Hippies No More: Natural Wine Movement Gaining Momentum


Once thought as the campy plonk to accompany a cultural and literal cloud of peace, love, weed smoke and anti-war sentiments, natural wine is now a legitimate niche force in the wine world. 
Yesterday, Bloomberg Business reporter Nick Leiber entered the sediment-laden world of natural wines through the person of one Fabio Bartolomei, a winemaker in the foothills outside of Madrid. 
“Bartolomei and hundreds of other producers of so-called natural wines are now unnerving (or at least annoying) the big commercial players of the industry as restaurateurs, distributors, oenophiles, and an increasing number of ordinary drinkers seek authenticity in their wines,” Leiber wrote. 
Bartolomei is the founder of Vinos Ambiz, which, according to the Bloomberg story, produces 8,000 to 12,000 bottles of wine per year, featuring varietals like tempranillo, albillo, garnacha and other grapes.
Leiber also spoke with John Wurdeman, co-owner of the country of Georgia's Pheasant’s Tears winery.
“Natural wine was considered hippie juice 15 years ago,” Wurdeman acknowledged. 
Times have changed, though, Leiber pointed out.
“The market is ‘growing at incredible speed,’ (Wurdeman) says, with world-famous restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen and El Celler de Can Roca in Girona each sticking hundreds of labels,” he wrote. 
Jenny Lefcourt, co-founder of a New York-based natural-wine distributor, also jumped into the discussion.
“It’s not just Paris and New York anymore,” she said of her company’s sales. “We’re selling across the U.S.”
This expansion in sales and in interest is now catching the attention of big producers. 
“The growing popularity of natural wine has stoked tensions within the larger industry,” Leiber wrote. “Many wine producers take issue with the term, which they say disparages those who don’t claim to be natural.”
Natural wine aficionada Alice Feiring says the big boys just flat-out don’t like the movement.
“They want to destroy it,” she told Leiber. “Conventional producers are in a scramble because they don’t want to lose market share.”
According to Leiber, the title of largest producers of natural wine goes to France, Italy and Spain. Interested parties, however, span the globe.
“The Georgian government has invested about $500,000 since it started promoting the country’s natural wine in 2012,” he wrote, quoting the head of Georgia’s National Wine Agency. “Demand has been so strong that the country’s 30 or so natural wine producers ‘are sold out’ before the product is bottled.”

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