Natural Britain: Checking the Pulse of the UK Alternative Wine Scene

A couple of years ago I wrote the following piece referring to Australia’s emergent counter culture of youthful growers, restaurateurs & sommeliers, and drinkers, as part of a thriving and healthy wine scene. I compared it to the UK, the self-proclaimed centre of the world wine trade which has always purportedly been the most diverse of all markets with wines from every country available in our supermarkets and shops. Yet, there is also a complacency that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds and that we are living in the best of times with access to the best of wines. This is not the case. The energy, the excitement, the sense of discovery, above all the passionate link to wines and the growers, is largely absent, and where sommeliers and wine buyers do want to spread their wings they have to work within a discouraging profit margin system decreed by bean-counters and “beverage purchasers”.

The times they are rapidly a-changing. From specialist wine bars and bistros to top-end restos, from indie retailers to specialist importers the natural wine scene (in London mainly) has galvanised the overall wine scene. Of course, it is not game, set and match – there are loads of wine lists purveying mediocrity at extortionate mark-ups, supermarkets dominate the perception of the value of wine and the wine press still treats natural wines at best as an irrelevance, at worst as evidence of terrorist (rather than terroir-iste) winemaking.