(Jumping On) the Natural Wine Bandwagon

We've got something good, let's keep it that way!

The various hues of natural wine.

As with anything that is new and exciting, and where people see money to be made; lots of more established producers are jumping on the natural and orange wine bandwagons. This as a whole is not a bad thing - as a general trend the natural wine movement is having a positive effect on the rest of the wine industry and there are some trends that are jumping over from natural wine that should be embraced (juicy, fruity, fun, chilled reds for instance). 

Love it or hate it, I think there is no longer an argument about whether the horse has bolted. Natural wine is a thing and there is a market for it. And that market is growing. This is especially true of orange wine. 

Now I get frustrated by this confusion between natural wine and orange wine perpetuated by pundits and professionals contemptuous of either. "Oh, they will drink ANYTHING!" say the old guard. Not all natural wine is orange and not all orange wine is natural... but this said, alongside PetNats, for better or worse orange wines have become the flagship style of the movement. 

Where this becomes problematic is when less scrupulous, larger producers start making orange wine without thought for the variety in style, philosophy behind the wines, techniques used and traditions. Some of these wines are passable (some even good) but the vast majority are not: unbalanced, faulty, problematic, and bad value (let's not get started talking about quality within natural wine - this is another issue and it is up to wine merchants and sommeliers to curate their lists and communicate style to consumers).

The real problem is that many of these larger producers have better distribution than committed natural players making excellent wines. As a result, these are often the wines consumers are first exposed to. This is not a good thing. It is all too easy for a consumer to try a bad example of a style (or even a corked or otherwise faulty individual bottle) and have this inform their perception of the entire genre. I didn't like this orange wine quickly becomes I don't like orange wine. This is especially true if the wine is poor value i.e. expensive. 

It is up to those of us (producers, trade, and consumers) to celebrate the best examples (at various price points) and to help newer consumers discover well-made wines that are right for them.  That sometimes means speaking about wines that do the movement and style a disservice.

If you are a producer ask yourself while you are making a wine and make doubly sure the price tag is tied to the quality of the wine in the bottle - if you can't make a particular style at a fair price then ask yourself why you are making the wine. 

This movement isn't going to grow without bringing new consumers in and that means we have to offer and champion wines to help these consumers engage with the ideas behind natural wine... it also means we have to correct for those who are jumping on the bandwagon and are using the movement to simply make a buck.

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