When I was in high school, my mother would buy bottles of wine from the Piggly Wiggly and let me join her with a small glass at dinner. We were especially fond of the , which we drank it because it was cheap and because it made us feel more interesting than our suburban surroundings.
But my relationship with wine never developed beyond those cheap $2.99 bottles. I still find myself automatically driving my shopping cart towards the two buck at Trader Joes. Keeping a few bottles in my kitchen cupboard gives me a sense of comfort with my cooking. A sauce or reduction quickly turns from boring to interesting with the help of even the cheapest wine. In reality, this is really just a thinly veiled excuse that I employ to avoid seeming like a brute cheapass that happily swigs cheap wine.
Nourishing this adolescent love of cheap wine has been a deliberate decision; I become paralyzed with fear whenever I’m exposed to wine culture. I’m worried if I start appreciating good wines I’ll no longer enjoy my cheap wines. Or I’ll make a fool of myself trying to order something in my shockingly ignorant french or even worse yet, I’ll become one of those annoying people that talks about terroir at a casual work happy hour.
All the buzz around natural wine makes me want to toss those insecurities to the wind and dive straight into the funky fermented world of old school natural wines. Natural wines are typically made from organically grown grapes, and are cellared without chemical or yeast interventions.
Natural wines can be a gamble. It is more challenging for winemakers; they are at the mercy of nature and the vineyard’s microbes. Bottles can over ferment, or unwanted yeast strains can develop and create funky flavors. It requires true craftsmanship and fanatical attention to the entire ecosystem to consistently produce good natural wines.
To help gently wade me into the murky and unknown waters of natural wines, I’m following the seasoned and velvety advice from the Grape Witches. Check out their blog to glean an insider’s guide to natural wines in Toronto. The Grape Witch’s writing will have you giggling with their witty wine descriptions while also making you wonder why you don’t have more velvet and silk dresses in your closet.
My first foray into natural wines begins with a bottle of Anselmi San Vincenzo that I was able to pick up from my neighborhood liquor store for less than $20. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, this wine is friendly and inviting. So go ahead, dip your toes into natural wine and see where it leads you.