If you’re unlike me and actually know your wine, you’ve probably heard of natural wine. I’d never heard of it until a few weeks ago, and it got me curious. Some call it “funky wine” because I guess the process of natural winemaking results in a subtle funky taste. In order to understand that a little better, I decided to visit Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company, a natural winemaker in Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California.
"There's different physical and chemical things that you can do or add to wine to achieve your desired result as a winemaker. Here in the United States, the federal government allows us to use over 200 different products or chemicals in the production of wine, some of which on their own can be toxic," Roark said, adding that he's selective about vineyards and farms he works with or on -- because he believes wine should be a representation of the work you did on the field.
"That romantic view is what drew me to [winemaking]."
So compared to other, more "conventional" ways of winemaking, if you will, Roark's way is so much simpler: You harvest the grapes when they're perfectly ripe, de-stem and ferment those grapes, and add a little bit of sulfur to make sure it doesn't spoil. Others may choose to add more chemicals to achieve a certain type of flavor profile they're looking for, but Roark just lets the grapes and their natural yeast do the work.
"All the imperfect fruit will create a wine that has hopefully a few different layers and flavors. If we were to only harvest the most pristine fruit and sort out every little imperfection, then the wine could possibly be just a wine that's just one note," Roark said.
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