There are several components of planning a wedding that lend the opportunity for you and your partner to create a mood. Music, lighting, tablescapes, and what’s on the menu can all come together to tell the story of what you, as a couple, value most; and the more uniquely you can shape that narrative on the big day the better.
One specific idea you might not have considered is curating a natural wine list for your guests to enjoy throughout the evening. If you’re at all interested in the world of wine, you likely already know that the natural wine movement has become massively popular in recent years, with natural wine shops and wine bars popping up around the world and terms like “low intervention” and “natty” becoming increasingly commonplace.
If you haven’t determined what wine to pour at your reception just yet, continue ahead to learn from wine experts Jirka Jireh and Martha Stoumen why serving natural wine at your wedding will be a crowd-pleaser.
Meet the Expert
- Jirka Jireh is the co-founder of Industry Sessions, a natural wine study empowering BIPOC wine professionals across the United States and Canada.
- Martha Stoumen is a first-generation natural winemaker from Northern California. She started her business in 2014 after spending eight years apprenticing under other winegrowers around the world and is part of the 5% of women in California who are both owner and lead winemaker.
What Is Natural Wine?
Stoumen shares that natural wine can be thought of as pre-industrial wine. “It is wine made without additives, processing agents, and heavy preservatives. Although unregulated, natural wines are usually made from vineyards that, at minimum, are farmed according to organic practices.” In the winery, Jireh explains "grapes ferment with native yeasts and nothing is stripped away or added to the wine. If sulfur is added, it is only 20ppm at bottling.”
How Natural Wine Is Made
Natural wine is not regulated, which means there is no legal definition (except in France) and granular details might vary from winemaker to winemaker. “Filtration is normally frowned upon in natural winemaking because it can strip the wine,” Stoumen says. “But there are so many types of filtration, and I’m personally not opposed to a gentle one when the winemaker thinks it will improve the wine. We’re talking peak-season strawberries being made into straight jam vs seedless jam. It’s still beautiful, well-made strawberry jam without added junk, seeds or not.” If a wine is not filtered, it can appear slightly cloudy and there may be more sediment at the bottom of the bottle (something your reception waiters should be made aware of for pouring purposes).
While filtration is a subtraction, sulfites are an addition, which is usually a no-fly zone according to Stoumen. “Very low levels of sulfites are generally accepted,” she says. “Debate around the health of high sulfite levels aside, wines that possess a high sulfite content taste off to me: the fruity flavors are masked, and they often leave a metallic aftertaste in my mouth.” Jireh agrees. “Sulfur is naturally occurring in grapes but [can be] added to wine as a preservative. I personally enjoy wines with zero sulfur additions,” she notes.
How Natural Wine Tastes
Fans of natural wine will tell you that it simply tastes better. “Natural wines are farmed using organic and/or biodynamic practices to heal the soil and vines, which in turn produces beautiful fruit that will not need manipulation and will create a gorgeous wine,” Jireh says. While natural wine does have a reputation for being slightly ‘funky’ not all natural wines present as funky, which is why speaking with wine shop merchants and winemakers can be helpful when deciding your best options, especially for a wedding where palates will run the gamut.
Benefits of Serving Natural Wine
In essence, natural wine is better for the environment and can offer the drinker more transparency about what they’re ingesting. “Knowing where our food comes from is very important and consumers want to know what they are putting in their bodies,” Jireh explains. “Supporting farmers who are working regeneratively combats climate change. Buying domestic is very important too; we have many very talented winemakers in the U.S. making natural wine.”
For Stoumen, natural wine’s drinkability is also a magical factor in its appeal. “It’s hard to explain without actually drinking a glass of natural wine together with you, but natural wine, whether it’s a darker, more structured red, a snappy, chillable red, or a bright, acidic white, tends to uplift the drinker more than weigh you down,” she says. “That heavy, tired, feeling I used to get when I drank a glass of conventional wine just doesn’t happen to me drinking natural wine. It jives with my body better and I attribute this greater digestibility to the lack of junk and high sulfite levels.”
Have fun with the menu and include information about where the wine comes from, what the tasting notes are, and any fun facts about the region it’s made in or who the winemaker is. The more personalized it is, the more immersive the drinking experience for your guests.
Sustainability isn’t a niche movement either and the likelihood of your guests appreciating a wine that’s made with the utmost respect for the planet is probably going to go over well. Plus, it’s a great way to support smaller wine brands and on an entirely superficial level, natural wines tend to have the best artwork on their labels (can’t resist a photo op!).
How to Source Natural Wine for Your Wedding
Stoumen suggests Instagram as a great place to discover natural winemakers. “Once you start following a few of us—I’m @marthastoumen—the algorithm will help you find more,” she shares. “The natural wine community of winemakers is pretty small and friendly. We often have links to where you can buy from us, directly off our websites. Buying straight from the maker is always a helpful and cool way to show support for small producers.”
If you prefer an in-person experience, both Stoumen and Jireh suggest tracking down a natural wine shop and speaking with the professionals working there. “Don’t be shy, a quality shop will be happy to learn your palate and guide you into discovering new wines,” Jireh says.
Ask if the winemaker or wine shop merchant offer discounts on bulk orders for weddings, many often do!
If you want to try a sip or two before committing to serving natural wine at your wedding, try a bottle from the winemakers below.
Martha Stoumen Post Flirtation Red 2020
SHOP NOW: Martha Stoumen
Broc 2020 Love Sparkling Chenin Blanc
SHOP NOW: Broc Cellars
Las Jaras Wines 2019 Glou Glou Magnum
SHOP NOW: Las Jaras Wines
Jolie-Laide 2020 Game Rose
SHOP NOW: Jolie Laide Wines
Day Wines Deep Blue
SHOP NOW: Day Wines
Idlewild 2018 Flora & Fauna Sparkling Wine
SHOP NOW: Idlewild Wines
Terra di Briganti Benepop Vol.1 2018
SHOP NOW: Sip Fine Wine
Baia’s Wine Tsitska Dry White Wine, Georgia 2018
SHOP NOW: Civic Winery
Baptiste Cousin Ouech Cousin, Vin de France, Anjou, Grolleau, 2019
SHOP NOW: Helen's Wines
Dom. de l'Oubliée Notre Histoire 2018
SHOP NOW: Astor Wines