Navigating the world of natural wine can be intimidating—it’s a loose term but encompasses a lot. When discussing the differences between organic, biodynamic, sulphate-free wines, and the differences between process and philosophy, Momofuku’s Richard Hargreave explains it like this, “The best way to describe it is: wine that is made with minimal intervention in the vineyard, from grapes that have been grown organic and/or biodynamically, and also in the cellar. The idea being that you are tasting wine in its most simplistic form, just fermented grapes put in a bottle, with nothing added or taken away along the whole process.” The result can—of course—vary, from bright and crisp whites to funky reds. With summer in full-swing in the Northern Hemisphere, we decided to seek out the most unexpected, interesting and affordable natural wines for warm nights.
Domaine Julie Benau: Picpoul de Pinet
Made with 100% Picpoul grapes and “sur lie” for seven months with natural yeasts, Domaine Julie Benau’s 2015 Picpoul de Pinet ($15) is perfect as an evening drink on a warm night. This organic wine is bright, minerally and crisp—and pairs beautifully with oysters or just about any seafood.
Thomas Batardiere’s L’Esprit Libre ($23) isn’t your typical white wine. The young filmmaker-turned-winemaker has crafted a fresh, citrusy flavor that doesn’t become acidic—rather it’s a creamy finish that will impress even anti-white-wine-drinkers.
Celler La Salada: La Bufarrella
In the Penedes region of Spain, white wines have long-been produced with a bright orange color. It’s a result of the process and nothing more. With regard to Celler La Salada‘s delectable all-natural La Bufarrella Xarel-lo ($34) there’s a crispness that yields to a dynamics series of flavors. It’s bright and all too drinkable.
Etna Rosato Vigorosa
Made in Italy with natural fermentation, Fattorie Romeo del Castello’s Etna Rosato Vigorosa is unlike most rosés we’ve tried. A rich, ruby color, this wine has a spice and berry flavor that is much more pleasing than many overly-acidic rosés on the market. Serve chilled, but not too cold.
Brendan Tracey is a New Jersey native who moved from SF to Paris during his punk days and later started a natural wine company. His Wah Wah ($27) red is a blend of Grolleau and Cot and contains natural yeast—but none is added. The flavor is funky but bright and juicy, and at 10.5% alcohol, it’s a safe bet on a hot day. Serve chilled during warmer months.
Another bright and light red by Chile’s Cacique Maravilla, the Pipeño País ($20) is aged for seven months and the result is Gamay-like. Using traditional techniques, winemaker Manuel Humberto Moraga Gutiérrez has crafted a very drinkable flavor. Plus, the liter-sized bottle means it’s perfect to bring to a picnic, grill or just about any group summer activity—provided you have a cooler, as it should be served slightly chilled.
Succés La Cuca de Llum
Catalonia (on the northeastern edge of the Iberian Peninsula) is perhaps best known for Cava. This wine, Succés La Cuca de Llum ($20), also uses the Trepat grape found in Cava, but here it results in a bright red. It’s fresh, and a little funky (or “dusty”) and delightfully mineral-y. That said, it’s not a watery, weak red—it’s vibrant. Bonus: it’s a natural wine, organically farmed from 20-47-year-old vines, and is a great red to sip in warmer months.
Most of these wines are available at Brooklyn’s Dandelion Wine Shop, Manhattan’s Astor Wines or online.
Second image courtesy Belle’s, hero image by Cool Hunting