There is real magic in seemingly(!!!!) inanimate objects (like wine) and their abilities to connect us with people we have never met, and far away lands we have never been to… The magic of wine really comes from the untouchables depths of nature, and reading Christina’s stories about wines and their makers makes you feel like you are travelling through time and space, far and wide. But somehow, at the same time, it brings you closer to yourself, your own feelings, thoughts and sentiments.
She is a prime example of a writer who cares deeply about the subject of her pieces (whether it is a beautiful human, a lively bottle of wine or something even more profound, like nature, as a whole.) Her words and pictures are a lens that guides you through the realness of natural wine, and the truth behind the bottle. Like a looking-glass – so reflective that you can see – and even find – yourself in it.
Christina, a Dane who grew up in the UK, is a true writer at heart. Her studies took her to France for an internship, as luck would have it, to the infamous Burgundy wine region. The newly found, strange love for grape juice launched her on a journey of immersing into wine and a quest to understand the depths of this entangled industry.
Fast forward a few years, today, as the co-founder and Head of Content for LITTLEWINE, Christina writes articles and features, as well as produces their signature films, and photography.
LITTLEWINE is a UK-based online bottle shop and educational website for the lovers of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Their mission is to help people explore the winemakers and stories behind the bottle they buy. The company started in 2019, as a collaboration between Daniela Pillhofer (a wine importer) and Christina. They wanted to create an online space where information, content and stories weren’t just a by-product of e-commerce.
We both carved out a little piece of our busy Fridays to sit down and talk about all the things that inspire us, about the natural wine world, interesting nature stuff (like the zombie fungi!), what we have learnt during the pandemic, and some plans for the year ahead.
We recommend this read with a glass of saline crunch Rouges Queues 2018 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Chardonnay (one of the gems on LITTLEWINE) and Je Veux by Zaz.
I love Little Wine, the content is truly inspiring. How did you get started with writing, and wine writing?
I have always loved nature (animals in particular) and writing was so close to my heart ever since I was a child. I used to write these novels (well, 10-page long stories) about horses. I know, it is so nerdy!
At one point in your adolescence, you start to think about what you would like to do when you finally grow up. For me, it was always something around writing. Becoming a war correspondent seemed interesting as I always was passionate about reporting the stories of people whose voices are not heard, but this was an idea I ditched for the sake of my parents.
Wine came to me by chance and I find a lot of joy in telling the stories of bottles and their makers.
What brought you to wine, and ultimately to natural wine?
During university, I found an internship in Burgundy with a winery. Something different! And I thought, wow it’s cool, I get to spend time in nature, learn something new, try some things that I haven’t before. During those 7 months, I fell in love with wine and the whole industry fast and hard.
I haven’t really come into contact with the notion of organic, and natural wines and what that actually meant until a couple years later when I worked for Westbury Communications in London. It is a small agency run by a woman named Sue Harris, who is one of my greatest mentors. Through them, I have met some amazing winemakers and this experience opened my eyes to natural wines and the difference between conventional bottles and more sustainable ones.
During this time, I started writing about wine and became passionate about educating people. My (now retired) blog – “Vintage of All Kinds” – had many pieces, some of which have been migrated to my personal website, christinarasmussen.co, and after my (at the time soon-to-be) co-founder, Daniela read it, she asked me if I wanted to come on board with starting a business. And Little Wine was born!
We all have a certain duty as writers. What is the “Christina Rasmussen-approach” to review and wine writing?
There is a lack of transparency in a lot of wine writing – many of them have the old school approach where they write tasting notes and rip the wine apart, and leave you with a cold, analytic notion.
That frustrates me because you cannot learn about the winemakers, farming methods, styles or specific regions that way. Wine just becomes a bottle without stories, without a soul and that is not the way it should be.
My writing has always been about the winemakers, telling their stories, struggles, the philosophy of their farming and winemaking, their character and the stories of their life and their wine.
I found that my duty as a writer is to try to capture this person’s life’s work on a page.
We both know or have an understanding of what natural wine is (and I often find myself leaving the term behind, and replace it with “uncompromised wine”). If you had to come up with your own definition – what would it be?
For me, natural wine is a personal interpretation of the winemaker. Of what nature, vine and wine mean to them, and how they align with them.
For a long time, I wasn’t using the term natural wine, because it can be confusing for many people and people from the industry often try to come up with an explanation, but it just opens up a lot of avenues for misinterpretation. Gentle, sustainable farming is really at the core of natural wine, and in terms of winemaking, using as few additives as possible, and as little intervention as possible.
From the consumer side, accurate and clear terminology can be useful, as it gives them a better understanding of what they are drinking and what went into their wine.
We got used to uniformity – our food started to taste the same, things are accessible whenever we want them, in-out of season, and so on. Natural wine is representing a sense of place (your immediate environment) and the sense of people.
At Little Wine, you work with a lot of fantastic people. You recently did an amazing series of films, and videos about producers – how did this idea come along and why did you choose the winemakers you did?
All the winemakers we feature at Little Wine are farming organically at minimum. This is something we thought a lot about at the beginning, and it is really important to make sure that our message is strong and clear – we believe that organic and organicPLUS* is the future.
For the video series, we have looked for people who really inspire us. We have created a few mini-documentaries last year, and this year was kicked off by Michael Gindl, an amazing producer from Austria – he is a prime example of a person who isn’t just making wine. He deeply cares about how he works, and what he works with. He has rare breeds on his farm, as well as local grapes, and he replaced tractors with beautiful horses.
There are so many videos and features to come, and we are really excited!
* (in Christina’s own words) Winemakers who take their carbon emissions into account when farming, care about their soil health (how they can regenerate it, how they can reuse it), think about and act on how they can strengthen their ecosystem, how they can work with native plants and animals, and how they can introduce polyculture.
Source: Little Wine
I love these videos, because I think they play into this notion that I firmly believe in – natural wine and wine, in general, shouldn’t be a luxury and a mystery. I understand that these videos are for promoting the makers you retail with Little Wine, but I feel like there is so much more to it.
Yes, definitely! We see ourselves as an educational platform and I think there is so much to wine education that hasn’t been explored yet. All the wine courses are great for learning the basics or the facts, however, not everyone can afford to enrol. Plus not all of us are aspiring to learn everything about everything and there is a significant lack of educational material surrounding farming practices such as regenerative agriculture and permaculture in the wine sphere.
At Little Wine, we want to give people the opportunity to learn about wine, winemaking and farming from the people who are doing it, and doing it well!
All of our articles on Little Wine are written authorless. It is important to me that the writing is not about me, this is not the “Christina show”. We want to communicate the winemakers’ stories and their truth, because it always gets lost somehow in traditional wine chains and communications.
Wine has always been about community and I am so glad that we are shifting back towards that.
Being a woman in wine isn’t always the dream. What can we do to make this industry fairer and more inclusive?
2020 was a really rough year for so many people in so many different ways, but I also believe it was a positive one in a way. We were able to reflect, learn and first and foremost, listen.
This year will be about elevating the voices of those women who had even fewer opportunities to speak up. All of us need to do our individual work, and it doesn’t always mean moving mountains overnight, it means doing work behind the scenes.
I do think the New York Times article on sexual harassment in the industry has finally shed light on a larger issue. It is our job to hold people responsible for their sexists, racists, ageists actions privately and publicly.
As women, we have to stick together and constantly listen to each other and help one another. And as white women, we must be aware of our privilege and strive towards intersectionality, recognising the additional injustices that BIPOC and BAME women face. We must also work to make the industry more inclusive for transgender women, transgender men, non-binary people, people with disabilities, health conditions and neurodiverse individuals. We still have much work to do to make the industry a more welcoming place for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. The recent Lift Collective online conference was amazing, featuring diverse and hugely inspiring panel discussions and providing the chance to socialise online and meet people from all over the world. I already can’t wait until the next one.
On a more personal level, I have met so many amazing women in the industry, and I am proud to be part of the Roots Fund’s mentorship scheme.
We published a long-form article on the website entitled “Diversity Activists”, and there is so much you can learn from these amazing people and their work. – It has been an amazing learning curve as it highlighted all the things we need to advocate for now and in the future.
More articles and features to come on Little Wine on this topic!
I couldn’t agree more – listening and learning, we all need to do the work! On that note – any exciting future plans?
Last summer, a lot of our travel plans were cancelled unfortunately and we thought about the safest option to create and continue to publish content for our readers.
We wanted to take as little air travel as possible (for the sake of the planet), so I packed a tent and “road tripped” through France for 8 weeks. As a result, I saw 40 winemakers. It was fantastic and I am planning on doing something similar in Italy this year.
At the moment, we are focusing on building our community and growing our wine club.
We are designing a more interactive website,
As for my not-so-near future plans – I would love to run a massive wine community co-op that offers training for people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Wine is art… and who told us that art should be something that we put on our walls or in our living rooms, or see in museums. It is self-expression.
Yes, I totally agree. And I can’t believe that I am actually planting a vineyard with my sister this April in Oxfordshire. Quite a marginal climate to grow grapes, but will be working in regenerative agriculture and so much more. I am sure we will be making loads of mistakes, but can’t wait to learn. Hopefully, we will create a great environment not just for vine grapes, but other plants and animals.
Talking about plants and animals – you always have such beautiful pictures on Little Wine and your socials. What is your favourite picture from last year? And also your preferred wine these days?
This butterfly I love as it’s just so camouflaged amongst the Rousillon schist – isn’t nature amazing? It’s in one of Saskia Van Der Horst’s parcels in Roussillon. Her cuvée Ocarina is one of the wines that really inspired me at the beginning of my own natural wine journey; a rosé with such depth and power; the antithesis of mass-produced bulk rosé which floods the supermarket shelves in the UK.
I’ve just recently tasted the wines that I made together with Abe Schoener for LA River Wine Company in 2019; his project with Rajat Parr in southern California to shine a light on the old vines of historic growing regions such as Cucamonga and Temecula.
It was an emotional experience; particularly tasting the wine we named Lone Wolf; from 100+-year-old País vines on a Native American Reservation, which we prune, tend and pick. There’s nothing quite like tasting a wine that comes from a vineyard you know personally, and fruit you’ve stomped yourself. Seeing it evolve is very much a reminder of the aliveness of wine and the endless, lifelong journey it takes us on.
It’s so often the vines and the wines, not our own rationale, that speak to us on a subconscious level; they are the reason that we delve so very deep down this rabbit hole of exploration.
Interview by Rebeka Győrfi.
Find Rebeka drinking natural wine, stuffing cheese in her face or stalking cute animals on the regular. As the creator of Natúr Magazin, she hopes to spread stories about Eastern European natural winemakers, sustainable producers, small businesses, creatives and many more. Rebeka truly enjoys eye rolls (directed at snooty somms and wine nonsense), big chats about sustainability + diversity, and cool womxn-created things.
Check out the first article from the ‘Of Women and Wine’ series here.