Natural wine is now a thing in Shanghai

With the biggest Wine Lips party yet and more places offering it, here’s what you should know about natural wine.

Photo via Hop Burns & Black.

It’s fun, it’s funky, there’s stuff floating around in your bottle: if you think you already know your red from white, natural wine upends most conventions about the fermented grape juice. And with more places offering it in Shanghai, natural wine is a trend that’s gradually starting to take hold in the city.

Although natural wine doesn’t have a legal definition, it’s generally assumed to be wine that comes from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes, with no chemical additions or corrections in the cellar. Many producers also do not clarify their wines, which reduces haziness and removes particulates when done, and add little or no sulfur to make their wines shelf stable. It’s the wine analogy to organic food or Nirvana playing unplugged.

The movement has gripped the cultural cool spots of New York, London, Melbourne, and Paris, and it’s slowly making it’s way to Shanghai, with more venues around town putting these bottles on their menu, such as creperie RAC and wine bar Vinism. Rather than white table cloths and a haughty sommelier, it’s waiters with ear gages and tattoos pouring bottles as rap blares over the speakers. Street art or whimsical art are plastered on labels. Then there’s Wine Lips, which bills themselves as a natural wine party, which is putting on their biggest event yet on April 19.

The first Wine Lips party at the now-closed Smash bar.

“Over the last 6 to 12 months we’ve seen a variety of bars and restaurants taking on natural wines from all over the world,” said Wine Lips organizer Philip Caspar James, who also imports some Australian labels on the side. “New suppliers also popping up and the bigger ones are beginning to expand their portfolios to include these options, which is great news.”

While these wines may never make it to the mainstream — volume is one problem when making wine this way — Wine Lips offers people the chance to taste some without committing to a bottle. To find out more, here are three styles to try at the event.

Three wines to try at Wine Lips

Georges Descombes Beaujolais Villages

Georges Descombes comes from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy, and is one of the appellation’s pioneers of natural winemaking. His father was also a vigneron, and Georges took over the family business in 1988, switching to organic practices in the vineyard and messing with the wine as little as possible during vinification. You can literally see that effect — there’s a lot of tartrate crystals floating in the bottle, which form when wines are left in cold storage and bottled unfiltered, but that doesn’t affect the taste negatively. Instead, you get crunchy black cherries, graceful tannins, and a really good time.

Le Vigne di Eli Etna Rosso

Le Vigne di Eli is an Italian winery from the northern slope of Mount Edna in Sicily. The vineyards are tiny, and it reminded founder Marco de Grazia so much of his daughter Elena, or Eli, that he named it after her. He also uses her drawings as labels for the wines, and a part of the profits go to a children’s hospital in Florence. This red wine is made mostly from the native Sicilian grape nerello mascalese with a sprinkling of nerello cappuccio, both drawn from all the estate’s organically farmed vineyards, and is lean and elegant with fresh red fruits.

Domaine Maxime Magnon Corbières Métisse Rosé

Maxime Magnon’s vineyards are in the Corbières sub-appellation of Languedoc-Roussillon, and the grapes are planted in harsh terrain. The ground is steep and is made up of mostly rocks and shrubs, which Magnon farms organically and biodynamically. He also employs sheep as weed trimmers. This rosé is a blend of carignan, grenache, cinsault, and grenache blanc, and has a very dark hue for its style, with wild herbs and strawberry with some spice.

Wine Lips
Thursday, April 19
7pm till late
¥180 presale, ¥200 at the door

RAC Bar
Bldg 14, 322 Anfu Road

Get tickets here.