Natural wines: What they are and where to find them in Vancouver

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Interest in wines made in a more natural style, including those with organically or biodynamically grown grapes, is on the rise. Here are a few tips about what you need to know about natural wines, and where to find them in Vancouver.

1. What do bugs have to do with it?

In the vineyard, organic and biodynamic grape growers forego synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, although they are permitted to use certain sprays against pests and disease, and naturally derived soil enrichments like manure and compost. Their goal is to create a healthy eco-system in the vineyard, with living soil and a balance between pests and beneficial bugs. Many vineyards are managed organically, but due to the challenges and bureaucracy involved, they aren’t legally certified organic. This is where a knowledgeable sommelier or wine store pro can help point you towards the right producer, so don’t be afraid to ask.

2. There are few to no additives

Wineries are allowed to use a broad variety of approved additives, which can include colourant derived from grapes, powdered tannins, and agents to help clarify or stabilize wine. Most wines are fermented using cultured yeasts, although some producers are choosing to use their own cultures, similarly to how you might raise a sourdough starter (often seen on a bottle’s label described as a “natural ferment”). Because these ingredients are not required to be labelled, many wine lovers are seeking out brands who choose to forego or minimize these additions. There is even a movement towards vegan wine, which is made without the use of animal products such as egg whites, gelatin, or isinglass (powdered fish bladders).

3. Some wisdom on the subject of sulphites

One of the most controversial topics in winemaking is the use of sulphites, which is causing much debate surrounding allergic reactions, and often blamed for headaches, although it is not necessarily the culprit (scientists are looking into histamines and naturally occurring compounds in the grapes themselves as potential causes). if you’re worried about sulphites, be aware that red wines generally have less than whites, and sweeter wines often have higher levels than dry wines.

Sulphur dioxide is produced naturally as grape juice is fermented into wine. A common misconception is that organic and biodynamic brands don’t contain sulphites, which isn’t necessarily the case. In Canada, they’re allowed to add sulphites, just as conventional wines do, as a preservative to keep the wine shelf-stable and prevent microbial spoilage.

The “natural wine” movement is in favour of greatly reducing or even eliminating their use, with fans suggesting that this style results in fresher, more lively wine, and detractors who worry that this can lead to unstable or spoiled bottles. Naturalist wines aren’t legally defined, so there is a lot of variation from producer to producer. Talking to a wine pro, like the ones mentioned below, will help you find the most reliable and well regarded naturalist wine producers.

Where to find natural wines in Vancouver

Burdock & Co.

Photo courtesy Burdock & Co.

Photo courtesy Burdock & Co.

Burdock’s wine director Matthew Sherlock, who is also co-owner of Lock & Worth winery, has put together a great list tilted towards naturalist winemakers, which is regularly updated with new selections. Check out the Cirelli ‘Montepulciano’ from Abruzzo, Italy, which is an easy-drinking, fruity red that would pair well with the tasty spicy seared eggplant.

Address: 2702 Main Street
Phone: 604-879 0077
Twitter:  @burdockandco

Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe

Address: 3605 West 4th Avenue
Phone: 604-733-8308
Twitter:

They may be famous for their pies, but Aphrodite’s serves dinner too, with a fully organic wine list that includes the aromatic white blend ‘Harmony’ from BC’s Kalala Estate Winery, and a tasty Syrah from Emiliana in Chile that would be perfect with their Agrarian’s Choice shallot, sausage and feta pizza. Bonus: their cider and beer list is organic too.

Grapes & Soda

Carlo Ricci/Courtesy Grapes & Soda

Carlo Ricci/Courtesy Grapes & Soda

Pop into Grapes & Soda for Sommelier and GM Hao-Yang Wang’s carefully curated selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines, where he’s happy to make a personal recommendation and talk about what makes each wine special. The Breton ‘Avis de Vin Fort’ Bourgueil Cabernet Franc, available by the glass, is a great match for juicy smoked Castelvetrano olives and a charcuterie board.

