If you thought buying wine was a little complicated to start with, you may be interested to know that buying natural wine can be about 10 times harder. Buying natural wine involves knowledge, trust and maybe a bit of luck - but what if you don't know, you don't trust and you pick a bottle that has an 80% forest floor aroma that you were not so keen on at the last tasting you went to. And you probably still spent £25 on that. So, just for you, I have put together a list of basic questions that you can ask yourself in order to make buying natural wine an easier and more enjoyable experience, for you to finally get your hands on that perfect bottle of orange wine aged in amphora to have with that expensive piece of cheese you got from last weekends farmers market.
1) Do I know this wine? Duh. No but really, do you know it? AKA, have you had it before or have you read/heard about it? The answer to this question is often a sound 'no' - but this is why we still have another 3 questions left, so not to worry. And while you are there, look for a description of the wine - you can often find this on natural wine shelves or online. Ask the shop assistant if they had that wine before and their opinion on it - if they know, they'll tell you all about it (and here comes the trust element mentioned above). At the end of the day the decision is yours to make and it might as well be an informed one.
2) Do I know the producer? Bonus points if you do! It may be that you had a wine from the same producer and you liked it. This is already a huge indicator because it means that you have an idea of the quality that you can expect. Or it may be that you have heard of this producer and you are curious to try their wines. I think curiosity is pretty essential in natural wine drinking and you should always factor it in your decision process. Anyhow, if you don't know the producer you can move straight to the next step.
3) Have I seen this label before? This is related to the previous question, and I'll explain how. The other day I went to order a natural wine at a wine bar and as the wine was served on tap I had no idea how the label looked like - my only source of information was the name of the wine and producer, plus some tasting notes from the bartender. As I googled the producer (because: smartphones) I looked at labels and OMG I had seen these before! And I was really curious to try it (it was Olivier Cohen VO). In the natural wine world labels are so important and often communicate a lot more than the wine name and producer - they are a natural wine's little quirky ID.
4) How much is it? Because yes, price. At the end of the day, part of the effort comes from your bank account. As much as I like natural wine shopping and am inclined to spend a decent portion of my salary on it, I am also careful about that price tag. I normally tend to buy bottles between £15 - £40, with most of these being in the £15 - £25 range (which you may have noticed from my usual blog posts). I believe that natural wine should be accessible by those who are adventurous enough to try it. While high price tag can indicate high quality, in the natural wine world you can often find some real gems without breaking the bank (to name a few: Ottavio Rube, Weingut Judith Beck, Arianna Occhipinti, Falerio, Meinklang, Testalonga).
Until next wine.