There is no true definition of “natural” wines. But, to simplify, natural wines are produced with a minimalist method: pesticide-free, native fermentation, using handpicked grapes whose juice hasn’t been doctored with coloring, sugar, flavoring or any other junk big producers use to make the same wine, vintage after vintage. Natural wines are often biodynamic, organic or sustainable, and made in smaller qualities because independent producers are investing time and energy to produce a wine with personality and place.
The downside is some natural wines get the reputation for being a hipster trend without much power, which, as the team at Meat & Cheese Restaurant points out, is an unfair generalization. “The reason I feel strongly about having a strong showing of natural wines on our list probably comes from my connection with making artisan food,” says Meat & Cheese owner Wendy Mitchell. “The natural wines are produced in a responsible way, which is important, but the best thing about natural wines is that they are all unique; many are unfiltered; and they all have just a little funk. In my opinion, that’s what sets them apart from the mass-produced wines that are often very consistent from year to year, but maybe a little boring. I like to think of natural wines as the contemporary arts museum and conventional wines as the opera.”
Parker Pratt, assistant general manager of the operation, plays an integral role in shaping Meat & Cheese’s wine list, more than half of which is comprised of natural wine. “We try to highlight winemakers that use cool practices,” he says. “Our guests find these wines surprisingly delicious, and because they are produced in this sustainable way, they feel better drinking them.” Some favorites on the list to which Pratt points are Burgundy producer Dominique Guyon, and from the New World, Hiyu out of Oregon.
In terms of winemaking history, pesticides and commercial winemaking methods are relatively new practices, and those producers who have, for centuries, made wines in the “natural” way are also featured prominently on Meat & Cheese’s list. “These wines, they don’t take shortcuts,” says Pratt. “They put in that extra care to make sure the wine is spectacular. You can really get those nuances and feel it was handmade for you, something special.” 319 E. Hopkins Ave., 970.710.7120