Explained When it comes to wine, it’s hard enough to learn about the world of regions, appellation systems, and varietals. Throw in the addition of winemaking practices and things get downright confusing. We’ve all heard of organic wine, and now there’s also biodynamic wine, but what the hell is natural wine?!
We know what you’re thinking. Isn’t all wine natural if it’s made from fruit? Not exactly. We’re breaking down all of the dirty details of what it means to be all-natural.
WHAT IS NATURAL WINE?
There’s actually no agreed-upon definition of natural wine. But there are certain basic principles that both makers and drinkers of natural wine consider standard. The best definition of natural wine is that it’s a wine that’s produced with as few chemicals and as little technology as possible, both in the vineyard and in the winery itself. The wines are meant to be extremely terroir-driven, generating their flavors and personalities from the land and not from chemicals or human intervention. Natural wine should essentially be solely fermented grape juice, with as little winemaker intervention as possible along the way.
IS NATURAL WINE ORGANIC?
Yes. While not stipulated via any sort of law, grapes used to make natural wines are organically grown and farmed.
IS NATURAL WINE BIODYNAMIC?
While many natural winemakers follow the biodynamic calendar in their winemaking practices, it is not as “required” as farming organically is. However, most natural winemakers do choose to implement biodynamic farming.
WHAT IS PROHIBITED IN NATURAL WINE?
Again, there is no set definition of natural wine, but adhering to most natural winemakers’ standards, natural wines prohibit the use of chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides, added yeast, added sugar, machinery in the vineyard (grapes are hand-harvested), and any form of pumps or equipment that would roughhouse the wine.
SO WHAT MAKES CONVENTIONALLY MADE WINES NOT “NATURAL?”
Don’t get us wrong — most conventionally made wines are just as good as their natural counterparts. However, a bottle of wine would be considered not “natural” if, say, a winemaker added a specific strain of yeast, or if a machine were used to harvest grapes instead of human hands, two practices that are very common in the winemaking world.
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WHY IS THERE SEDIMENT IN MY NATURAL WINE?
Most conventionally made wines are fined with some form of an agent (usually an egg white or gelatin) and filtered prior to bottling. But fining and filtering are generally seen as tampering with the wine in the natural wine community, so they don’t do it, which means that there might be sediment in your wine. It’s completely normal. Don’t worry; it doesn’t negatively impact your wine whatsoever!
IS NATURAL WINE MORE EXPENSIVE?
No! Like conventionally made wines, natural wines’ prices are all over the spectrum, with bottles available in basically every price range.
IS NATURAL WINE HEALTHIER?
In theory, yes. Natural wine is made with organically produced fruit, and its practices forbid the use of chemicals, so think about it like eating organic food versus non-organic food. While conventional food (and wine) certainly won’t kill you, choosing something with fewer chemicals is always a healthier route, and safer for the environment, too!
WHERE CAN I FIND NATURAL WINE?
Natural wine is becoming more and more prevalent in wine shops and restaurants. In fact, some restaurants and shops have dedicated their businesses to only serving natural wines. If all else fails, you can find everything on the internet, right?
DOES NATURAL WINE HAVE SULFITES?
Yes, in small amounts. All wines contain sulfites, as they are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, in minimal amounts. However, this is where the natural wine debate gets tricky. Many winemakers consider the addition of sulfites to wine as tampering with the natural product, while others see it as a necessary step, seeing that sulfites are a preservative for wine.
DOES NATURAL WINE GO BAD FASTER THAN REGULAR WINE?
While lack of sulfites isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t expect that bottle to age as long as conventionally made wine with added sulfites, as they are a major part of what preserves wine.