Turkey Flat: Natural wine has led consumers towards lighter styles

The natural wine movement has been a key element in the consumer shift towards lighter wine styles, according to Turkey Flat co-owner Alex Schulz.

Some vines at Turkey Flat winery in the Barossa Valley date back to the mid-1800s (Photo: Turkey Flat)

“The rise of natural wine has contributed to the market becoming much more aware of lighter and brighter styles, particularly when talking about red wine,” said Schulz.

“We have definitely seen this trend in the market here in Australia – I think demand for fresher and more elegant styles has also been a constant in all markets,” he added.

An inevitable corollary of this (reported) widespread consumer rejection of alcoholic and extracted wine styles has been a move towards reduced levels of new oak in Australian winemaking. That’s according to Greenstone Vineyards winemaker Han Tao Lau.

“There is definitely a trend towards wines that are fresher, crunchier, and juicier,” said Lau.

“We want our wines to taste of fruit and the site that its grown on, not of trees. We avoid over-oaking by our choice of oak, choice of cooper (some cooperages make more “oaky” barrels than others), and the size of the vessel.”

Similarly, Paul Cluver winemaker Andries Bulger has argued that South Africa is heading down the same path.

“I do think there is a definite trend towards less is more – people want to taste more wine and less wood,” said Bulger.

“In South Africa there has been a general trend amongst some winemakers moving away from heavily- oaked wines. Reducing the amount of new oak definitely contributes to making wines more refined, but the grape quality, the rate of ripening and where they were grown should have a bigger impact.”

In recent times, winemakers across the world have sought out alternatives to the 225 litre French barriques, including amphorae, cement tanks and larger oak vats.

However, US-based sommelier Zach Jones argues that there will always be a willing audience for the so called ‘Parkerised’ fruit bombs, even if they appear anachronistic to Millennial consumers.

“There are still the old guard who produce the heavily-oaked, overly-extracted style of wine, and there is certainly still an audience for that. I don’t think that style of winemaking will ever fade away, and it doesn’t have to,” said Jones, a sommelier at Pacific Standard Time in Chicago.

“An area where we’ve gotten push back is with Chardonnay – there is still a contingent of customers who came up drinking the butter bombs made in the 80s and 90s and still insist on that style, so we always keep one on hand.”

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