MY BIG FAT NATURAL, ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC & ORANGE WINE GUIDE
Following my recent trip to Copenhagen, where the wine scene was so vibrant, exciting, varied and far removed from what I thought was a sphere of interest dominated by rich middle aged men, sipping on red wine that costs more per bottle than my rent, I wanted to learn more about what seemed to have taken the Danish capital by storm - natural, orange, biodynamic and low intervention wine, all incredibly different, both in their making and taste, but all a complete revelation to my taste buds. And as cliché as it sounds once you experience them for yourself it is hard to go back to your cheap bottle of supermarket wine.
Of course back in the UK these new (and also old in the case of biodynamic wine) approaches to wine making are not quite as wide spread YET, but with a bit of research I found some great online suppliers with a wonderful passion for wine, as well as shops in London that offer a great selection and I hope this guide inspires you to give one of them a go!
While we may not be spending as much as before at the pub or at a restaurant on a bottle of wine with a ridiculous mark up, why not use this nightmare of a year to spend a little more on wine to enjoy at home and educate yourself along the way!
There is a whole world I discovered, full of fab sellers, winemakers and just genuinely interested wine buffs, which also awaits you if you fancy it and which makes that much needed glass of wine after a hard day at the (home) office the more exciting!
BUT! First things first let’s define what natural / low intervention, organic and orange wine is and most importantly the differences between them before I begin to explain where to order them online and where to find them in London!
NATURAL / LOW INTERVENTION WINE
“Natural wine,” has no legal definition but broadly refers to wines made without adding or subtracting anything in the cellar—no additives, no chemicals, no sulfur, no oak character from barrels, no filtering, no cultured yeasts. In theory, natural wines are more alive, less manipulated and while some natural wines are delicious and like nothing you have ever tried before, some are pretty out there.
Natural wines can be cloudy and a little smelly but the lack of interference by the winemaker and the minimal use of chemicals in their production can make them taste fresher because none of the flavour qualities are removed during the filtration process, which means natural wines taste a bit different from regular, non-natural wines.
The natural and low intervention winemaking movement has exploded in recent years and I tried some pretty outstanding wines as part of my online subscription boxes - every bottle a real experience.
In order to be certified as ‘organic’ you have to comply with the strict rules and guidelines that are set out by your country’s regulating body eg. Soil Association in the UK. The most important criteria these wines have to fulfil is being made without the use of any spray herbicides or pesticides or any chemical products on the vines; meaning only natural products can be used to help grow the grapes.
If organic farming is about what vineyards don’t do to their grapes and fields, then biodynamic farming is more about what vineyards do DO to them.
Biodynamic farming is an intentional method that dates back to the 1920s (and predates most of the modern organic movement), when Austrian Rudolph Steiner developed methods for agriculture and livestock management.
Biodynamic wine is produced from grapes grown through biodynamic principles. This is when the land is seen as part of the planet and solar system, and the vineyard isn’t seen as an isolated piece of land, engineered for the sole purpose of growing grapes.
Crops and animals are seen as a single system and astrological cycles are taken into consideration when it comes to activities such as sowing and planting.
It may seem a bit esoteric in its ethics and processes which farmers must follow, but many well regarded and expensive producers in the world are now either certified or in the process of converting to biodynamic wine making.
Orange wine is a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-hued finished product, a white wine essentially made as if it were a red!
To make an orange wine, white grapes are mashed up and then put in a large vessel (often made from cement or ceramic). These grapes are then fermented for anything from four days to sometimes over a year with the skins and seeds still attached.
This is a natural process that uses little to no additives, sometimes not even yeast. Because of all of this, they taste very different from regular white wines and have a sour taste and nuttiness from oxidation which means orange wine often falls under the natural or low intervention wine category.
Surprisingly rather than being a recent “hipster” invention, orange wine has its roots in ancient wine making techniques. Indeed the origins of orange wine date back thousands of years to regions in current-day Georgia. There wines were fermented inside large clay pots to age the wines, to this day a method still used by some orange winemakers.
WHERE TO ORDER ONLINE
Let’s be honest what can be better in this strange year, which most likely will see us spent most of the autumn and winter in our flats, than receiving a fabulous delivery by a small, independent, local and super clued up wine supplier.
