Next time you're out to dinner, you might notice something new on the drink menu — natural wine.
It's being served in some of the best restaurants in the world — including the famed Noma — and is taking over wine lists in newly opened Manhattan restaurants. And yet, it's a controversial menu item that, according to some master sommeliers, is dividing the wine community.
Natural wine, which is made with little to no preservatives or chemicals, creates what master sommelier Alpana Singh calls a "sometimes fizzy" drink that smells "weird." More specifically, "like a barn yard."
We spoke with Singh, a multi-restaurant owner and past TV personality and food critic, at the James Beard Leadership Awards in Chicago this month about wine trends within the industry and aside from rosé, Singh noted the growing popularity and controversial nature of natural wine.
"Natural wine is very controversial, if wine can be controversial," she said. "It's really divided the wine community because [the makers] don't use sulfur...sometimes the wines are fizzy in the bottle, and they smell weird," she said.
"There are those that say wine should be clean and not smell like a barn yard, and other people are like "no, that's how wine is suppose to be — made without intervention and being true to the earth and soil," she said.
The Guardian describes natural wines as "smellier, cloudier, juicier, more acidic and generally truer to the actual taste of grape than traditional wines," in a recent article that explores the wine's divisive existence.
Singh noted that when it comes to its growing popularity, educating her customers is key. "I need to explain it to my customers," she said. "They're expecting sauvignon blanc — fresh, clean, and zippy — and then they get [natural wine] and it's kind of fizzy and cloudy, and it smells a little weird, and it's a little sour, and they're like: "I think my wine's bad," and you [have to be] like "no, no that's just kind of how it needs to be."
Personally, Singh doesn't mind natural wine — but noted that "sometimes I don't want to drink something that smells like cabbage."