What Is Natural Wine
Image credit: @lenaruna

Much like slow food, sustainable fashion and clean(er) beauty products, the way millennials approach wine – and alcohol in general – has shifted in recent years. We’re making more conscious choices, interested in what we’re consuming and who produced it. It’s this movement that’s seen “natural wine” gain momentum – a trend that started slowly and then blew up all at once, taking over Instagram one glass bottle of skin-contact at a time. But what is natural wine? We’re all drinking it, but what is does it mean? They feel “healthier” but are they? To help us understand we called on Elliot Scali, the brains behind Notwasted – a boutique curator of the finest “natural” wines from both local and international wine makers. Elliot is a champion for sustainable practice, considered drinking and the joys of enjoying a good drop among friends. Obviously, he also understands the jargon, so is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this stuff.

See our interview with Elliot below (and check out his incredibly chic online cellar here). 

Elliot Scali,founder of Not Wasted.

GRAZIA: Okay, let’s start with the basics. What characteristics does a white wine have?  

Elliot: If we were going by the classical wine book, a white wine is fermented without skins. This means pressing a white grape, keeping the juice and discarding the skins, with the end goal of producing a desired look and taste. Often a filtered, fined, pristine and clear white.
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GRAZIA? And red? 
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Elliot: Red wine is, technically speaking, made from darker grape varieties. Natural red wines aren’t radically different from conventional ones. Both are made with dark grapes, extracting colour and flavour from the skins. I’m for sure generalising, but I tend to find with natural reds, the fruit isn’t left to over-ripen and there’s less new oak used, so you don’t get this big, bold, jammy and silky red. You get a bit more fresh, bright and fruit forward characters poking through. I think this resonates better with a new generation of wine drinkers.
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GRAZIA: Orange wine seems like it’s having a moment, but what exactly is it? 
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Elliot: This is the first question everyone asks. Orange wine is really a back- to-the-future moment; a romantic revival of ancient wisdom. The skins of white variety grapes aren’t thrown away but macerated and fermented with the juice for various length of time. Some winemakers do it for over six months. Not only is skin contact wine a conversation starter, but it’s a mood lifter. A party starter.
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GRAZIA: So orange wine is a skin-contact wine! What exactly does it change in terms of flavour profile?
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Elliot: Elevates it. I’m definitely bias. It can up the phenolics of a whine which means more flavour, tannins and colour. A lot more taste and prominent fruit.
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What Is Natural Wine
Image credit: @notwasted
GRAZIA: So, we already touched on natural wine, but what is it? And how is it different from a biodynamic wine or organic wine?
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Elliot: I’m glad you asked this. Biodynamic or organic refers to the way the grapes have been cultivated. Organic or biodynamic wines are those with grapes grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or GMOs. But you can have organic wines that aren’t made naturally.
Natural wine is supposed to take organic and biodynamic vineyard practices further and introduce a hands-off principle when making the wine. A natural wine is a wine that has been cultivated organically or biodynamically and nothing added or removed throughout the winemaking process apart from a minimal amount of sulphur at bottling. Our entire list at Not Wasted is composed of only these types of wines. More practically speaking, natural winemakers (not always) tend to introduce a small period of skin contact to build flavour, texture and phenolics from their harvest, preferring natural filtering methods and no fining. Removing the use of animal products, imported yeasts and other unnatural tricks.
The only issue you get with this term is there is no certification for “natural” or control around people using it. So you can get a lot in the industry saying here’s a natural, but it can often be pretty misleading. True naturals are those that have been made with respect. Respect for that particular vintage and for the environment it’s been harvested in. The only way to do this is to let the grapes do the talking. Somewhere along the way it feels as though we lost touch with what wine is. Good wine should reflect both a place and time. It shouldn’t taste the same year on year or even bottle to bottle. I think that’s what really differentiates natural winemakers from others. I think that’s what our wine list always represents.
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GRAZIA: Thank you! On to bubbles… What’s the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne?
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Elliot: Good question. This stuff gets wildly confusing. Firstly, Champagne can only be called such if it’s from the area of Champagne in France. There is also a method of making the bubbles that all Champagne makers have to follow called méthode champenoise. But even if you make some bubbles in Australia following the same method it will still be called sparkling… Weird right?
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GRAZIA: Yes! We’ve also heard (and drank) pet-nat. Can you explain how it’s different to the above?
 
Elliot: A pét-nat or Pétillant Naturel, is again a modern taken on an old winemaking technique. Basically the wine is bottled before it’s first fermentation has finished and that means all this carbon dioxide the yeast are producing in the juice produce is trapped, creating your natural bubbles. They are super fun and fresh, but for winemakers can often end in with a whole lot of exploding bottles. It’s a quite a delicate process.
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GRAZIA: What’s a good starter wine on Not Wasted for someone new to the game?
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Elliot: If you’re new to the game and it’s winter, start with the Good Intentions Pinot Noir. If you want an orange, Balmy Nights Amber for sure. We also have a rotating First Timer’s Pack as well. Four price-friendly and approachable wines for new natural wine drinkers.
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GRAZIA: Personal favourite?
 
Elliot: I’m a sucker for all of Jauma (James Erskine) wines. The Like Raindrops Grenache would have to be my go-to at the moment. Overseas it would have to be the Cantina Giardino new release.
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GRAZIA: Any food/wine pairing your can share?
 
Elliot: Sea Urchin Tagliatelle with the Radikon ‘Jakot’ or any rich, skin contact wine.
Baked whole snapper with walnuts, chilli and tahini dressing paired with the 2019 Valentine Wines Pinot Noir. Get the recipe from Michael Rantissi (Kepos St Kitchen).
Lamb shoulder ragù with gnocchetti (Mike Eggert – ex Pinbone and now Tottis) paired with the 2019 Beau Gosse Cabernet Franc. So. Good.
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Be sure to always drink responsibly. 
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thoughts?