It is hard to to think of a better name for a natural winery than “Field Recordings” as it conjures images of both 20th century visionary avant-garde music making as wine making as an expression of terroir.
Natural wine making is often characterized as a style in which “nothing is added and nothing is taken away.” This definition might strike some as to restrictive as it would not permit a winemaker to implement even the most minimal modifications to a wine that prevents it from turning from an elegant expression of terroir into a one-dimensional brett bomb (not uncommon), or using subtle filtration to achieve a certain visual appearance of a wine. What such a strict definition would definitely would preclude is to add herbs to a wine to create an innovative product.
Adding hops to a wine, or more precise, dry-hopping a fermented wine, is the kind of wild card move that definitely constitutes “adding something” to a wine but also embodies the adventurous spirit of many (young) natural winemakers who have little reservations about straddling the boundaries between wine and beer culture.
Adding herbs, spices, or fruits to a (finished) wine is certainly not new but the practice is mostly associated with cocktail making or seasonal (mulled) wines. Blending wine into a (spontaneously fermented) beer, however, is now quite common and breweries like Cantillion have pioneered this practice in Belgium, followed by Wild Ale makers in the US such as Upright Brewing. Depending on the ratio between the two, and whether co-fermentation was pursued, the end results can be a beer that tastes like wine or a wine that tastes like beer.
The Field Recordings Dry Hop Pet Nat wine is definitely a wine that smells and tastes a little bit more like a beer due to the addition of hops. The choice to do this with a pét–nat wine further elevates the beer connotation because of its funky and carbonated character. So how does it all come together?
The Dry Hop Pet Nat pours a hazy, light yellow. A tangy, yeasty, aroma with some fruit, sweetness, and mild wet hops note. Medium carbonation and medium mouthfeel. Taste is quite clean with orange and lime notes, with a lingering bitter, “hoppy” finish. Some sediment was left after completion of the bottle.
A hopped pét–nat could be a good idea in theory but a disaster in practice, but the result here is actually quite likable and subtle. This opens the door to a plethora of experiments as there are many types of hops and dry hopping regimes. Cantillon has resoundingly demonstrated that spontaneously fermented beers and (dry) hopping can be a beautiful combination and there is a place for adding hops to (sparkling) wines as well.
I’d personally favor other herbs to be the dominant player in such efforts but this might be just a matter of time. This is a good wine, not a great wine, but I suspect that great wines can be achieved through the addition of herbs.