“London has always been a hub for the world’s wines,” says Tom Harrow, director of Honest Grapes, a premium retailer with tiered wine clubs, including an invite-only Grand Crew Classé for fine wine drinkers in the capital and abroad. “This city might not be the most significant when it comes to volume but it is the most important in terms of prestige and influence,” he explains inside members’ club 67 Pall Mall, where we are gathered for a tasting of sparkling wines from the Franciacorta region, Italy’s answer to Champagne. Like the famous French appellation, Franciacorta is made using the ‘classic method’ of second fermentation in the bottle. Infinitely more complex than a Prosecco and with a Champagne-like finesse, Franciacorta sparklers are gaining a lot of attention at the moment, not least because Franciacorta aims to be the world’s first fully organic wine-growing region by 2020 – an ambition that many of the oenophiles in the room welcome, and they are not alone.
Natural, craft, slow… whatever you choose to call it, the wine world is undergoing a sea change in its approach, with many producers, even in the Old World, converting to organic practice both in the vineyard and cellar. Why? “The results are self-evident,” says Harrow. “Pontet-Canet, Domaine Leflaive and M. Chapoutier, three of the top producers in three of the world’s greatest regions, have already converted to biodynamic, a more extreme approach to organic farming] and are making better wines than ever.” Some might argue it was only a matter of time given the world’s progressive desire for provenance. But this is a movement driven by more than fashion, health and environmentalism. “As ever with wine, the proof is in the tasting,” says Harrow. Both wine producers and drinkers are switching to organic because the product, quite simply, tastes better.