Surely, natural wine is just one of the latest trends in the modern boozing renascence? No think again, natural wine is old… as in, ancient.
Natural wine might be something of a signifier for the posher tastes in a social circle and snobbish menu picks in restaurants conwy across the world. Natural wine labels are popping up faster than indie record labels and have become a real source of income for exciting new startups. What makes a wine ‘natural’ however may not be outwardly clear right off the bat.
As such, it has become something of a subject of debate for the winemaking world, with natural wine enthusiasts arguing for its supremacy in the wine world, and traditionalists proclaiming its flaws and idealistic values.
While natural wine may be trendy, it is not a new phenomenon. People have been making fermented grape juice without additives for untold millennia. The history of sulphites muddies the waters here somewhat, as it is held by many that this was used as a part of wine production since 800 BC! People like to think that natural wine is a new thing – it’s the traditional way to make wine. It’s actual ‘traditional wine’ which is the newer incarnation of the two.
What is Natural Wine?
Less of a defined category and more of a concept. In its purest, truest form it is fermented grape juice and nothing at all else. Many people struggle with the term ‘natural wine’ and instead use the term low-intervention wine or naked wine, or even ‘raw wine’. Nevertheless, the most popular term is natural wine. Anyone at a naturally inclined wine store, a wine bar or a restaurant will know what you mean when you say it.
Natural wine understanding needs a brief overall knowledge of the winemaking process. The process is divided into two parts, both growing and then picking the grapes and then turning them into wine through fermentation.
Natural winemakers use grapes that are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. These are also handpicked grapes, rather than relying on machines to harvest them. When it comes to juicing with grapes, natural winemakers use natural yeast, the stuff that lives in the air and on the surface of grape skin, this sets off natural fermentation in a holistic, additive freeway. They don’t use additives like fake oak flavour, sugar, acid, eggwhite or anything else for that matter.
Some natural winemakers will add sulphites, preservatives or stabilisers, these have been used for the whole history of wine, so they are allowed by many natural wineries. Conventional wineries, however, will use 10 times as much as natural wineries will, so that is where you start affecting sulphite sensitive people.
The presence of sulphites might mean it’s not a ‘sulphite free wine’, but don’t disqualify it from the natural wine distinction.If in doubt, ask a reputable natural wine store for first-hand information on the subject.