Recently we’ve had several people ask us about how we got into natural wine and what the best way is to study it since most of the formal education programs ignore it. This was a very good question that had me reflect on how I initially found natural wine and realized it started by accident with a book. While in my WSET 2 program, I came across the book Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole by accident and it had me enamored with biodynamics within the first 2 chapters. From there it was a whirlwind of books, industry events, and local communities that really helped me understand the natural wine world.
I've broken this blog out into a series on Entry, Intermediate, and Advanced reading for those interested in natural wine so that you can jump in at any point and take off from there! In this blog I'll be focused on the books we recommend when you first realize natural wine exists and are trying to just understand what it all means!
While we hope to facilitate the natural wine world local community thing from wherever you are via our wine club and Pipette partnership, I am happy to put down some of my favorite books so you can get started and would love to hear from y’all the books, blogs, and other resources you follow for your natural wine education! Note: this blog contains affiliate links.
While not technically a book on natural wine, Marissa is a huge player in the Natural Wine world and wrote a book that is completely approachable to wine generally as well as hitting on the finer points of wines she loves, which are almost exclusively natural wines! If you are really dipping your toe in the water with your wine knowledge, I would absolutely start with this book for basic terminology, regional information, and general laughs about how ridiculous the wine world can be. She has a special "Ross" test that you'll learn about as well that we had my grandad try over Christmas to much success, so have fun with it and use this book as a way to make yourself feel good about the journey you're about to embark on!
We're now getting slightly more serious about your initial studies! At Through the Grapevine, we consider Isabelle Legeron as the final word on natural wine. She is a Master of Wine (i.e. she has gone through the highest ranks of formal wine education) and speaks with immense passion about organics, biodynamics and dry farming. Consider this book like your textbook. It reads like you will have a test about specific sections and has fun anecdotes about some of the most famous natural wine producers. It also goes over some of the most famous natural wines that you can hopefully find and compare against some of Isabelle's tasting notes!
Like I mentioned in the intro, I ordered this book based on the name knowing nothing about biodynamics while in my first WSET class. After you've gotten wine basics down and have your natural wine textbook for guidance, jumping into Katherine's novel on biodynamic winemakers in Oregon is a great next step. All of the anecdotal information about how these vintners create such beautiful wines and all the approaches to keeping a sustainable vineyard will inspire you and make you want to book a trip to Willamette immediately! (Note, we still haven't been out there yet, please send suggestions!) I can't recommend this book enough considering how life-changing it was for me and if you're already interested in natural wine, I am sure it will not steer you wrong.
Also not technically a natural wine book, however, you can't hone your tasting skills without something to compare your notes to! With gorgeous graphics and descriptors for some of the most planted grape varieties, Madeline and Justin do an amazing job in visualizing for you what you're likely smelling and tasting so that you can build your own frame of reference over time. There will be some overlap in the initial sections with Marissa's book, but consider hers more anecdotal while WineFolly is more visual. Think of this book as the better alternative to tasting notes and flashcards, with enough info to get your well acquainted with conventional wine profiles and all the fruits, smells, and flavors you can fathom!
There are of course so many other great wine writers out there, (we'll get to the Alice Feirings and Jamie Goodes later) but these all set me up for understanding natural wine several years ago and are always my go-to's when someone first tells me they have heard about natural wine and want to learn more!