With the niche natural wine movement gaining momentum around the world, a growing number of wineries are turning back the clock.
Natural wines are made with little or no chemical and technological interventions, such as growing grapes without pesticides and adding minimal amounts of chemicals to do away with the filtration in the wine-making process. Wines that are not naturally produced typically contain additives such as sugar, acids and enzymes to enhance and preserve their flavours.
Wine lovers and oenophiles can get a taste of natural wines at this year's Wine Fiesta, an outdoor wine festival that will be held from Oct 20 to 23 at Clifford Square, an open space beside The Fullerton Bay Hotel. Tickets are $50 a person.
In its ninth edition, the annual event will showcase 350 wine labels from 70 winemakers around the world.
Nine of the labels will carry natural wines, which are making their debut in Asia. These small-scale and independent wineries hail from an emerging wine region, Basket Range in Adelaide Hills, South Australia. The wineries include Lucy Margaux, which is started by Anton van Klopper, one of the pioneers of natural wine-making in Australia, and Ochota Barrels, which produces wines from grapes that are picked early to conserve their natural acidity.
Ms Kathy Lim-Sheehy, 43, group chief executive of The Straits Wine Company, the event's organiser, was surprised to see natural wines served in trendy restaurants when she visited Sydney earlier this year.
She says: "With the recent trend of farm-to-table dining, in which chefs are focused on sustainable and eco-friendly ingredients, natural wines complement this concept with a bottle-to-table route."
She has also observed a burgeoning demand for natural wines here as her company supplies them to about 20 restaurants, including Australian eateries Cheek by Jowl in Boon Tat Street and Burnt Ends in Teck Lim Road.
The Straits Wine Company's head sommelier Moritz Deyle, 36, says that while the natural wine movement peaked in the 1970s in Loire Valley, France, it has seen a recent revival.
He notes: "Like the rise of farmers' markets, people are starting to become aware of what goes into their wines."
Taste-wise, he says that natural wines are more intense and fruity, as the grapes undergo fermentation with skins, and are harvested earlier when they are more acidic and less ripe.
Wines start at $30 a bottle at Wine Fiesta.
Besides wine, the food sold at the festival will also have a natural focus, with restaurants using locally sourced ingredients. Chefs from nine eateries will serve dishes that can be paired with wines. Prices of food start at $7.
One of the participating eateries is Good Chance Popiah, which has outlets in Silat Avenue and Jalan Besar. It is debuting its salted egg crab meat popiah at the event. The popiah is served with Sri Lankan crab meat mixed with salted egg yolk mayonnaise.
The eatery's fourth-generation owner, Mr Boon Kai Chun, 32, says: "Salted egg yolk is such a trendy flavour, and with salmon roe in the popiah, the dish can get quite salty, so pairing it with wine will make the taste not too cloying and smoother."
Another restaurant, Tin Hill Social in Turf Club Road, will be presenting a taco of bamboo-smoked, locally caught Spanish mackerel ceviche and flower crab garum (fermented fish sauce) topped with butterfly pea flowers foraged from Bukit Timah.
Head chef Michael Lewis, 29, says: "The dish is lightly acidic and has a mineral-like taste. The wine adds a hint of smokiness and spiciness."
Visitors can also attend 40 free wine masterclasses on topics such as natural wines and wine and food pairing.
New this year are the Wine Circle sessions, where visitors can interact with winemakers. They will be held twice a day at Customs House.
• Go to winefiesta.com.sg for more information