent price. Here in Stockholm we also have great bars and restaurants with exciting natural wines, but Systembolaget has failed to offer enough to keep the interest blooming.

My fascination for theses wines has a lot to do with the punk mentality behind it, like the art and music I like. Some are fantastic, some hard to get and some … well, some are foul, yet interesting and never dull.

Nevertheless, the vision and ideas behind the winemaking and products without additives is crucial here, and everything with a tad more respect than usual for Mother Earth is something worth applauding.

The winegrowers that are following the natural wine path often run small sustainable organic or biodynamic vineyards, which among other things means that they are dependent on wild, naturally-occurring yeast for fermentation of the wine.

The agriculture is labour-intensive as is the promotion of biodiversity and avoiding of synthetic fertilizers. Most of the harvesting is done by hand and the grapes are primarily local varieties. The wines tend to be without any additives and are often unrefined and unfiltered. They contain little, if any, sulphur dioxide, which is normally used to preserve wine. The prices are not too steep and even though the productions often are small, the possibilities of getting hold of your favourite bottle won’t make you bankrupt.

The debate on the wine scene for and against natural wines has been going on for some years. Thanks to a coterie of older wine writers and critics with too little knowledge or too little interest, many of the interesting wines have been left out of the media in much the same fashion as Systembolaget has left these bottles off its shelves, instead stocking generic bag-in-box varieties of dubious provenance.

There has been a small increase in the availability of natural wines at Systembolaget thanks to periodic releases and the range which can be ordered. The presence of natural wines in restaurants has also increased dramatically the last few years, but for the most part it is still via private import or the internet that you have to go if you want to get hold of the latest and most interesting bottles.

In the effort to gain more insight into the subject, I asked a number of experts for their take on natural wine.

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Emil Broomé

Owner of the importing company Vin & Natur together with Ulf Ringius. Co-author of the book Naturligt Vin.

Where can one find the best natural wine experience?

You can choose a bit for yourself! It’s quite easy to buy via private import through importers focused on natural wines, or alternatively through foreign internet traders. Otherwise, today there are lots of restaurants in all categories which serve good natural wines.

What does the future hold for natural wines?

The interest is definitely growing on all fronts. More people and many countries are becoming more and more interested, and you notice that more winemakers in new geographical locations are showing up with the goal of making wines without additives. You also notice it with the big conventional producers too, they are beginning to glance in another direction.

Your top three natural wine producers?

Jean Pierre Robinot (Les Vigne des l’Angevin), who started up the scene for these wines in Paris at the turn of the 80’s and 90’s and who later returned to his home village to make some of the most amazing wines.

Christian Ducroux in the village of Régnié, Beaujolais, where he works a few hectares of land together with the help of animals only, and he makes some of the most charming wines of Gamay with drinkability, joy and vibrancy in each bottle.

Renaud Bruyère & Adeline Houillon in Pupillin, Jura. A young couple with experience from working with the Overnoy family and Stéphane Tissot. They started their own vineyard in 2011. Light-scented red wines on Poulsard and Trousseau, and white wines with depth and length made from Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

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Olly Bartlett  Horeca sales at Wine Trade

Where can one find the best natural wine experience?

In Sweden, there are many great places, some more hardcore than others – Bhoga in Gothenburg, the excellent Volt, Spiritmuseum, 19 Glas, Svartengrens, Hornstulls Bodega, Babette, Shibumi, Oaxen, Mattias Dahlgren, Gro, plus neighbourhood places such as Erlands Cafe, Nalle och Kroppkakan, and the Artisan. That is kind of the point – they are democratic wines for everyone.

What does the future hold for natural wines?

As people become more aware of what they eat and drink, there is a good chance for more people to ‘get it’. The vast majority of the best restaurants in the world work with these kind of wines. Young sommeliers embrace this, despite the best efforts of the conventional wine industry to dismiss this as a fad.

One of my customers (who was not working with me at the time) who was at a posh wine dinner with some rich bankers texted me to say, ‘we need to meet. I need some wine with soul”.

Your top three natural wine producers?

”Herve Souhaut from the Northern Rhone, Dani Landi/Comando G from the Sierra de Gredos in Spain, Jean Foillard in Beaujolais and of course Matassa in Roussillon. I’m allowed four, right?

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Peter Bennyson, Owner of the restaurant and wine bar 19 Glas

Where can one find the best natural wine experience?

19 Glas, Spritmuseum and Volt, in that order. After that comes everyone else.

What does the future hold for natural wines?

The understanding increases, the interest even more and it’s rather more an insight than a trend. Hopefully winemakers all over the world realize that this is the way to go, otherwise it will not be easy to get hold of this wine, rather more difficult.

Your top three natural wine producers?

Oooh no, do not force me to it, if I had to mention 19 it might have been possible.

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Kalle Arbin, Wine Purchaser

Where can one find the best natural wine experience?

When it comes to trying wines there are several spots in most cities today, but really the best experience is still to visit the winegrowers and their vineyards.

What does the future hold for natural wines?

I think that we will see a greater acceptance and appreciation for what has come to be known as natural wine among consumers. In addition I also think that more and more of the big wine producers in the world will start to implement some of the alternative methods.

Please state your top three ’natural wine’ producers at the moment.

Hard, but if I had to choose today with autumn arriving here in Sweden I would choose Ferdinando Principiano, Radikon and Domaine Labet.

Words and images: Pär Strömberg