Natural wine, with its eye-catching funky labels and even funkier aromas, is having a moment. Last summer saw more and more of us stepping away from the Beaujolais and picking up something a little more interesting – an orange wine or a delicious pétillant naturel (pet nat) perhaps – making natural wine hot property.
So, what is natural wine? Simply put, it’s organic grapes, farmed without pesticides, fungicides or herbicides, then made into wine without additives, sulfites and minimal intervention in the fermentation process. Instead, natural fermentation is allowed to happen from the skins. The resulting wine might to be cloudy and some can contain sediment – which might seem off-putting, but is perfectly, well… natural.
If you can look past this, you’ll reap the benefits: big, bold wines with surprising flavours which can vary from bottle to bottle. You might get anything from a mouthful of Haribo (yes, really!), to deep, dark, earthiness. This is because natural winemakers are freed from the bureaucracy traditional wine regions are often bound by, allowing them to try new styles and depart from the norm. Wines may be slightly lower ABV and lighter and brighter than your usual vino – though there’s nothing in the rumour that you’ll get off hangover free, sadly.
France, Italy and Germany are the big producers, though lots of natural wine now is coming out of lesser known wine regions, but the real fun of natural wine is in the unexpected, and knowing that you’re likely supporting a small winery who cares about the environment as well as making wine.
Lockdown after lockdown has meant a big uptick in buying wine online, delivered straight to our door for convenience: enter, natural wine subscriptions. After all, what could be more cheering than some of the coolest, most intriguing bottles of expertly selected natural wine appearing on your doorstep? Not much, so we’ve had a snifter of some of the top natural wine subscriptions worth signing up to.
We selflessly sampled over 35 bottles of refreshingly different natural wine to find the best subscription boxes out there, looking for value for money, how interesting – yet drinkable – the wines were, and any add-ons like tasting notes.
We don’t pop our corks for every box we see though; this is our list of the very best natural wine boxes to subscribe to, safe in the knowledge each bottle will be as quaffable as it is sustainable. Bottoms up.
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Hop Burns & Black natural wine killers wine subscription box
Peckham-based Hop Burns & Black specialise in natural wine and craft beer and were one of the first natural wine subscriptions available. The monthly box, natural wine killers, is a three-bottle-strong lineup of wines with bags of personality, all selected to be 100 per cent natural and exceptionally expressive of their terroir.
A recent box included Wilder Satz: made with a thrilling mish-mash of grape varieties in Pfalz, Germany, the team call it “alcoholic lemonade” and goodness it really is – and only 10.5 per cente to boot. Think crisp apples and pears with a healthy swirl of lemon sherbet and you’re there, and its all down to its carbonic maceration and a tea-bag-style brew in some zesty riesling apparently. The same box also included a beautifully floral Italian barbera and ruche blend, Cascina Tavijn 68, and a Les Tailles Rouges 2019 from the Loire which is a richly spiced cabernet franc and cab sav blend from one of Hop Burns & Black’s favourite winemakers.
We love the little touches with this subscription: frank, no-nonsense descriptors and explanations on the winemaking process and the fact that you get a series of food match suggestions with each wine, along with a full recipe for one bottle. Catch us making their suggested Persian fried rice and ordering many, many more bottles of that fabulous Wilder Satz.
Shop Cuvée the natural wine subscription
We recommended Shop Cuvee’s natural wine subscription in our list of best gifts for wine lovers; it’s even better if that wine lover is yourself. Sign up to the wonderfully curated offering of spectacular but unpretentious natural wines from the pivoted arm of critically-acclaimed Highbury restaurant Top Cuvee and enjoy box after box of fresh and seasonal wines.
Choose from three or six bottles a month and explore some of the best, most inventive natural, organic and biodynamic wines spanning the red, white, sparkling or orange gamut all chosen by their expert sommeliers keen to send you something as new and exciting as you’d drink in the restaurant.
We’re suckers for all of the pet nats – naturally fizzy and very fun as they’re bottled while the first fermentation takes place – but we also fell in love with its latest Petit Jo, a grenache syrah red from the Rhone they rightly describe as “a juice bomb” which just bursts with plums, violets and excitement. All wines are sent in biodegradable packaging next day delivery, then monthly thereafter and you can pause any time you want to lay off the sauce.
Ambient Wine the natural wine subscription club
Ambient Wine’s previous day job was supplying many of the UK’s top restaurants with the best natural wines going: cue lockdown pivot and their new subscription club was born.
By choosing to treat yourself to a recurring box of six of Ambient Wine’s top natural wine picks you’ll be supporting small scale producers whose vintages may not survive this longest of all winters otherwise; a shame, as these producers do great things with their soils, letting fruit grow unrestrained and farming in traditional methods.
As a restaurant supplier, these hard-to-find wines are a notch above – some of the wines included here were previously exclusive to restaurants, and most would come in around the £50 mark on the list. Lucky for us, the subscription offering means that you can enjoy these wines at around a third of the price of this. Just choose your colour combinations and sit back and wait. We went for a mixed box which included beauties such as a Lamda 2019, a fine Greek assyrtiko aged in oak barrels, an exciting and modern rioja soplar 2018 which was fresh, light and sunny, a world away from the supermarket stuff you’re used to and our absolute favourite, a litre of Ancestrel Liton Rouge 2019. From Beaujolais and made with the gamay grape, but like nothing else really: tons of soft, red and black fruit but with the lightest touch and tannins going. A dream!
