Playful Magazine met with wine expert Jeff from Rocket Wine.
Written by: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Naked wine, also known for most as natural wine, recently became the new trend all over Europe . Some missed it when it hit Berlin, but a few picked it up. But the word is spreading that the more you drink it the more you want it.
Berlin may not be one of the worlds wine capitals, but it's a city full of passionate people. And some of them focus their knowledge on natural wine. Playful Magazine met with wine expert Jeff from Rocket Wine on Linienstraße in Mitte.
There is a lot of energy in Natural wine, it has made me fly quite a few times
To Jeff, natural wine is merely good wine, just as the butt-naked Freikörperkultur is nothing but swimming and sunbathing. His life experience spans all the way from the farm where he grew up to an educational and professional background in law. But just like many people in Berlin, he let his passions and interests lead the way. So today, instead, he hosts wine tasting sessions and owns the mythical wine shop Rocket Wine. The starting point: from Drink Naked to Rocket Wine "This all started with me, Etienne and Julia, who are today joint owners of bar and restaurant Jaja Naked Wine. I changed the name from Drink Naked because I wanted a name that reflected my own personality when I got involved", says Jeff and continues;
"There's also a very emotional meaning behind it. The name Rocket Wine comes from my favorite bar, Rockette, in Montreal, Quebec."
What is your connection with natural wine?
"As our logo shows there is a lot of energy in Natural wine, it has made me fly quite a few times. But my connection with natural wine started many years ago."
How does natural wine make you fly more than ’regular wine’?
"I find conventional wine super boring; it always tastes the same. Natural wine becomes a lifestyle. It's impossible to disconnect from it once you have truly tried it out. Culturally I can compare this to the Japanese, who are a lot more connected to what they eat and what they absorb than Westerners are in general. There is a reason for it. With natural wine for example, you can sense that your whole body enjoys it. That takes you to new heights."
What is different with the natural wine-makers?
"It's connected to the mindset. With all the add-ons in conventional wine, the process kind of just happens somewhat randomly, and it's not what you thought it would be when you started. With natural wine you make the product that you really wanted to make from the beginning, it's not by chance. That is why there is much more diversity and spectrum in the natural wine tastes than in conventional wine."
Why don’t you like that natural wine is becoming a trend?
"Trends die. People who drink this merely because they saw people on Instagram drink it haven’t got it right. To really enjoy it you need a story behind the bottle. You need to be curious. If you come to our shop, we will share the connection we have to the bottle you buy and engage you. But a lot of people today are stuck in the rat race. They consume things with such high pace, but I think that people want to feel something more than just getting drunk. Though getting wasted on wine is always nice as well."
They say that natural wine doesn’t make you hung over?
"This is why people get addicted to it. The difference is that you add a shit load of chemicals to regular wine. Stuff that the body cannot digest very easily, and the additives poison the body. Of course you get hazy the day after you have drunk a couple of bottles of natural wine if you forgot to eat or drink water. But it does not stay for hours, and after a shower you feel fresh again. Your body digests it because there is no weird stuff in there."
And Organic or Bio wine?
"They still have the additives. So yes, that is still regular wine. With natural wine you get high, your body basically likes it. It's just grape juice."
It seems like the trend has not fully hit Berlin yet. Why is that? The rest of Europe and the fancy restaurants got addicted in 2015?
"No, it has not exploded. It's still tiny. Even though there is quite a nice selection of natural wines in Berlin. I started four years ago. I assume people here want to get drunk cheap, but when they get to taste this they'll probably get stuck."
So, it's not really a great investment machine even during its European hype?
"For the people making these wines, it has nothing to do with the hype. Neither about making money quick, they do it for the passion of it. The regular wine industry is nasty, it's killing the bees and everything."
But is this process new?
"It all started in the 70’s when they noticed that insects were dying and that people got headaches and such, but they wanted to keep on drinking. That is why they started to make wine without additives. It got a boost in Paris, but still. This is decades ago, and it still has not quite hit Berlin."
If you have just one sip it blows your mind. You think, what the fuck is this?
Who drinks natural wine in Berlin? Is it a hipster thing or is it a thing for fancy finance- people?
"The hipsters are drinking it and they get surprised because they get more addicted then they ever knew. Maybe they first came to the shop because they wanted to see what the hype was all about and wanted to be part of it. Even if you only have just one sip, it will blow your mind. You think, what the fuck is this? And you also understand the difference between a natural wine shop and a regular one. People want to come back and be a part of this family”, Jeff says and continues;
"A lot of expats drink it. If you have been connected with someone, or if you are from London, Paris, Copenhagen, Tokyo, New York, where the natural wine is massive. It's definitely a boom but let’s hope it's here to stay. Because a hype is shit and does not last."
So, this is no wine for people pretending to know wine?
"To drink it, sure you will like it. But not to work with it. If you serve it in a restaurant and leave it open for a couple of days and then pour it for a customer. It tastes horrible, and then they think; well it's just how natural wine tastes like. And the one who tastes it thinks, ’My god, it tastes horrible’. And the waiter says, ’Yes, it's funky, natural wine is funky’ and then you are all done with drinking it."
What was your best wine experiences?
"I have a background in wine, and have been working in wine cellars, so I know some things about it. But wine is very personal and the thing behind it's the sharing of the stories and the background. When I started with wine tasting I got in these formal groups that did not make sense. It felt like I had to transform myself to also think some of these wines were good because we were in a very nice castle and so on. But it was the opposite. Today when I taste a wine, and I visit the wine maker and even if I do not know them, they invite me to stay in their home the first night and they invite me for supper. This is people who like to share what they have been doing and discovering, and they like to have fun while doing it. This is the reason why I get a specific feeling with some types of wine. I remember the place where it's made and the story behind it. We have the same interest, and this is something we're building and a business we're growing together”, Jeff says and continues;
"Sometimes I taste a wine that is holy shit amazing, but to me' more important to take in the wine that someone with whom I have spent an evening, has made. We're all learning and in some of these winemakers I can see a lot of potential, maybe in the same way they do in me. Then we can work together. I do not pretend that I buy things just because I like them. I focus on what I feel connected to."
What if I go to a fancy dinner and want to pretend to know wine. Are there any life hacks?
"You cannot pretend to know wine. If you do not know it, it will show. It's the same as pretending you are a construction worker; can you pretend this? No. To me this is the same”, he says and continues;
"But in the same way, if I would sit here with a sommelier, a wine taster and a wine maker we're all going to have our own background. The wine maker is going to talk about the chemistry behind it, and specific parts of the process, and the sommelier is going to talk in a way that is only understood by restaurant customers. The wine taster is going to focus on all its defaults, and I am going to focus more on the story behind the wine and the wine maker. We do not have the same language; we can share a bottle, but the discussion will go over our heads."