All You Need to Know About Natural Wine
Have you ever heard of natural wine? If you enjoy wine, chances are you have! Natural wine is definitely trending these days, although the term could refer to any number of wine productions. Natural wine is generally produced by small, independent producers who rely on sustainable, organic or biodynamic production methods when growing their grapes and producing their wines. Natural wines are produced using natural yeasts that are already present on the grapes’ skin, and contain no additional additives or sulfites, which are traditionally used to prolong a wine’s shelf-life, or to ensure its quality after shipping. Natural wine can be tricky though, since there is no official body that overseas its production or labeling, so if you are told you are having a natural wine, it is important to ask questions and get specific answers.
Natural wines can sometimes appear cloudy, due to the natural yeast they are produced with. While some of these wines may be clear and crisp, more often than not you will notice some kind of funky, strange fermentation going on. One word that you will certainly come across as you explore natural wines is pét-nat. Pét-nat is a natural wine making technique that is extremely popular these days. These wines are somewhat fizzy, since they are bottled before the fermenting process is completed. This style wine can be made with any grape and will certainly be fun to drink.
Natural wine production started in France in the late 1980s, when winemakers in Beaujolais and the Loire Valley began experimenting outside the rules of traditional winemaking. People wanted to turn away from large, industrialized production, and get back to their more rustic roots that dominated winemaking before World War II. Since then, natural wines are popular worldwide, with many wine bars and restaurants dedicating themselves entirely to serving only natural wines. Natural wine festivals are held worldwide, and they are a logical response to an overly industrialized world. People want to get back to nature and eat healthy, unprocessed foods. Wine is an extension of that desire.
Today, there is no official natural wine certification. While organic and biodynamic wines follow formulas that can be tested and labeled, natural wine is still a new subject. Some industry leaders would like there to be a standardization to ensure quality control for consumers, while others think imposing rules and labels will take away from natural winemakers’ creativity.
Natural winemaking goes hand in hand with creativity and experimentation. Natural wines promote biodiversity and allow for more obscure grapes to be highlighted as the star of the wine. Not only are more uncommon grapes involved, but so are some of the more ancient winemaking techniques. Have you ever heard of orange wine, for example? We’ll be writing an article about it next week, but they are white wines that are produced with longer contact with the grape’s skin.
A downside to natural wines is that generally, the wine’s label won’t tell you much. That means you’ll have to do your own research, take notes, and practice remembering which natural wines you truly enjoy. Take this as an opportunity to talk to the winemakers directly and ask a lot of questions (something you should be doing anyway, as you learn about wine)! We encourage you to taste all the wine you can (always), but in particular if you are interested in learning about the world of natural wines. Explore vegan wines, biodynamic wines, organic wines, and anything else you can get your hands on to expand your knowledge and your palate. The world of natural wine is vast, and ever expanding, so be sure to ask questions and take notes! and if you are in Tuscany don’t miss our organic wine tour.
Have you tried natural wines? What did you like? Not like? Let us know what you think about natural wines, and what you’d like to learn!