Monty Wines natural and organic wine subscription
The natural and organic wine subscription from Monty Wines is a bit different; for your £40 you could receive four-six wines per month based on how premium each wine is, but rest assured you get a lot of bang for your buck.
With a mix of natural and organic wines impeccably sourced from around the world, this subscription is the most global we tried, and we particularly loved getting to grips with a Serbian number, Crazy Lud, from blaufrankisch and cab sav grapes: a light bodied, everyday wine that was really, really dry and lovable. Made from low yield old bushes, this wine is hand harvested and soaked for seven days before the juice ferments in old Hungarian oak barrels. Whites could be like the biodynamic Velue we tried from Austrian winemaker Zillinger which was sophisticated – from its three months on lees – and almost flinty with well-balanced fruit and strong minerality.
Happily, if you find a wine you love you can let Monty know: then they’ll make sure it’s in every order. If you’re game for a surprise, just let them know what colour(s) you’re up for. Wines are chosen from small producers who are about wine as much as their environmental impact and each box includes easily digestible tasting and winemaking notes.
Wright’s Wine Club monthly subscription
Wright’s is passionate about natural wines, and makes it its business to sniff out some of the best natural, organic and biodynamic winemakers around to bring you goodies direct to your door, focusing on characterful wines true to their terroir.
Having imported a plethora of fantastic natural wines direct from the growers over the last few years, Wright’s subscription picks rest heavily on wines from the Loire, Ardeche, Beaujolais, Bugey and the Languedoc – which can only be a good thing! – though it also includes bottles from other importers they know and love. Occasionally, your monthly box will be a “winemaker takeover” with all wines from the same producer, plus their tasting notes.
As you’re getting the bottles direct from the importer, Wright’s wines are good value while safeguarding an income for the winemakers in these difficult times. We tried a charming 2018 gamay, Lucie, from Bugey grower Louis Terral which was the opposite to what you’d expect from the Beaujolais grape: barrel aged deeply flavoured, wintry and very dark yet light and elegant with soft tannins. Subscriptions offer three or six bottles per month and include 10 per cent discount on Wright’s online store.
NONA Wines natural wine club
German-based NONA Wines searches out the hidden gems of the natural wine world using its experience as fifth-generation winemakers. It carefully curates boxes of three or six unique natural red, white and sparkling wines for subscribers on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, sending free within the EU (yes, that means we now have to pay an irritating £23 duty) but we think it’s worth it.
Specialising in wines from small producers that are all less than 12.5 per cent ABV, with very low natural sulfites and more lees (to stabilise) than some wines, NONA wines are likely to be cloudier with a delicious natural acidity as a result and are sourced from growers with impeccable environmental credentials. Many of its bee-friendly subscriber wines are exclusive to NONA and made in such tiny quantities from family growers that you’d never find them again: we tried a fascinating Italian light red, Pranzegg 2019, which was cloudy (but sediment free!) and had just the right amount of tang combined with crunchy, bright red fruits which contrasted brilliantly with another red from the same box, Waiting For Tom, an Austrian heavyweight, earthy and powerful red. Quite the journey. Each box comes complete with a QR code for you to access in-depth tasting notes and food pairings.
The Starter Box
Launching February 3rd, Lucy’s Wine is a new subscription box offering of expertly curated natural, organic and sustainable wines designed to make you sit up and listen. Working exclusively with small producers, Lucy’s Wine aims to help anyone who enjoys a glass of wine discover new favourites and learn about wine in a fun, relaxed way.
Boxes of three, four and six bottles are available; we think The Starter Box is great value for a trio of approachable organic natural wines comprising a red, a white and a fizz. The inaugural box contains a perfect pasta red, a fun prosecco and Languedoc Corbieres Blanc that we found to be crisp, fresh and fragrant with stone fruit – plus the vineyard is doing great things for soil health, it’s win:win. For every box of wine shipped you can choose to carbon offset its footprint with a positive environmental impact too.
Pure Wines club
Pure Wines was one of the first natural wine importers in the UK and today it still sells only the natural stuff, working with growers from the well-known winemaking regions across Europe, plus smaller and lesser-known wines from Chile, Georgia and the UK to take subscribers on a journey of natural wine discovery. It is committed to organically farmed natural wines and their mission is to make it more accessible and affordable – benefitting the planet in the process – so the approach is relaxed, with simple descriptors and down-to-earth food pairing suggestions.
From the palest light roses to fresh whites, juicy reds, orange wine, rare back-vintages and forgotten grape varieties, these wines explore the breadth of natural and the contents of their subscription boxes aren’t just the funky, cloudy bottles you might expect. Choose from three, six or 12 bottles monthly and receive thoughtfully curated seasonal bottles that could include the delicious Orange 2018 we tried: a Valencian wine given skin contact time and bursting with peach, pineapples, strawberries just like one of those little Fruit Salad penny sweets – a crime to save until summer to enjoy – or a fantastically wild montepulciano from Abruzzo capturing the terroir of the Adriatic. You can also purchase extra bottles of wines you’ve tried, and their direct relationship with growers means you can pick up a fair few under £15 – a bargain for natural wine.
The verdict: Natural wine subscription boxes
Subscribing to any of these natural wine boxes would bring joy into your life, but if we had to pick just one we’d opt for the natural wine killers box from Hop Burns & Black. Its wines and notes are filled with such personality and fun that receiving a box becomes a real experience to look forward to, and their picks are impeccable.
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