Address: 1541 W 6th Avenue
Phone:: 604-336-2456
Twitter: @grapesandsoda

Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant

Heirloom’s wine list has a great selection of vegan options, ranging from the Similkameen Valley’s Clos du Soleil Cab Sauvignon Rosé to the Bousquet Malbec from Argentina. The menu helpfully indicates which wines are organic and/or vegan friendly, something it would be great to see more restaurants do.

Address: 1509 West 12th Avenue
Phone: 604-733-2231

Twitter: @HeirloomVeg

Cibo Trattoria

Photo courtesy Cibo Trattoria

Photo courtesy Cibo Trattoria

If you’re interested in branching out to interesting new grape varietals, be sure to stop by Cibo to check out GM and Wine Director Robert Stelmachuk’s list. He estimates about 30% are organically produced, and has a broad range of naturalist wines from respected producers like Sicily’s Planeta and Claus Preisinger of Austria. If you’re feeling adventurous, put yourself in his hands to select something you’ve never tried before.

Address: 900 Seymour Street
Phone: 604-602-9570

Twitter: @cibotrattoria

Latab Wine Bar

Latab, a bijou wine bar, is generating lots of buzz for their inspired small plates (think coffee cured trout, buttermilk chicken with parsnip and wild blueberries). A glass of Col Fundo Prosecco (meaning ‘on the sediment’) would be a perfect start while perusing their biodynamic and naturalist focused wine list.

Address: 983 Helmcken Street
Phone: 604-428-7004
Twitter: @latabfood

Marquis Wine Cellars

Photo courtesy Marquis

Photo courtesy Marquis

Many of the wines on Marquis’ shelves are unique listings, having been brought in exclusively for the store. Leah Bickford explains that many are from boutique, quality-minded estates who focus on sustainable production and creating distinct tasting wines. Information on sustainability doesn’t always make it onto the label, which can be confusing, so feel free to chat with a wine shop pro who will guide you to your preferred style of wine, be it organic, biodynamic, or otherwise!

Address: 1034 Davie Street
Phone: 1-800-589-2804
Twitter: @MarquisWineCell


Best Places to find Natural Wines in Vancouver

By Vancity Buzz

  • Burdock & Co.

    By Vancity Buzz

    Burdock’s wine director Matthew Sherlock, who is also co-owner of Lock & Worth winery, has put together a great list tilted towards naturalist winemakers.

  • Aphrodite’s Organic Café

    By Vancity Buzz

    They may be famous for their pies, but Aphrodite’s serves dinner too, with a fully organic wine list.

  • Grapes & Soda

    By Vancity Buzz

    op into Grapes & Soda for Sommelier and GM Hao-Yang Wang’s carefully curated selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines, where he’s happy to make a personal recommendation and talk about what makes each wine special. 

  • Heirloom Vegetarian

    By Vancity Buzz

    The menu helpfully indicates which wines are organic and/or vegan friendly, something it would be great to see more restaurants do.

  • Cibo Trattoria

    By Vancity Buzz

    If you’re interested in branching out to interesting new grape varietals, be sure to stop by Cibo to check out GM and Wine Director Robert Stelmachuk’s list.[](http://www.burdockandco.com/)

  • Latab Wine Bar

    By Vancity Buzz

    A glass of Col Fundo Prosecco (meaning ‘on the sediment’) would be a perfect start while perusing their biodynamic and naturalist focused wine list.

  • Marquis Wine Cellars

    By Vancity Buzz

    Many of the wines on Marquis’ shelves are unique listings, having been brought in exclusively for the store

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About the author

rachel von sturmer
Rachel von Sturmer Rachel is a Vancouver-based wine and spirits writer at rachelvonsturmer.com, and a trained chef. She’s currently channeling her love of food, wine and travel into a guide to BC’s Okanagan & Similkameen wine country, and completing the WSET Diploma.

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