When it comes to natural wines (and all its derivatives, be it organic, sustainable, biodynamic and so forth), Southeast Asia is still playing the catch-up game. Even Singapore, a city that prides itself in being progressive and adventurous pertaining to all matters food and drink, still lags behind when it comes to the appreciation and acceptance of one of the largest wine movements taking place in the world right now. Dubbed as funky, inaccessible, or outright weird, natural wines have been wrongly (in our opinion) slighted by local drinkers.
Still, there are improvements. Natural wines may not be as ubiquitous as their traditional siblings in Singapore’s wine bar landscape, but there are significantly growing pockets where these styles are available, even to the extent where a bar lists entirely sustainable wines, in the case of RVLT and Drunken Farmer.
Across the globe, however, natural wines have taken root. Even in countries like France, where tradition and viticulture appear inseparable, bars have proven for more than a decade that going au naturel is the future. Aux Deux Amis is a key example.
Located on rue Oberkampf, this natural wine bistro has been open for a decade and counting. Established at the turn of the century, where restaurants in the city were striving for reinvention, the duo behind this bistro decided to preserve the past to make it new. David Loyola, who worked at Paris‘ foremost natural wine bistro, Le Chateaubriand, prior to opening Aux Deux Amis, saw potential in the category of wines his occupational alma mater was championing. Enlisting a friend and chef Mathieu Perez, the pair then took over the space of a historic restaurant on the street, branded it Aux Deux Amis, and cultivated a menu based on natural wines paired with hearty, quintessentially European bistro fare.
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Both Loyola and Perez will be coming to Singapore for a week-long takeover, kicking off with a two-night, four hands takeover at Ding Dong on 27 and 28 November, and then a pasar malam and open-air cookout at Open Farm Community on 30 November. When asked what Singapore can expect from their arrival, the two quipped that they were coming to “burn our city down”, in the best way possible, and with plenty of wine to boot.
If you have never heard of natural wines, or find yourself struggling to get on board with the movement, we’ve picked the brains of Loyola and Perez to find out their personal takes on how someone can begin to appreciate the wide, wonderful world this class of wines offer. Have these handy if you choose to patronise any of their events, or just adopt them as rules of thumb the next time you step into a wine bar. Either way, these tips come straight from the mouth of the two men who’ve run one of Paris’ natural wine gems for an age, so you know there are jewels to be found.
Use food as an access point
Aux Deux Amis, as earlier mentioned, was founded on the union between food and natural wines, especially when it was discovered that natural wines formed the ideal companion for the changing tastes in Paris’ gastronomy scene during the mid-2000s. Loyola recommends natural wine and food pairings as an access point to appreciation, so sign up for pairing dinners, or simply ask a sommelier at the next wine bar you visit to orchestrate the perfect pairing.
Reconcile with the fact that natural wines are the future
Traditionalists may hem and haw at this statement, but Perez firmly believes it to be true.
“Natural wines are the future of winemaking,” he claims. “In a few years, there will be the way of natural wines, and there will be the way of the “bad wines”, and these will be distinguished. It’s like food — you either choose to eat good, fresh food or you eat junk food, like McDonald’s. [Traditional wines] are not great for the earth, and the taste isn’t as dynamic. Natural wines are not a fad, like fashion trends. It’s becoming a way to drink and to really appreciate wine.”
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Familiarise yourself with the people who began the natural wine movement
Loyola and Perez both believe that there are certain wineries that make natural wines that are far more accessible. In the case of French natural wines, these are the people the duo dub the caretakers of the “knowledge of the wine gods”. These labels have been making natural wines as early as the ’70s, even before the commercial winemakers caught on to the virtues of green winemaking. Some of these include Jean Foillard, Claude Courtois, Alain Castex, Rene Mosse and Rene-Jean Dard. The list goes on, but these make for a fruitful starting point.
Anyone who has tried natural wines and traditional wines will know that the former is a completely different ballpark from the latter. Loyola believes that this difference is essential to the category.
“Some natural wines will disturb people when they drink it, but to be disturbed is to create new opinions, and the more opinions you have, the more you can understand the differences between the two. It is not about liking or disliking natural wines, it is about accepting the difference, especially because natural wines do not fit a mould like traditional wines do,” he said.
For more information on the Aux Deux Amis takeover, click here.