Thoughtful Indulgence | A Natural Wine Guide

Photo courtesy: @cantinacosmesifurlani

This week’s Journal feature comes to us from Emma Siobhan McLoughlin, a Richmond native and recent graduate. Aside from writing, she also practices yoga and takes an interest in thoughtful food and drink.

Virginia heat matched with subtle cool breezes throughout the city most certainly comes to mind when thinking of summer in Richmond. If you’re at all like me, summer calls for a gentle lull in routine: the opportunity to slow down and appreciate the change in temperature. Specifically, with a nice bottle of wine and a few glasses to imbibe with friends. Summertime rituals grow to become defined by the act of sharing, winding down, and letting go in the company of loved ones. As someone who loves the ritual of relaxation and strives to incorporate balance into my wellness routine, a favorite way to indulge is through natural wine.

The natural wine movement is a small (and loosely organized) group of people who believe that the best wines are the ones that are manipulated the least. Unlike “regular” wine, natural wine is generally lower in sulfites (a preservative that's widely used in winemaking, which also can be to blame for hangovers and allergy-like symptoms). Similarly, natural wine does not rely on methods used to speed up the process of maturation, and is minimally processed in order to produce a wine that is free of enhanced color, additives, and other manipulation.

With natural wine, there is natural yeast. With natural yeast, you are able to attain something that is very dynamic due to the fact that every year you can get a unique yeast strain. Natural yeast on the grapevine is desirable over mass-produced yeast because it yields a broader range of unique flavors, and is overall better for both the health of the consumer and the health of the vine itself. Similarly, natural winemakers focus on the soil in which the grapes are grown— the terroir—in order to create minerality and taste, instead of relying on dangerous chemicals and dyes to produce the intended flavor. There is no pesticide residue in natural wine, unlike mass produced wines which use a plethora of chemicals, additives, and sugar in order to maintain and achieve a certain taste.

Natural wine tends to be lower in alcohol, which is wonderful for anyone who does not regularly drink or is cautious when it comes to imbibing. Moderate amounts of wine can be great for health, as natural wine is rich in antioxidants and healthy bacteria. Wine is an excellent substitute for high-alcohol liquor cocktails, and can be used in spritzes to create a beverage with very little alcohol. Cocchi Americano, a wine-based apertivo produced using only natural ingredients, can be mixed with sparkling mineral water over ice for a delightful cooler. I would suggest adding Damiana Tincture in order to enhance the herbal qualities of the apertivo. Damiana is a great way to spruce up a low-alcohol spritz as well as add a health benefit to summer cocktails. The tincture helps to stimulate circulation to the periphery of the body and specifically to the sensual organ centers.

If you find yourself lost, one of the best ways to begin the hunt for a natural wine is to find a reputable distributor. If you are a lucky Richmond-dweller, there are a wealth of places to purchase natural wine. Saison Market is one of my favorites — the wine supply is unique and finely organized by region. If you are hesitant about committing to a bottle, Saison Market boasts a fabulous patio and features a $5 wine tasting every Saturday from 3 pm to 6pm, as well as a rotating wine-by-the-glass offering to consume on premises. Brenner Pass, located in Scott’s Addition, also offers a non-traditional wine menu featuring a wealth of European wine and unique grower champagnes.