Natural wines are taking the world by storm. At least, the hyper-consuming yet woke nations of Scandinavia, the British Isles, Italy and France. Iceland is even on the brink of being conquered, which perhaps explains the very nice turnout for a wine tasting event in late April, organized by Port 9 (a hidden gem of a wine bar in downtown Reykjavík) and Arnar Bjarnason, a natural wine enthusiast and importer.
Arnar has been doing wine tasting events through his website (vinbondinn.is) for quite some time. He has noticed a growing interest in natural wines. The most frequent question he gets is still, however, what they are exactly.
“When it comes to natural wines and organic wines, the difference lies in the mass production and in technical and chemical interference,” he says. “Strictly speaking, natural wines are made with no interference—nothing added, and nothing taken out, in the growing process, or fermentation.”
Both organic and natural wines are made with organically grown grapes. Once harvested, however, organic wines are made with technical manipulation—for example, the addition of sulphites—and therefore organic wine can be mass produced. “Natural wine farmers operate on a much smaller scale,” says Arnar. “Some produce annual batches of only 60 bottles. It would be impossible to mass produce natural wines. That’s what I love about it.”
Arnar is well known within the Icelandic culinary world. One of the founders of Frú Lauga, Iceland’s first place of organic alimentation for gourmets and professional kitchens alike. And it was through his love of anything organic that drew him to natural wines.
“The vineyards are usually only one piece of a farm, so the wine is a part of something greater.” he continues. “A natural chain that’s brought to life when tasting the wine. Every component of the earth hangs together. And that fascinates me.”
As well as their flavour, natural wines are noticeable by their colour. “It’s unfiltered,” says Arnar, “so it might be a cloudy yellow or orange. People are used to golden mass-produced wine, obtained by filtering. You basically have to redefine everything about experiencing wine and how it is valued.”
In the DNA
Comedian, poet and TV presenter Dóri DNA has also become a champion of natural wines. He was never really a wine guy before, but: “I’m mesmerized,” he admits. “I was the guy who ordered the house red, but this is something different. I’d equate the feeling of drinking natural wines to a natural high.”
Dóri was introduced to natural wines in Paris last winter. “That trip was the gateway drug,” he says. “People told my wife and I to check out the Action Bronson episode on Paris, where he was tasting natural wines. So we did. There was natural wine in abundance. It’s all we drank. Now it’s all I think about.”
Dóri does not mince words. “This is a gift to us from the earth,” he says. “This event at Port 9 fills me with hope for mankind. It’s something new and different for us to enjoy and hold on to. In a world where everything is used up, it’s exactly what we need.”