Big Mood Natural Wines offers the pure designs of nature
The drinking challenge has been a movement for centuries. Think Boston Tea Party, Tom Pendergast’s bootlegging days or teenage indulgence – which “is very bad” as J-Kwon said in his 2004 club banger, “Tipsy.” .
For those of legal drinking age, natural wine is the modern take on a sentiment as old as time: returning the bird to the establishment and the traditional. Richard Garcia, certified sommelier and owner of Big Mood Natural Wines in the Crossroads, makes us thirsty.
He held similar roles in the food and wine industry for nearly two decades, including a position at Novel as Director of Wines. He thinks traditional vino is a great introduction, but for those who like to sip on the wild side, natural wine is the way to go.
Natural winemaking relies on both humans and Mother Earth, using only grapes, personal care at the vineyard, and native ambient yeasts for fermentation. “It’s very punk rock,” says Garcia. “It’s pro-environment, it’s pro-human because it’s agriculture and winemaking without chemicals. There are [around] 180 additives that can be used in wine. Discovering all this, I realized that natural wine is simply more honest.
The process may be more natural, but when it comes to hangovers, the jury is out on whether the final product has fewer symptoms the next morning. Either way, Garcia wants his guests to indulge in the right amount of ready-made libations. He hand-picks every bottle in his shop from a few trusted importers and offers local bottles as well as those from the farthest corners of the earth. As long as they fit the Big Mood ethos, they are welcome to join the party.
Garcia knows people can feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the assortment, but he doesn’t think it should be taken too seriously. Instead, they should lean into the playfulness and excitement of something unfamiliar – that’s what it’s there for.
Natural wine is all about adventure, but not every bottle will have odd notes like kombucha, witches’ brew, or brine (although some choices offer that, for those in the market). Many are closer to the more traditional whites, reds and rosés.
“They can also be really pristine and reminiscent of your favorite pinot noir,” says Garcia. “A lot of people feel like they don’t understand, but it’s just booze fucking grape juice.”
Garcia shares the utmost respect for the drink while trying to emphasize the importance of accessibility to quality wine. “It shouldn’t be any harder than that. I take care of everything here, so when people come in and have questions, I try not to be intimidating and just be helpful. I want to point people in the right direction, whether it’s supposed to be associated with the meal, just for a vibe, or whether they’re curious about something.
When it comes to summer wines, the grape varieties are as ephemeral as the fresh morning air of July. Garcia has some definite recommendations, such as dandruff wines, which are basically white wines made like red wines. The variety is sometimes considered “wine orange”, but only for its color as it has nothing to do with Tropicana.
“Skin contact means the juice is left in contact with the grape skins for an extended period of time, which extracts color and texture, also known as tannins,” Garcia explains. “It’s the astringency you notice when you drink a really bold red. It’s what sucks the moisture out of your mouth when you take a sip.
He also recommends piquettes, which aren’t technically wine but are made by reusing previously pressed grape skins and solids. This results in a lower alcohol content with a hint of carbonation, making the drink refreshing and easy.
As food enthusiasts in all regions take a more critical look at their choices — and what those decisions support financially — Garcia says alcohol should be treated like fruits and vegetables: inspected carefully. For those who are curious about natural wine, he is eager to pour you a glass and tell you all about it.