The popularity of natural wine and its winemakers is going mainstream fast, particularly in the last five years or so. What's up with that?
A lot of it is happening due to two contributing factors: Social media (especially Instagram), and celebrity advocates such as Action Bronson and co.
We recently hosted a panel with some winemakers, distributors, and journalists in the natural wine category to find out what all the hype is about, if it's good or bad for the natural wine community, and if you should believe the hype!
A History of Hype Juice
During those five years, certain natural wines have become a lot more hyped than others, this is also down to many different reasons like; How ‘cool’ is the label on the bottle, will it trend on Instagram with that insane appearance, or have celebrities like Action Bronson recently endorsed it on Vice?
I don't think many people interested in natural wine check out the wine's Parker Points (but Vivino is still a good resource!). A drop in face-to-face interactions due to the pandemic is likely also increasing a world where consumers are more and more driven to decision-making based on imagery and short descriptions rather than a long conversation with a winemaker, importer, distributor, or shop owner (although you can always reach us at email@example.com!).
Let’s dive a little deeper into the Hype Juice trend and see where this is going!
Popularity on Social Media
With a global pandemic still on our front doorstep, over the last twelve months, winemakers and retailers have had to get creative in alternate ways with how they are selling and/or advertising their wines.
This includes all sorts of Instagram posts and stories, paid-for ads with all the right buzzwords, and brief ‘hipster’ captions to get the hard-fought-for attention of us millennials and Gen Z folk.
Luckily for the retailers, natural wines have always had jaw-droppingly appealing colors and eye-catching, artistic labels
So, due to natural wine’s ‘naturally’ appealing features (excuse the pun), retailers are heavily leveraging punchy imagery and crazy filters now announcing new bottles on their social media accounts (check out this post from @shittywinememes for a laugh!). This isn’t just a happy coincidence when that wine sells out on ‘release day’ due to all the hype from prior weeks, many people fail to buy it on time and as a result, ramps up both the demand and the value of that specific natural wine.
Action Bronson’s Role
For those of you who don't know, Action Bronson is a celebrity New York native chef-turned-rapper who also hosts his show on Vice called "F*ck That’s Delicious". On his show, Bronson can be seen singing the praises of the most authentic cuisines from all around the world alongside drinking a refreshing glass of natural wine at all times, his deep love and interest for the finer things in life i.e natural wine and authentic food have unknowingly made Action Bronson one of the most citable online influencers when it comes to natural wine for the younger generations.
The ‘Susucaru’ by Frank Cornelissen whose wines are grown and made on the side of Mount Etna in Sicily is Action Bronson’s favorite natural wine ever made, we know this because he’s mentioned or drank it on the show multiple times, as well as leaving the world with beautiful quotes on the Sicilian natural wine...
“I’ve been waiting for this Susucaru my whole life, I love this one.”
Before we get carried away with Bronson, let us start by saying that the Susucaru is an amazing natural wine, made by an incredible producer like Frank Cornelissen who is famous for producing world-class wines. But, it’s safe to say that since F*ck That’s Delicious came out, the value and popularity around ‘Susucaru’ and natural wine, in general, has skyrocketed!
What Makes a Wine ‘Hype-Worthy’?
Some reasons more than others make a natural wine ‘hype-worthy’ in this day and age, but for us it stems down to these three main questions;
- Are the colors from this wine appealing enough to catch people’s attention on social media?
- How provocative is the label on the bottle?
- Have Action Bronson and co. recently endorsed it on F*ck That’s Delicious or on their Instagram accounts?
This is not to say that if those three questions are unanswered then you shouldn’t buy that bottle of wine, or at least do your due diligence and look into it a little bit more. We are just providing what we think are the three golden questions someone might ask themselves before buying a bottle of natural wine in today’s Instagram-focused environment.
Some of The Most Hyped Natural Winemakers in The World Right Now
Gut Oggau, Burgenland Austria
The Oggau family have become famous on social media because of their bottle labels, each wine has a label with a hand-drawn portrait of a different family member.
Frank Cornelissen, Mount Etna Sicily
As we mentioned before, Frank Cornelissen has been blessed with some of the best free endorsements by Action Bronson one could ever ask for. Susucaru is bar far the most hyped, but all are excellent!
Lammidia, Abruzzo Italy.
Lammidia is like a fine blend between Gut Oggau and Frank Cornelissen’s popularity. They have a cool label where a CAD crafted hands, pandas, coconuts, or other fun colorful depictions. Lammidia’s Bianchetto was also endorsed by Action Bronson on F*ck That’s Delicious.
So what does all this mean for the natural wine category as a whole?
The main takeaway from last night's event was that, overall, we think having this kind of attention is a net benefit for natural wine as a whole. Regardless of how people are being introduced to the idea of natural wines, the exposure is good, and many times they end up delving deeper and deeper, until one day they're just as natural-wine obsessed as we all are!
That being said, we all certainly look forward to post-COVID days, when we hope the conversation around wine will lean more in the direction of personal conversations, learning, and education, and less about who has the best Instagram profile!
Holly Berrigan is the Founder of MYSA Natural Wine. She has a WSET Level 3 certification with Distinction, is a member and writer for the Porto Protocol and Slow Food USA, and is a student in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge.