While slow brewing in Asia, natural wine has taken a stronghold of the western world — and DJs are falling for its adventurous flavour, and complimenting it with the music they play. British DJ and producer Trus’Me is one such DJ, and he’s recently opened a natural wine bar in his current home of Lisbon. We asked him about his relationship with naked grapes, and what fascinated him about the world of natural wine over “regular” wine.
“I have been fascinated by the amount of flavour that one can experience through this wild beverage,” explains Trus’Me. “Regular wine will tend to taste very similar and will have a constricted feeling to it. Natural wines run free. There’s something very beautiful in the relationship we create with wild yeast and bacteria; they are everywhere around us. And the fact that we can harvest it and express the place where the grapes are grown into a glass of wine just amazes me every time. Sometimes I can spend a long time just smelling the wine even before tasting it; my lips are already stretched into a wine smile. “Regular” wines just don’t have that effect on me.”
“Since my first sip of natural wine in 2015, when I felt like I was drinking the Sun in a glass, I haven’t stopped pursuing and involving myself with these wines,” he adds. “I’ve harvested, participated in vinifications, wine fairs, studied, worked as a sommelier in a wine bar called Senhor Uva (Mister Grape in Portuguese) and now I import and distribute natural wine from Australia to Portugal with a company called Ressaca Tropical (Portuguese for Tropical Hangover) and looking to produce some wine this year.”
Taking his love for natural vino one step further, Trus’Me recently opened Dahlia in Lisbon, which doubles as a vinyl-only listening room as well as its natural wine offerings alongside Middle Eastern / Mediterranean style plates. He worked on the project together with Bali-based but Portuguese-born architect and DJ Tiago Oudman. The record collection spans 6,000 pieces of vinyl and was hand-picked by Trus’Me, who runs the Prime Numbers record label and has been collecting records for over 20 years. The natural wine gets help from Carlos Manuel, the man behind Ressaca Tropical which focuses on the importation of Australian natural wines.
Why Lisbon? “Lisbon has it all. Wines from all over the world, amazing wine professionals, winemakers a step away from the city, great prices and all that in amazing weather!”
“We run events where we incorporate DJs and wine to formalise the stuffiness around wine and make it open to everyone."
Looking to enhance our own natural wine education and obsession, we asked Trus'Me to make us a list of natural wines we need to try, and where to try them...in Europe. Summer plans sorted?
"Ah this wine is a masterpiece, in my opinion, the best Portuguese white on the market right now. Beautiful acidity with a touch of salinity, green bell peppers and herbal notes with a generous body and a touch of residual that just makes you want to hug it. Nothing like it out there. When it first came out it had a slight default in the flavour but despite that, I pushed to have it on the list in the restaurant I worked in—everyone was disappointed and afraid to sell it. I insisted nonetheless. After some time the default has now gone and the wine is a staple at the venue."
Where to drink it: "It’s a hard one to find outside of Portugal, so definitely go to Senhor Uva when in Lisbon. You can have it paired with their amazing food. Definitely the best vegetarian place in town."
"This is one of those wines that makes me smile just from smelling it—candied angelica (or Lovage), honey and apricot. This is a sauvignon like you’ve never seen before, picked a bit later in the season, it carries a crystalline acidity and a generous body that will carry you to the heavens. You can drink this on its own or pair it with some nice foie gras, comté or even some river fish and asparagus—but be sure to decant it about an hour in advance as it will shine all the better. The first time I drank this wine was at my job. I had just arrived and was still in the dish pit. Just before closing, we had some “big” clients come in and have that. They left half of it in the decanter. Our boss said, "guys, you have to try this”. Everyone served themselves a glass and since I didn’t have one, I just drank straight from the decanter hahaha. Everyone was in shock. I’m a pretty tall guy so a decanter looks like glass in my hand. We all laughed. That day I remember I walked home, it was a 50-minute walk and, I’ll never forget, about 30 minutes in I still had the flavour in my mouth. Pure bliss!"
Where to drink it: "You can find this beauty at the iconic wine bar Vino Vero in Venice! All the best natural wines in the world sitting on a terrace by the canal? Need I say more?"
"This one has so much going on it’s hard to know where to start—black tea and bergamot, chamomile, sweet peaches, pine and mint. And we haven’t had a sip yet! In the mouth, it’s dry with light tannins, just enough to make it interesting, good acidity and salinity to make it thirst-quenching. Definitely a unique style of Riesling, this wine will make you rethink what you know about this grape. It can go all on its own as an aperitif or paired with some nice Asian food, smoked fish and fresh herbs, definitely can take some spice. Jordan Hein has an off-grid winery, working completely off of rainwater, bore water and solar panels. Not only his wines are unique but his winery as well! Once I introduced him to some friends here in Lisbon after a video call and after they told me I couldn’t introduce hottie winemakers to them when they’re looking all messy hahaha."
Where to drink it: "Flora in Viseu. They have a great selection of natural wines and very unique wildcrafted cuisine."
"This one is really old school “peasant” style of wine typical of the north of Portugal. It’s made from a Teinturier grape so it has a deep dark violet colour to it and it will stain anything that it touches. Up in the north, they serve it in white bowls, the contrast is just beautiful. Your smile will also be beautiful after drinking this wine! Drink it chilled like a white. It packs some punch, dark fruit and berries, earthy but fresh, a juicy tannin bomb. Definitely needs something fried and meaty to go along with it: chicharron, veal with fries and a spinach purée. This is a worker's wine. This grape has something special about it, it leaves your tongue tingling, the drunkenness is slightly psychotropic, almost like you’re on shrooms. And you just want more of it. The winery is in transition and most of the wines are made by Mariana a really young and upcoming enologue but the red is still in the hands of her grandfather who refuses to pass the metier on. So get it while you can!"
Where to drink it: "This one is a real rarity but you can find it in Cave Bombarda in Porto. It’s a bottle shop but they have a great Portuguese natural wine selection and they will make sure to find the right wine for you."
"I’m slightly cheating here as this is cider, but I believe there is a whole yet to be discovered world of natural ciders that are on par with wine, that deserve to be savoured. This is pure apple juice from an orchard facing the North Sea. There is something special and unique about this one. The first time I drank it, my eyes lit up in sparkles. I was in love—sweet honey, mature cooked apples, forest floor earthiness. I can imagine myself now walking through the woods in autumn, you can smell the cider in the air. There’s something special about this plot, the cidermaker says it himself. Drink it by itself or best of all pair it with a nice dutch honey waffle. Simple but mind-blowing. When I went to pick apples with Cyril at the end of the day he would always make a Ti’ Punch cocktail with his 00 (double zero) cider brandy. At the time he was testing it out and he used to say: “I’ve been testing this brandy for the past six months and it’s really good quality, no headaches, no soreness, really pure. But there’s one thing I've noticed: my memory can’t seem to remember as much as I did before.” We laughed and thought maybe we don’t need to remember everything and some things can be left to the imagination."
Where to drink it: "You can savor this delicious beverage at Titulus in Brussels, it was the place where I drank my first natural wine, they staff is extremely knowledgeable and will take really good care of you. I love the vibe there and them, they will always have special place in my heart."