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The Natural Wine Movement is Long Overdue, and San Diego County is Representing

July 26, 2018
Vino Carta in Little Italy is one of the all natural wine bars in San Diego

If the term “natural wine” is confuses you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Far from being any kind of official designation, natural wine is a catch-all term for wines that are made with as little human intervention as possible.

In general, organic and biodynamic wines—which are controlled by a certification process with corresponding designations—are considered natural, as are wines that are un-certified in those processes but that utilize any combination of the following: minimal to no use of added sulfites, sustainable farming practices, no chemicals used in either the vineyards or cellars, minimal filtering and by-hand processing whenever possible, to name a few criteria.

While a conversation around healthier and more responsible farming, food processing and consumption has been well underway  for decades, little attention has been paid to what people are drinking, where it comes from and how it’s made.

For many wine drinkers, the movement is long overdue.

Credit: praetorianphoto

But despite a progressive philosophy behind the natural wine movement, there has also been a good deal of controversy.

Quality varies, as making wine with such volatile constraints requires the most skilled and knowledgeable to produce successful results.

Sometimes, the bottles spoil or acquire unpalatable faults—other times, the wine simply just isn’t good. Those points are subjects of debate within the natural wine world, too, as thresholds for qualities that used to uniformly be considered winemaking faults, like too much reduction or volatile acidity, are now being considered more along a gradient scale according to personal taste.

France, which has significantly stricter laws governing wine production than the United States does, has been considered a leader in producing high quality natural wines, with major wine producing markets like Italy, Spain, and California just beginning to catch up.

Notable natural wine bars and wine lists are becoming en vogue in Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona, New York, London, Los Angeles and Montreal.

Vino Carta
Nat Diego

Back on the home front, San Diego’s wine industry has gotten in on the natural wine action on several different levels.

Wine producers, like Vesper Vineyards and J. Brix, are making San Diego County wines that are showing up on natural wines around the world.

Wine lists—like the ones at Oceanside’s Dija Mara, Pacific Beach’s Ambrogio15, and University Heights’ Madison—are beginning to go natural.

San Diego also boasts two natural wine bars and stores, Vino Carta in Little Italy and The Rose in South Park.

Along with other wine industry professionals in the county, the proprietors of those two bars banded together last year to start the Nat Diego Natural Wine Festival in San Diego.

This year, the festival will take place over two days, July 27 and 28, bringing together winemakers, importers, sommeliers, consumers and other advocates of the natural wine movement.

Industry seminars will be held at The Rose throughout Friday afternoon, with an opening party open to the public to follow at the same location.

Saturday will feature the Grand Tasting with over 60 producers from around the world at Barrio Logan’s Bread & Salt, which will be catered by MIHO Catering.

Nat Diego will conclude Saturday evening with a free, open-to-the-public after-party at Vino Carta in Little Italy.

Join the movement: find Nat Diego tickets and more details at

Jackie Bryant
Jackie is a freelance writer who lives in Ocean Beach. More of her work can be found at
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