Covert Farms Sparkling Zinfandel 2021 $28.50

When you’re involved in the wine industry everyone wants to corner you to talk about natural wine. Its fans want to extoll its pure virtues, its detractors lay out its many faults and I find neither of these two solitudes are all that interested in listening to what the other side has to say.

But in the middle are the general wine-consuming public who are merely curious but don’t know where to start.  It’s a daunting place, especially given that there is no concrete definition of what constitutes “natural” wine. For me the best starting point is local: while there are some wonderful international producers making low-intervention wine (a frankly better term than “natural”), I think one of the hallmarks of this movement that I gravitate to is the concept of deepening ones connection to the land and the people who work on it.

I also like to steer newbies towards trying low-intervention wines from producers who make wine all across the spectrum. We have a growing number of excellent producers who do nothing but low intervention, but for a first bottle I often find comfort in an operation that works on an established baseline of consumer friendliness.

This wine has both. For starters its grown by the organic pioneers at Covert Farms, one of the first producers to not only embrace organic farming but fully implementing regenerative farming practices (cover crops, proper crop rotation, the presence of livestock—here’s editor Alyssa Hirose’s take on her visit to the farm). And while none of Covert’s wines are anywhere near what you’d call “corporate”, this bottle of bubbles is definitely the most hands off of their all organic offerings (if you want to go more traditional, this elegant bottle of Chardonnay is dynamite good).

It features a truly unique take on the hearty red grape Zinfandel – making it both rosé and sparkling, a combination you’re unlikely to come across anywhere else (obscurity is a huge plus in the natural world). It’s made by the Ancestral Method of making bubbles, meaning a secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. You might know the method by its more common name —Pét Nat. What this means is that no two bottles are exactly the same, a prospect that thrills acolytes and leaves naysayers scratching their heads.

I had two bottles of this recently and there were definite differences—one bottle would literally not stop its slow speed fizzing, so much that I ended up just pouring it as bubbles kept trickling out the neck a full 30 seconds after opening it. One thing both bottles have in common is an overarching dryness (much of the sweetness is consumed in that secondary fermentation) and a very elegant, austere note that’s more tart rhubarb than lush strawberries. The nose…it’s on the light funky side. Not nearly as funky as some, but not the confected fruit basket of red fruit one gets in an industrial rosé.

You might love it, it might not be your cup of tea—both takes are fine with me. What you will know is that it’s been made by serious people who are invested not just in this bottle, but the land it comes from and the generations of their family who have farmed it.

Which brings me to my last selling point—they keep it real on the price. The Okanagan has a spate of over $40 experiments with wacky grape combination in this realm. Some are amazing, some are interesting but—call me cheap—I’m not in the habit of routinely rolling the dice on a $42 bottle of wine. This is an exceptionally reasonable price to pay for a wine that lets you sample what this exciting new world is all about. A small price to pay for introducing someone to a brave new world.