Whether you go for an one-off bundle or a wine subscription, it may not be as cheap as popping to your Sainsbury's Local for a bottle, but you will savour each bottle, glass and sip a lot more and will reconsider
what a good bottle of wine is really worth, trust me.
I for one am a total convert to ordering wine online and cannot recommend the boxes I tried enough, give them a go, you won't regret it, though be prepared to thoroughly change your perception of what wine can tastes and look like.
LOW INTERVENTION WINE
WHO ARE THEY:
Low Intervention is a boundary-pushing digital bottle shop, a global direct-to-door monthly subscription serving up monthly drops of biodynamic, organic wines from incredible makers.
WHAT THEY SELL:
Individual bottles, selection boxes and an ever changing wonderful subscription boxes to suit all tastes that go from £50 a month for 2 to 3 bottles to £250 for 6 to 10 bottles a month.
WHAT I TRIED:
I had their £100 Anniversary box which included a little bit of everything - red, white, orange and rose!
Every wine was a true taste sensation and came accompanied by their detailed online descriptions to go with each bottle.
I adored the La femme a qui, made from an equal blend of apples and a direct press of Cabernet and Merlot from the Oustric family, a sort of cider meets sparkly wine that tasted like nothing I had ever had before, while the rosé in the box was a dusky, cloudy, dark pink and the best rosé I probably had in my entire life!
Their offering is ever evolving and there is an option for any sort of budget and occasion plus their branding and website is flawless! I dare you to go on there and not give into buying a bottle!
NATTY BOY WINES
WHO ARE THEY:
Natty Boy Wines is a one-stop-shop for all things vinous and natural. Whether you’re just getting started or are a seasoned imbiber, you’ll find something here to quench your thirst, all curated by the boy behind it all, Daniel, who is constantly on the look out for new winemakers to work with and stock online!
WHAT HE SELLS:
Individual bottles, bargain bangers, under a tenner, and curated Natty Boy Packs to suit all tastes and budgets. The website is a joy to use and also make sure you follow him on Instagram for his wine adventures around Europe and London and to see his newest wine discoveries.
WHAT I TRIED:
Project Orange - three fine orange wines for £55.70. Each completely different but a total delight to drink with cool labels to match!
My favourite: The ESCHENHOF HOLZER Space Invader Orange 2018, made by Arnold Holzer, a young, innovative winemaker based in Wagram, Austria. An outrageously fresh wine with blood orange and grapefruit citrus character overlaid with tropical fruits and gentle tannic grip - quite the wine you won’t forget in a hurry.
PLUS A WINE MERCHANT THAT GIVES BACK......
SEA CHANGE WINE
WHO ARE THEY:
Sea Change Wine is an online wine shop who offer a range of ethically sourced, environmentally conscious wines designed to help tackle the endemic plastic pollution of the oceans.
For every bottle sold, a donation goes to ocean conservation charities. The range has been designed with minimal packaging in mind to reduce potential waste and to maximise its conservation credentials.
WHAT THEY SELL:
They offer wine by the bottle or in bulk with a solid red, white, two rosé and prosecco offering. Price point is great (no bottle is over £16) and labels wonderfully designed.
WHAT I TRIED:
I sampled their sellout Provence rosé which comes with a label that is completely plant based (cellulose) and biodegradable and also tastes a dream. My personal favourite though was the Sea Change Rosé 2019 which is from the Château Canet, a vineyards run according to the guidelines of sustainable viticulture, following the brief of ‘Terra Vitis’, focusing on sustainable development (social, environmental and economic) and encouraging the production of fantastic grapes whilst respecting the environment and maintaining the long term health and sustainability of the vineyards and surrounding agricultural land.
WHERE TO BUY IN LONDON
FRIEND OF OURS
My favourite local cafe and brunch spot has expanded their offering during these weird times and now also sell a very well curated and ever changing selection of natural, orange and biodynamic wines, all around the £17-30 mark.
THE GROCERY (KINGSLAND ROAD)
This well stocked organic supermarket has a whole room dedicated to mainly organic, biodynamic and natural wine and has a large range of reds, whites, orange wines and even organic fizz!
QUALITY CHOP HOUSE
Quality Chop House isn’t only a well know restaurant these days, no they have a great deli and wine shop next door! There is a good selection of orange wine and staff is super helpful when choosing your tipple!