Natural Wines... With Hannah Crosbie
We had the pleasure of talking to Hannah, a London-based writer, entrepreneur and wine-drinker, who set up the hugely popular Dalston Wine Club, with the aim of bringing wider accessibility to the wine world and embrace natural wines.
The Dalston Wine Club offers monthly wine tastings in a casual and fun bar setting which she explains, “bridges the gap between the casual wine-drinker and the world’s most exciting natural wine producers.”
What was it that initially sparked you to start the club?
They say a good idea comes from a necessity — Dalston Wine Club is what I wish had existed when I first started getting into wine. I was looking for somewhere where non-professionals could have same exposure to great wine as a trade tasting, without the stress of swirling, spitting or saying the right thing. Somewhere where you can learn about wine in the company of friends. Three sell-outs later, and I think we’re poving that there’s a real hunger for something like this.
Natural wine is widely regarded as more environmentally friendly than other wines, could you tell us a little more about its benefits?
What sets natural and biodynamic winemakers apart is their devotion to the land. They tend not to add any sulphites or use any chemicals or pesticides when making wine. Natural winemaking is not just a way to regenerate and respect the land, it’s also a style that lets the unique quality of their fruit and terroir shine through. Biodynamicism goes one step further, but you could fill several lectures explaining that (quite literally). It’s important to note, however, that there’s no way to legally define natural wine yet, so make sure you do your research if this is something that matters to you.
What was your first experience of natural wines?
It was when I ordered my first case from Modal Wines. They were unlike anything I’d ever tasted before — I could taste the fruit, the soil they were grown on and the unique character of the region. I think I have this eureka moment in common with many people. It’s the moment where you realise that wine doesn’t have to taste like shit, it can be an intensely pleasurable experience.
What are your top 3 tips for more sustainable drinking?
Firstly, do your research. Natural wine has become a bit of a buzzword so there are those trying to jump on the trend.
Secondly, it’s no secret that the distribution of wine accumulates some serious air miles, but there are a select few sellers that have gone carbon neutral, such as the female-owned LITTLEWINE.
Finally, there’s the question of social sustainability. For me, that means that everyone involved in the winemaking process is getting paid a fair wage. When we don’t do our research or hold people to account, situations like the recent exploitation of migrant labour in Italy come to light.
Please let us know your top 5 wine spots in London?
Top Cuvée: I may be a bit of a broken record with this recommendation, but I really can’t fault this friendly bistro. Delicious wines and a delightful rotating seasonal menu.
Silo: Here, I’ve had smoked pumpkin that tastes like German sausage. Owner Douglas McMaster’s careful consideration of every weird and wonderful ingredient makes for a evening of discovery.
Binch: Am I playing favourites here? Quite possibly. This is the bar that plays host to Dalston Wine Club each month. For the rest of the time, they’re a cosy neighbourhood bottle shop with a beer selection to rival stores twice their size.
Noble Rot: If you’re looking to explore fine wine but can’t yet afford a case of 1985 Pomerol, Nobel Rot is a must visit. They use a Coravin to serve some fantastically fine wines by the glass. Wonderfully friendly somms are a total bonus.
10 Cases: A Parisian-esque bistro that feels like you’ve stumbled into someone’s dining room. This venue has charming little nooks where you can hide away with a bottle of amazing wine.
What is your favourite sustainable wine and why?
I’m in constant admiration of the lengths that the team behind Tillingham are willing to go to to ensure sustainability. Every decision is made with agricultural regeneration in mind — they want to leave something behind for the next generation. And that’s exactly what sustainability is all about: thinking of the bigger picture, rather than the wants of the business or the individual. Currently, they’re working towards a closed loop system that encompasses their vineyard, farm and restaurant. A system where every living thing has a part to play in the nature’s cyclical dance of life, death, and rebirth. Their wines are pretty good, too.