There has been a lot said about the differences between natural wine and conventionally made wine. A google search of natural wine yields 1,640,000,000 results and several “opportunities” of multi-level marketing companies you can “join” to acquire several of these wines (guys, you have other options). Wine Folly has a great description of what natural wine is — the unfiltered, untamed, un-photoshopped version of what we know to be wine. The un-Instagram version that is.
Seth and Julie
In the past, Dallas has not been a hotbed for cutting-edge wine trends, including natural wines. Seth Brammer, a beverage instructor at El Centro College, and Julie Buckner Lane, managing partner and wine buyer for Bar & Garden, a natural wine shop in Dallas, worked together to change this single-handedly. First, they held a focused trade and media tasting and discussion showing three wines side by side. We tasted three wines produced conventionally with three natural wines. Jeffrey Gregory, most recently the sommelier at The French Room; led a panel discussion with Julie Ga Young King, managing sales consultant for Rootstock Wines; and Cameron Cronin, the service and bar director for Homewood Restaurant.
A little background before the discussion and tasting …. Natural wine—from the vineyard to the barrel to bottling and cellaring—is made without chemical intervention and with the bare minimum of manipulation. As the panel members stated, “it’s fermented grape juice.” How basic is that and why is this such a polarizing topic? Part of it is the lack of U.S. standards – there is no legal classification or regulated standard or overall process.
But here’s where it gets tricky. “Non-intervention” doesn’t mean nothing touches the wine. And this is where the misunderstanding occurs.
Julie said, “To me, natural wine is honest. It is an expression of time, place and atmosphere.”
Julie Ga Young King agreed with her adding, “To me, there are no additions in the winery. It’s a purity of the wine and place. It must be organic at a minimum.”
Think about natural wine like truly natural produce. It’s not going to be flawless. These wines are unmanipulated. They may be cloudy and unfiltered.
And then there are some wines that are on the other end of the spectrum. Before I begin, there are wonderful wines that are made conventionally that do not contain any of these substances – do not lump them into this category. However, there are others that have added preservatives; engineered yeast strains; or super-concentrates that are used to correct a wine’s color, mouthfeel and flavor. If your wine tastes exactly the same year after year after year and you buy it on a grocery shelf, there’s a probability it contains additive and treating materials. And these wines don’t have to label the chemicals that they use as long as they are on the two-page long approved FDA list.
I really liked the three natural wines that we tried, and you could taste the vibrancy, expression, aromas and flavors as compared to the conventional wines. They were almost “wild” in flavor as opposed to the muted wines next to them.
Cameron said it best, “These wines have complexity and versatility that work with the experimental pairings that chefs are bringing to the table. These dishes need unconventional wines to bring out a true Unami experience to match acidity and intensity.”
Part two of this event was Dallas’ first natural wine pop-up event, Skin Contact: A Pop-Up Natural Wine Bar, held in the Bishop Arts district on the patio at The Wild Detectives bookstore, over three days.
Me and Penny Sadler, Adventures of a Carry On
Elle from The Modern Pour (all the way from LA) and me
In addition to the natural wine, which featured 12 natural wines by the glass, Seth partnered with Chef Josh Sutcliff, formerly of Mirador, and a number of local farms to pair special dishes to accompany the wine. Profound Microfarms, Cartermere Farms, and Texas Fungus supplied ingredients for the menu. We had the chicken, but heard great things about the lamb tacos that weren’t quite ready during our visit.
If you missed the pop-up event, Bar & Garden is your place to find natural wines and has free Saturday tastings. I’ve found they have the best selection in town. Seth told me he’s excited about the success of this event and is definitely ready to plan more of these in the future.