Want to enjoy wine like they did 2,000 years ago, without anyone messing with the process? Natural wine is your answer
Editor’s note: This story was first published in July 2019 and has since been updated.
Just as how over the past few decades, people’s diets have been trending towards more organic and healthy options, with diners eschewing food that are highly processed and riddled with additives, so have their drinking preferences. The corresponding rise of natural wine addresses this same concerns.
And while there is still no legal or official definition of what “natural wine” is, it is broadly referring to wines made with minimal chemical and technological intervention, produced without adding or removing anything during the winemaking.
As with all vino, natural wine begins from the vineyards, so grapes used to make natural wine need to be farmed organically or biodynamically.
Organic viticulture typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Biodynamic farming, on the other hand, takes it a notch higher, supplementing organic farming methods with soil supplementing techniques prepared according to Rudolf Steiner’s formulae, while following a planting calendar that depends upon astronomical configurations. This includes rather esoteric practices such as burying cow horns full of manure across the vineyards on specific days of the lunar calendar.
Natural wine comes into itself within the winery, as it is the cellar practices that set it apart from just organic or biodynamic wines. Through the natural winemaking process, there can be no added sugars, cultivated yeast, foreign bacteria, additives, adjustments to acidity, heavy manipulation (such as micro-oxygenation or reverse osmosis) or added sulphites. The list goes on and on. In simple terms, human ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum, which is why natural wines are sometimes referred to as ‘minimal intervention wines’.
Whether you’re leaning towards being more environmentally or health conscious, or perhaps you’re just intrigued by what natural wine is, there has been a growing number of bars in Singapore that serve up vin naturel. Even restaurants have cottoned on to this rising trend, offering natural wine options on their wine lists. Here’s where you can have a taste of natural wine in Singapore.
What it is: It might be better known for its pastas – most of which are handmade fresh daily, by the way – but Bar Cicheti boasts a robust wine programme thanks to sommelier-partner Ronald Kamiyama. The Peruvian-Japanese New York City native’s extensive and international experience has put him in good stead to curate a list rife with labels from off-the-beaten-path regions and of uncommon varietals, or traditional vinification techniques.
Robb tip: To tap into Kamiyama’s vast knowledge of natural wine, or vino in general, head to the restaurant Monday to Thursday evenings (6pm to 7pm and 9pm to 10pm) for Flights of Cicheti, a tasting flight of three wines at S$28. Its changing themes explore wine regions, grape varietals, or wine styles.
10 Jiak Chuan Road
Tel: +6789 9801
What it is: Taking over what was previously Cheek By Jowl on Boon Tat Street is its cheekier younger sibling, the more casual, Cheek Bistro. Not only does this playful concept by Chef Rishi Naleendra and his wife Manuela Toniolo serve up modern Australian fare in fresh, exciting guises, the extensive wine list of more than 80 labels also feature a good percentage of natural wine options, which unsurprisingly pair well with the approachable food options.
Robb tip: Popular Austrian natural wine producer Gut Oggau from Burgenland is particularly highlighted with a dedicated section on the wine menu. On top of minimal intervention wines from France, Italy, Australia and the USA, diners can also pick those from uncommon wine regions like Croatia and Japan.
21 Boon Tat Street
Tel: +65 6221 1911
Le Bon Funk
What it is: Part of the Lo & Behold group of restaurants, Le Bon Funk prides itself as being an antithesis to the traditional stuffy wine bar. The natural wine restaurant-bar on Club Street curates a dynamic wine list that is largely sourced from France (including Burgundy, Provence, Loire and Alsace), Austria and Australia.
Robb tip: Wines by the glass change daily, depending on the day’s climate, mood and energy. The more curious oenophiles would do well to ask for exclusive off-menu selections. Whatever your choice of vino, it will work with the clean, produce-centric cuisine churned out by the kitchen, which is helmed by chef Keirin Buck.
Le Bon Funk
29 Club Street
Tel: +65 6224 1490
Editor’s note: Drunken Farmer is also found on 22 Martin Road and 31 Ocean Way.
By Hannah Choo, Senior Editor
Once a travelling pop-up and now a permanent wine bistro, Drunken Farmer has found a second home on Joo Chiat Road. Similar to the Stanley Road outlet, it comes to life as soon as the clock strikes 6pm, replacing Common Man Coffee Roasters as a restaurant with actually good food. Instead of your basic brunch fare and flat whites, here you’ll enjoy a good dose of sourdough, such as the Anchovy & Pesto Pizza, Karaage and Waffles, and plenty of natural wine to get the night going. Expect a rotation of 14 wines by the glass and over 80 kinds by the bottle, across everything from red and orange to sparkling and rosé.
185 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: +65 6877 4884
What it is: Singapore’s first natural wine bar, Wine RVLT – short for Revolution – is headed up by self-proclaimed “friendly wine uncles” Alvin Gho and Ian Lim. They are also veteran sommeliers within the local F&B industry. At the grungy space on Carpenter Street, expect no wine list but instead, a feature wall where all wines available are displayed on rows of shelves. Either sommelier will be on hand to provide bottle recommendations.
Robb tip: If you’re not that thirsty, there is a daily-changing white and red – sometimes orange or fizzy – wine by the glass. And if you are hungry, there’s always good grub in store. While the famous Wagyu Patty Melt and Red Shrimp Fettuccine are ancient history, chef Sunny Leong still manages to impress with his Homemade Sourdough, Lobster Pasta and Shio Koji-Cured Wagyu Striploin.
38 Carpenter Street
Tel: +65 6909 5709