In August, I moved away from natural wine. Bringing a few suitcases stuffed with clothes, books, and a laptop, I relocated to a southern city for a year-long journalism fellowship. In this North Carolina town, natural wine is craft beer. Instead of kooky bottle shops loaded with wines of different sizes like a dusty, old bookstore, this town has breweries, taprooms, and “Beer Labs.” One establishment downtown offers “cages for axe throwing,” where one pays $30 to drunkenly chuck hand-axes at a target 10 feet away.
I still buy natural wine where I can find it. But it has barely penetrated the market here. A few shops carry some winemakers whose bottles may qualify, to some, as vin méthode nature, but few shopkeepers label it as such on the shelves. I’ve seen organic, biodynamic, no-additive, low sulfites, dry farmed, unfiltered, but I haven’t seen a shop display a wine with the word “natural,” the catch-all designation often used, and over-used, in New York shops and bars. It’s not a trend in North Carolina.
A lot of the stuff is just not here. The French winemakers I associate closely with the movement are nowhere to be found. I’ve seen five or six out of the dozens of Italian winemakers I could find in New York, but the shops stock the popular brands in scant amounts. I saw Cantina Indigeno once and Lammidia once. There is nothing from Georgia, though a few shops stock bottles from Slovenia and Czech Republic. A few buzzy brands from Spain and Portugal are here, as well. But the majority of natural wine is from California and Oregon. And it’s expensive. Apparently everything in North Carolina is cheaper except for natural wine. I once gasped after spotting a Matassa on the top shelf in the wine aisle of a grocery store. It is the only French natural winemaker I’ve seen in the state, and it cost $10 more than what it would cost in Brooklyn.
Why? Is it because of the tariffs on European imported wine? Are New York and California wine importers hogging all the bottles to themselves? Or is craft beer culture so big, natural wine doesn’t stand a chance? I think the answer for why the trend hasn’t reached N.C. is a combination of all three…
I am lucky craft beer is delicious.