Growing Wine the Age-Old Way

Call me brilliant — I’ve found a way to drink a couple of glasses of wine and still feel great the following day.

A handful of years ago, I tasted my first sip of a dry-farmed wine from the Mediterranean without even knowing anything about its growing methods. Not only was the taste a palate-pleaser, but the day to follow was even better: no hangover or bloated feeling — my tummy actually felt great — and I slept peacefully through the night. On my visit to the southern Mediterranean the following summer, I continued to nurture my newfound love of dry-farmed wines by going straight to the inexpensive local table wines. I’d indulge in a few glasses at times and could even workout later that day (Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you guzzle wine and then train!).

So, what is the secret behind this magic?

It comes down to two factors.

First, dry-land farming is one of the safest ways to make wine. This method, in which the grapes rely solely on Mother Nature for water (i.e. rain), thus resulting in deeper roots on the vines and a more intense flavor in the glass, was a staple agricultural approach for millennia in places like the Mediterranean.

Social media outlets like Instagram have helped to bring these ancient practices in farming and food back into the news today, and trendsetters like Modern Farmer and Bon Appétit are running stories that feature gorgeous imagery that irresistibly draws attention to their publications while spreading the word about farming without chemicals.

Lucky for us, American farmers could be spearheading the healthiest agriculture practices in the world as they focus more and more on the microbiome quality of soil and use age-old farming methods of growing and harvesting, combined with cutting-edge science that wasn’t available to their wise Mediterranean forebears.

Second, wine is technically a fermented food, and we all know that fermented foods can be really good for your gut.  Sulfite-free wine contains more microbial diversity than sulfite-added wines, and according to a research article in The Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, wines that are sulfite-free during fermentation contain even more diversity. That’s why I recommend choosing dry-farmed wines when possible because they usually come without added sulfites and fit into the Wild Mediterranean way of marrying the science of the microbiome with the food on your plate.

Where to Buy Dry Farmed Wines

Though it’s currently rare to find these natural wines (especially sugar-free, low alcohol, low sulfite natural wines) in the U.S., here are a few tips to ensure you pick the cleanest possible wines when you go to a restaurant or local wine shop:

Ask for Natural Wines. Natural wines are always dry-farmed. Often, a bartender or sommelier will know a few natural wines on the wine menu. The word “natural” is becoming trendy in certain wine circles, so you may get lucky!

Go European. Look for French wines from the popular, cool climate, natural wine regions like the Loire Valley and Jura. Choose grapes like Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. These wines are more likely to be in the Mediterranean style.

Go organic/biodynamic. It’s more likely that farmers and winegrowers who believe in organic and biodynamic practices will produce cleaner, lower sulfite, and more honest wines.
Go sugar-free. A “dry” wine is sugar-free but the term is often misused. To be clear, ask for a wine that has no sugar in it (less than 1g/l).

Even with these tips, it’s hard to know what’s really in the wine. That’s why, when I’m not traveling around the Mediterranean I look to online shopping from Wine-Searcher, Wine Exchange, or a wine club like Dry Farm Wines which is a great resource for dry-farmed, low sulfite, natural wines. The wines have all been incredibly delicious, dry, mineral-rich, and left me feeling great. They’re the most convenient way to get Wild Mediterranean-style wines to your door.

These are some of my favorites:

Brusco – 100% Sangiovese. Crisp summer red to be served chilled. Very emblematic of light, Italian table wine – clean, fresh, and great red fruit.

Rosso Campanino – delicious Italian red from the mountains of Umbria (northern Italy). The beautiful minerality of this wine reflects the dense clay and granite soil of the vineyard. Great representation of Italy.

Greco di Tufo – one of my favorite Italian whites. Fuller body and exemplifying a coastal saltiness. Also very clean.

Tete en l’air – Crémant (sparkling French) from the Loire Valley. Bright, bubbly, great texture on the palate. Shows you how white grapes grow in the luscious Loire region, where rainfall and cool climate is abundant.

Broully “Corentin” – made from the French red grape Gamay, this wine is symbolic of our most popular style of wine: medium-bodied reds for easy drinking with a great balance of earth and fruit. It’s from Beaujolais, a sub-appellation of the famous southeastern Burgundy region.

Méli Mélo – crisp light rosé from the Touraine region in Loire Valley (the most popular natural wine region in France). Touraine is known for producing a little fuller wines, so it’s great to have this lighter rosé as a balance. Fresh berry and citrus notes balance some hints of soil.

So, for your next wine drinking endeavor, consider a dry-farmed wine. Your body will thank you.