Sitting in Bar Brutal in Barcelona, the vibe is everything you look for when you’re at a natural wine bar. Tons of open bottles, everyone talking to their neighbor about what producer they came here to try, specifically the Brutal ones.
What is Brutal Wine:
A Brutal!!! wine is a wine that is an experiment the producer with no-added sulphur. They can have a technical fault to them or just be different than what the winemaker normally produces. Each vintage changes, making them quite rare and very collectible in the natural wine community.
Brutal Wine's History:
All of this started with a conversation three winemakers had several years ago. Laureano Serras, Joan Ramon Escoda, and Anthony Tortul got together at Tortul’s winery and kept using their Catalan dialect and slang calling it “Brutal." This is similar as if we called a wine, "dope", "dank", or "sick" in English.
Anthony, who is French, thought they were saying the wine was garbage when it actually meant it was very good in Catalan. In the confusion, he went upstairs and made a label called it “Brutal” and brought it down to them.
Brutal!!! Wine Labels:
The label is typically black with yellow and red accents and says “Brutal!!!”. It also usually has a Grim Reaper reaping SO2 on the label, signifying the general significance around the wine not having any added sulfur.
Many producers decide to stick with the now traditional label you see above. In that case, the producer information is only shown on the back of the bottle. It could be on any style from a Riesling bottle, to a clear pét-nat bottle.
What makes a Brutal!!! wine?
Brutal as a term is very much part of the natural wine movement.
Organic and Biodynamic Production
In the natural wine space, where this category squarely lands, (no conventional wine would fit into this category) this should go without saying. However, it is still worth noting that a Brutal wine should be made with grapes that are minimum organically farmed.
This means no pesticides or herbicides would be used on the grapes.
The most important requirement for a Brutal wine is that it is zero/zero. This means that nothing was added and nothing taken out of the grape juice being made into wine.
The wine that is an experiment
In addition, each winemaker can only have one Brutal!!! wine a harvest. A winemaker should not have multiple versions of a Brutal!!!, as the label is meant to signify that it is the most experimental wine they made that vintage.
There also should not be any sulfites in it (thus the grim reaper and the SO2 aforementioned) and the vintner should be intervening as little as possible in the wine. Note: sulfites are naturally occurring in all wine, so that does not mean the bottle is sulfur free!
It has gotten a reputation for being some of the most bizarre wines out there, but it is actually just a wine that the winemaker experimented with. It does not have to be the most strange one that they've ever made.
Who makes Brutal!!! wine?
Because Brutal!!! is not an organization (though it does normally say Brutal Wine Corporation on the label), it is impossible to answer this question with accuracy. However, from what we've seen, there are around 50+ producers making these wines and it can expand by someone with the label bestowing the label on another winemaker.
Some of the big hitters that we know are making the wines include: Christian Tschida, Mendall, Gut Oggau, Pirouette, l'Octavin. There are others across the United States, Australia, California, France, Spain, Austria, and probably other wine producing locations as well.
Where to buy Brutal!!! Wine:
This is the trickier part. Brutal!!! wines are typically highly allocated (a lot of stores have already claimed them) so they can be hard to find.
MYSA carries them fairly frequently but can sell out quickly! We have seen them in Boston at the Wine Bottega, a couple of retail stores in Bushwick, and, of course, at Bar Brutal in Barcelona. Any place that is focused on drinking only natural wine is a good contender for potentially having a brutal natural wine.
The Future of Brutal!!! Wine
The Brutal!!! the movement started with this initial interaction, but has become something no one owns. Brutal!!! is now an open-source label that winemakers can use when they are testing a vintage to participate in the movement that year.
It has grown in popularity and prominence, with one even being featured on a Master of None episode. Because of its collectible nature, our belief is that Brutal!!! as a wine category will continue to expand and find adoption across natural winemakers.
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.