'Natural wine' is a broad term and is pretty much impossible to tightly define. At its most pure, it would be wine produced from organically grown grapes that are allowed to ferment without the aid of any selected yeast, relying only on what is in the neutral vessel (like a concrete vat or a really old barrel), with no additives and no filtration.
Wines produced this way in 2017 represent less than 1% of the market – there is so much crap you can add to wine, so many processes you can subject it to, without having to inform the consumer. Nearly all the wine we drink in the UK contains so much more than just grapes.
In my opinion, many natural wines number among the finest wines you can drink. Some of them smell like nail polish remover and at first glance, you might think "that horse isn't fit to race".
But good or bad – weird and/or wonderful – they demonstrate the infinite possibility of aromas and flavours that come from spontaneous fermentation. Whether you're familiar with it or feel like you're approaching an entirely new drink, try to remember that no one has seen it all. Just because it's new and different, doesn't make it bad. And finally, keep in mind this basic principle: do you enjoy the drink in front of you?
This is the festive season, a time of year to be celebrating with the people you love. I don't know about you, but for me this means treating them to the best things we can eat and drink. It's a time to relax with family, not for being challenged, so even if you're going natural, the best thing is to drink wine that tastes like wine – something your great uncle Albert can enjoy too. I myself would opt for red wines with detail and acidity to cut through the richness that comes with Christmas food – something with a bit of energy so you don't fall asleep in front of the fire too early.
Vini Viti Vinci is an edgy wine producer from Burgundy – try its Irancy Rouge 'Les Ronces'. It'll have enough familiarity for 'old Bertie', but it's also racy enough to keep any aficionado's nose in the glass. Amazing with poultry and game, sausages and other tasty porky fare. Bizarrely, we happen to retail this Christmas treat at The Laughing Heart for a very reasonable £33.