Sometimes, at the end of a long day or week or even hour, you just need to pour yourself a big glass of wine. Should that glass turn into three or more? Well, chances are you may find yourself at 3 a.m., jolted awake by sugar, preservatives, and additives. If you’re slightly luckier, perhaps you’ll sleep fine, but come dawn, your head feels like someone’s playing heavy metal next to your bed.
Enter: natural wine.
Chances are you’ve heard of natural wine; you may even already prefer to drink it. It’s bourgeois and trendy. Often it’s found at the center of hipster and indie events, being sniffed by some arty type in a checkered coat. But natural wine is not new; winemakers have been making wine without additives for thousands of years. These days, it goes by the names of organic or biodynamic as well as natural, but it’s all the same thing: grape juice with no additives.
Before you get too excited, technically natural wine is not hangover free, but they are sulfite-free. Sulfite is known for being the nasties in your mass-produced bottle, so not having it is a very good thing.
Choosing the right natural wine can be as challenging as trying to find the right partner, though.
Pick the wrong one and the taste may be funky — even hard to drink. Annette Bergevin from Bergevin Lane Vineyards and Fern Stroud from BlackVines share their thoughts on the natural wine industry, the queer community within wine country, and of course, their favorite tipple. Here’s how to enjoy the right bottle with some tips from incredible queer women in the wine industry.
GO Magazine: Natural wine is all the rage. Would you say is it a trend, or is natural wine here to stay?
Fern Stroud: Natural wine is absolutely forging its way, being a popular choice for a very influential emerging group of wine buyers. It’s a simpler alternative to traditional bubbles requiring less work on the backend. I think Pet Nat is serving a need the market has been waiting to be filled.
Annette Bergevin: We have folks asking if we produce organic wines, but our winemaking methods utilize traditional winemaking practices. We do make a LIVE certified and Salmon Safe wine called the Princess Syrah. Salmon-Safe works to keep agricultural watersheds in the Pacific Northwest clean enough for salmon to spawn and thrive.
GO: Tell us honestly, is it really hangover free?
Stroud: Hangover free? Perhaps, due to the lower sugar and alcohol percentages, it will not cause as bad of a hangover as, let’s say, a hard spirit, but if you drink enough of anything it can have that pesky by-product we call hangover.
Bergevin: Wine contains alcohol, thus the name wine and not grape juice! If you consume too much, you will likely have a hangover. Our motto is ‘Drink responsibly!’
GO: Do you notice trends in the Lesbian community in regards to wine or natural wine, and what wines are preferred by the LBGTQ+ community if any?
Stroud: In general, the industry is opening up, and with that comes new players. We look forward to seeing more LGBTQ+ industry professionals in all areas of the business. They can reach out to us for sure!
Bergevin: I have a fantastic group of lesbian women connected in my wine world, but the overall trending response from them is that they do not gravitate towards natural wines. They are interested in the story; however, the flavor profiles, in their collective opinions, tend to be funky. They are not dismissive of the wines. They have not experienced enough consistency in what they have tried to say overall natural wines suit their palates. They lean towards supporting those wineries producing quality wines and in conjunction who are also welcoming to them. The key factors are drinkability and affordability. They are not afraid to spend money on wines they feel hit those sweet spots!
GO: Tell us more about the queer community within the wine industry!
Stroud: Organizations such as Out in the Vineyard and Oakland Pride are exposing the queer community to wine brands. [With] queer leadership within the industry, it will continue to grow.
Bergevin: Wine brings people together. When we first opened in 2002, we had a local barber say he would not drink our queer wine. People have chosen not to buy our wine because we are gay, and that is their choice. We love and appreciate the support of the queer community and raise our glasses to everyone who is part of our journey and our progress.
GO: How did you come to be in the wine industry?
Stroud: We started by creating a festival rooted in building community and providing exposure for Black-owned wine brands. We have been and always will be dedicated to building community [as] an inclusive community of wine lovers, educators, industry professionals, and artists gathered to celebrate in peace, love, and joy.
Bergevin: Walla Walla was in its infancy of becoming a wine mecca, and I would travel home and visit the wineries with my dad and friends. I fell in love with everything about it: the people, the places, the vineyards, and the wine. 18 years later, we’re still living the dream!
GO: What’s your best tip for gay travelers wanting to connect to or experience the wine industry?
Stroud: Be yourself and enjoy the journey! In all my wine travels, I have found that being curious about the wines being tasted and connecting on a human level with the folks presenting the wine has proven to be the best eye-opener. Seek out queer wine professionals in the area you’re visiting. I know we have tons of queer (and ally) wine professionals here in the Northern California region.
Bergevin: Do your research. There are many wine tasting rooms popping up in urban areas, but exploring the regions where the grapes are grown [is] a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the wine industry culture. Wine is a journey, from the time the grapes are planted and harvested until it finds its way into a bottle and on to your table. There are also gay travel sites that cater to the wine-loving LBGTQ+ communities. I happen to know a winery named Bergevin Lane Vineyards that would love to host gay travelers!
GO: And finally, what’s your favorite wine and why?
Stroud: Big bold reds! I love love love Syrah and Rhone-style blends. I love how reds open up over a course of a meal or just as you sit and enjoy it with friends. The journey is grand for sure.
Bergevin: My favorite wine is Randy Dunn’s Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. My father bought several vintages back in the 1980s. He would always share a bottle with me when I came home — that became our thing. The memories of enjoying those bottles with my dad were worth way more than leaving the bottles to age in his cellar — [they are] priceless.