September has been deemed Organic Month, so it seems only fitting to talk about the trend for organic wines. The idea of organic wine used to be met with suspicion – but those funky tasting bottles are thankfully a thing of the past. Now we have widely available, quality organic, biodynamic and natural wines, although they all mean slightly different things.
In simple terms, ‘organic’ relates to the farming of the vines with no synthetic chemicals, herbicides or pesticides. Biodynamic wines take things further, viewing the vineyard as part of an interlinked harmonious ecosystem combining the astronomical calendar and encouraging active biodiversity. Both are increasingly felt to be beneficial for the land as well as the wines.
Natural wine, once beloved of the hipsters and now embraced across the world, is not a legally recognised term, except for very recently in France. However, in general terms it tends to mean organically or biodynamically grown grapes turned into wine with minimal intervention from the winemaker.
To advocates of natural wine, it is the truest representation of the wine. In truth, I feel that sometimes Mother Nature may need a little help, but there are still some fantastic places to dive into the thriving natural wine scene in London.
Soif in Battersea is my friendly neighbourhood bistro, a stone’s throw from Clapham Junction station. It specialises in small scale winemakers and a hearty but concise menu from local organic farmers and producers.
When asked for my favourite restaurant in London I often recommend Duck Soup in Soho with its daily hand-written menus, tiny, candlelit bar and vintage record player. I have never had a bad plate of food here, but they also offer an interesting list of natural and biodynamic wines and an ever-changing list by the glass.
The cavernous Winemakers Club in the vaulted brick arches of the Holborn Viaduct offers wines from around the world as a shop by day and a wine bar by night, with a reputation for supporting diverse producers and indigenous varietals. It has low-key vibes and affordable wines for the casually curious, with corkage just £14 on top of the retail price. They even waive this between 12-4pm.
Some would argue that P.Franco was the OG of the natural wine scene. An intimate bar with a loyal following, it abruptly closed but has found new life as 107 Wine Shop & Bar in Hackney. 107 focuses on Old World organic wines and maintains a good personal relationship with many of the winemakers they stock. A shop by day, it also offers a fun rotation of guest chefs Thursday to Sunday evening.
Growers and winemakers are increasingly taking responsibility for the health of their soil, plants and waters for future generations – and the more we know about our environmental impact, the more the idea of land stewardship matters. Drinking delicious, expertly made wines while benefiting the planet? That’s worth raising a glass to.