Natural Wine, what is it?

Patrick D @ 2021-10-12 04:24:53 -0700

Natural Wine, what is it?

If you’ve ever stepped into a trendy bottle shop or spent time with your friends that are in the know, you’ve heard of Natural Wine. Natural Wine has been a bit of a buzzword among millennial wine shoppers but there’s been a bit of confusion around what it is. “Isn’t all wine natural?” is the most common question, and when you add organic or even biodynamic into the conversation, the lines start to get murky. No worries, we’ve got your back and can help simplify exactly what sets these wines apart, and why you should be drinking natural wines.


I thought all wine was "Natural"?


Let’s start with Conventional Wine, (the stuff you usually find on shelves).


Have you ever picked up a Wine bottle and turned it around? Have you ever found an ingredients list? No, right?


That’s because there are 72+ additives (aka ingredients) that can be used in winemaking and never need to be disclosed. Things like egg whites, fish bladder, chemical flavorings/colorings, industrial yeasts, and the worst of the batch, preservatives.


One such chemical preservative called Velcorin is commonly found in everything from conventional wines to sports drinks, juices, sodas, energy drinks, and even the all-natural cannabis soda you just bought. It requires a hazmat suit to handle, never needs to be disclosed, is tasteless, and scentless, lethal in high doses, and toxic when ingested within 24 hours of being added. After 24 hours it is perfectly safe in low doses, however, consumers are never made aware of its presence.


On top of additives grapes themselves are also not farmed sustainably or cleanly. The wine grape is consistently on the list of crops in CA that have been farmed with the most pesticide use. Winemakers also use a whole host of interventions like flash pasteurization, high levels of filtration, chaptilization, and dealcoholizing machinery. Which can make wholesale changes to the wine and in many ways makes conventional wine akin to an industrial product.


This is where Natural Wine comes in.


What is a Natural Wine, exactly?


In its simplest form, Natural Wine is just fermented grape juice. That’s it. Nothing added, nothing is taken away. Unlike conventional wine, Natural wine is all about minimizing the use of additives, or winemaking interventions, farming sustainably and allowing for native fermentation without the use of yeast additions.


Natural Wine is not defined by the FDA and so there is a lot of debate around what exactly is a natural wine. Some say the use of minimal sulphites is ok to keep the wine stable. While conventional wines may use up to 350ppm of sulphites, most natural winemakers limit themselves to 10-35 ppm. Others say interventions like gross filtration as opposed to "tight" or "sterile" filtration, but the debates go on.


However, what everyone can agree on is the minimization of additives and interventions, using sustainably-grown grapes (preferably organic or biodynamic), and allowing native ("spontaneous") fermentation via wild yeast (as opposed to lab-grown yeast).


This form of winemaking is achieved by being deeply in touch with viticulture (the farming side of grapes). If grapes are harvested early with low Brix, a good degree of maturity, and balanced acidity, no interventions are needed. The grapes do the heavy lifting. While conventional wineries can be less careful with their harvest, and growing practices because they can rectify and deficiencies in the wine cellar through wholesale use of additives and interventions.


The reasons why you should be drinking natural wine.


Because of how natural wine is made, and the care given to the viticulture, natural wines allow grapes to sing and are a celebration of their characteristics. Often described as a bit funky, they have plenty of unique flavour profiles and range without any of the gross ingredients you find in conventional wine.


They also are typically lower in alcohol, as conventional wines may use a practice of chaptalization (the addition of sugar to raise the alcohol content).


Importantly, the absence of additives and clarification methods can provide respite for some, from the pesky causes of side effects, including but not limited to hangovers.


Typically, keto-friendly (when dry), vegan-friendly, sustainable, and delicious… what more could you ask for?

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