How to choose natural wines
Natural wines can have a hipster reputation, says Matthew Sherlock, co-owner of Sedimentary Wines in Vancouver and Lock & Worth Winery in the Okanagan. But Sherlock passionately believes these wines are for everyone. “The natural wine movement is about accessibility and sustainability,” he says. “There are people who say it’s a fad, but saving the planet isn’t a fad.” What’s more, they are delicious, says Mark Cuff, owner of The Living Vine in Oakville, ON. “Natural wines are more food-friendly in my opinion,” he says. “They tend to be lower in alcohol and very rarely have any oak influence. These are real wines for real food.” As for cost, the prices of natural wines vary as widely as those of conventional wines. They might be quite inexpensive or pricey, depending on the grape, winery and country of origin. So what’s the best way to find natural wines to complement your holiday gathering? Start with the label. Organic wines are labelled that way, whether in English or French or by logo. Biodynamic wines might say “biodynamic” right on the label or will have the words “Demeter” or “Biodyvin” on them (check the back). Don’t be put off by wines that say “contains sulphites” because all wines do, whether naturally or because sulphites have been added to keep them fresh. And please don’t be afraid to ask questions at the wine store. A good product consultant will be able to direct you to choices to suit your taste and budget, as will a waiter at a restaurant or wine bar with a good wine list. Offerings will vary widely from region to region and month to month, but here are a few producers to watch out for. SOUTHBROOK (NIAGARA, CANADA) Canada’s first biodynamic winery offers something for everyone, including Chardonnay, rosé, Cabernet Franc (red) and even “orange” wine, which isn’t a wine made from oranges but a style of white wine that involves more contact with the grape skins. MARIE COURTIN (CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE) Run by the spirited Dominique Moreau, this domaine produces delicate, meticulously made Champagne. DOMINIO DE PUNCTUM (LA MANCHA, SPAIN) This winery produces many interesting and well-priced biodynamic wines, including whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, reds like Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon and lovely rosés. Try the wines under the Viento Aliseo label. AZIENDA AGRICOLA COS & OCCHIPINTI AGRICOLA (SICILY, ITALY) Uncle (COS) and niece (Occhipinti) craft wines at these highly respected natural and organic wineries that specialize in local grapes like Nero d’Avola and Frappato.