Since I've been back, I’ve been on the hunt for quality products that best represent the Canadian terroir. While I’ve made sure to pick up goodies like local maple syrup, I’ve also been on the hunt to find some stellar examples of wine that fully express Canada—read, natty wine.
Luckily for me, it seems like a whole new (and youthful) audience of drinkers are inspiring movements towards vin natur, which has meant that much to my surprise I’ve been able to find Canadian-made raw wines even in the super conventional winescape that’s North America.
Lining the shelves of funky and super niche bottle shops like Toronto’s Grape Witches, Bot’l Shop, Paradise Grapevine, Boxcar Social and The Green Apple Bottle Shop, natural wine is having a movement especially following the surge in independent bottle shops following the pandemic.
While consumer interest for supporting local businesses is one factor that have seen the success of natural wine shops, these types of retailers are also thriving due to the unique experience that they provide customers. Not only do they offer a more personalized and authentic experience, but they also offer variety. Think: rare, minimalist wines unlike anything that you’ve ever seen, smelled or tasted before!
What’s particularly interesting in my opinion is the fact that when I began drinking natural wine last year during my studies at UniSG in Italy, the act of drinking raw wines felt so slow, so crunchy, so European. I was amazed to see that a similar interest and movement is starting to flourish back home in North America, in Toronto bottle shops and in biodynamic vineyards all across the country.
It seems as though North Americans are trying to replicate this call for “slow” in our daily lives. Stop and smell the coral coloured pét-nat in your glass, take in its cotton candy aromas and barnyardy flavours and trace back its origins to a landscape north of Quebec. Let’s sip wine as a metaphor to change our foodscape, to change our perspective and the value we place on what goes into our bodies.
And it’s not just natural wine locales that I’ve noted. It’s 0km-sourced produce, it’s plant-based concepts, it’s nose-to-tail dining—it’s honouring all the greatness that we have here locally, in this vast Canadian playground. That’s what’s particularly exciting to me.
Falling anywhere on the rainbow of colours, natural wine tends to be slightly lower in alcohol, which is why it’s often referred to as vin de soif (thirst quencher) or glou-glou (easy glugger). Low-intervention from how it is farmed (organically or biodynamically) to the way it is produced (with little human intervention), natural wine respects the natural process of wine making that sees the grapes’ natural sugars and yeasts kick off fermentation.
This just-the-grapes approach often yields super funky and almost barnyard aromas. Cloudiness, and fizziness are also quite common. All of which are veryyyy different from conventional wines that you might find at your grocery store or LCBO.
While natural wine movements have been happening in Europe since the 1980s, the number of natural wine importers grew and gained traction in North American especially in the 2000s. With more media attention as of recently, natural wine has become one with trendiness.
While international imports are likely to litter natural wine shops, nationally there are also some winemakers doing cool things like Ontario’s Traynor winery or Pearl Morissette, British Columbia’s Scout or A Sunday Night in August and Quebec’s Pinard et filles.
A growing industry, natural wines are augmenting in popularity following interest in sustainability as well being. While these “holistic” wines may seem like a new kind of beverage, natural wine is simply what the wines of yore used to be—just grapes. The only question is, will you embrace this trend of tradition?