It was only a couple of years ago that just saying the words ‘natural wine’ could get the fur flying. There were spats on social media and angry articles in the press, from people who thought that natural wines were a trendy scam, to people who said that any wine that wasn’t natural had no authenticity.
As always happens, opinion has settled somewhere in the middle, and natural wine has become an accepted category, like any other. But just how important is it? Although the topic has generated a lot of sound and fury, it’s been hard to work out just how significant the trend really is. That question runs like a thread through this issue, from Simon Woolf’s analysis of just how big the market for natural wines really is, to the Power Lists from Scandinavia, which in this issue identify top sommeliers from Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
It becomes clear from talking to these sommeliers that natural wines have come of age with Nordic cuisine, and are an important part of the offering in top restaurants.
This issue of just how important natural wines are isn’t a small, academic one. As Darrel Joseph’s article on Kakheti, Georgia shows, whether or not the world embraces natural wines could have an enormous impact on the wine economy of his Transcaucasian country, the spiritual home of natural wines.
This is also the issue where I’ve finally got around to tackling a topic that’s been on my radar for a couple of years: selling wine to men. It became apparent to me two years ago, when I was preparing a talk on the subject for the 2014 Digital Wine Communications Conference, that the wine trade was focusing far too much on ‘wine for women’ and failing to see that young men were gravitating to craft beer. But over this same period, some of the biggest wine companies in the world were beginning to focus on the young male demographic. The result is a slew of wines created for male millennials.
Gender marketing isn’t a game that anybody can play, because when it backfires, it backfires in a spectacular blaze of publicity. Just ask Bic pens. But the humour that’s embedded into some of these wines, created after extensive research, at least shows that craft beer can’t have all the fun. Finally, next issue we turn ten years old and have a series of special stories to look forward to.