Let grapes be grapes. That’s the philosophy behind a natural wine fair happening Saturday in Portland. Dana Frank, the owner of Bar Norman, a wine bar in Southeast Portland, says The Wild Bunch wine fair honors natural wine and makers from around the world.
“This is just wine for the table that everyone should be able to drink,” she said.
Over the years, Frank said, natural wine has became thought of as a product that fits a narrow scope and tastes a certain way. She hopes to return the beverage to an accessible and inclusive place and added “these wines live on a very broad spectrum and there’s a lot of versions and interpretations of what natural wine is.”
This year’s event features more than 60 wineries and importers pouring their product for consumers.
Statera Cellars, an Oregon-based winery, will be participating in the fair. Luke Wylde, an owner and winemaker for the organization, said the winery aims to focus on the grapes and not additives like lab-grown yeasts or additional enzymes. Wylde adds a small amount of sulfur which serves as an antioxidant in the bottle, but otherwise leaves the grapes alone.
“Our rule is, just don’t add anything, don’t mess with good grapes,” they said.
Statera Cellars uses grapes grown organically and biodynamically. Similarly, Johan Vineyards, another fair participant, calls itself a certified biodynamic estate winery. Located on about 85 acres in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it aims to focus on a resilient farm system that takes a holistic approach to agriculture.
“Of course we’re trying to grow healthy grapevines, but we are also doing things like setting aside riparian zones, having native wildlife corridors and promoting insects and native wildlife,” said Nathan Wood, the vineyard manager. “We also leave a fair amount of our land in natural oak and grasslands and of course, we’re trying to promote healthy soils.”
Wood added that the winery also includes animals on its land. About 26 sheep move across the vineyards, munching on grass and naturally fertilizing the space. The vineyards also practice no-till farming, a technique that minimizes soil disturbance.
“When you stop cultivating your land, you are allowing the natural microbiome, the bacteria and fungi associations in the soil to remain there undisturbed over time creating healthier and larger soils,” Wood said.
From soil to wine glass, natural winemakers opt for a hands-off approach. Portland’s wine fair will not only feature wines from Oregon, but includes wines from countries like France, Hungary and Croatia.
Wylde, Wood and Frank joined “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller to discuss wine and Saturday’s event. Listen to the full conversation: