A completely different style of wine; Natural Wine
Natural wines are increasingly being talked about in wine circles; some love them, others loathe them
The term ‘natural wine’ refers to a unique hands-off type of viticulture and winemaking practice which produces pure fermented grape juice. The emphasis is on minimising manipulation, intervention, technology and mechanisation between the vine and the bottle and as the world becomes more aware of climate change, natural wines emphasise the importance of environmental sustainability. They show genuine terroir reflecting the purest wine possible, reflective of the terroir and climate in a particular year.
‘Natural wine’ is often described as real, authentic, naked, raw, and low intervention, but one common trait is that these wines have different characteristics to the normal modern wines we have become so accustomed to. They usually express themselves with much more pronounced flavours and aromas, and they can look very cloudy. The aromas are usually less fruity with more obvious barnyard, game, yeasty or yoghurt smells. The flavours tend to be truer to the taste of grape, often savoury, yoghurt and yeasty. Many wine critics claim natural wines are faulty e.g. containing Brettanomyces, others merely suggest they are an acquired taste. Whatever people think, these wines are certainly different.
Natural wines are typically produced in low volumes by small-scale, independent growers and they represent around 1% of the worlds wine volume.
Natural wine emphasises the importance of the environment
In the vineyard, the vines are solely reliant upon nature using the ecosystem to feed the soil. The vines are generally farmed organically or biodynamically, with fertilizers and pesticides limited to natural products which won’t damage the soil.
The grapes are picked by hand and crushed by foot with nothing added to the process; no sulphur to prevent spoilage from biocontamination nor sugar to increase the alcohol content or sweetness levels. Filtering natural wines prior to bottling is usually avoided, meaning the wines often contain sediment and look cloudy. Most natural wines do not meet the strict appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) guidelines of the old world, and because of this, they are often mistakenly considered as inferior by many consumers. Don’t get me wrong, like any wine, there are good and bad examples on offer. With 99% of traditional wines clear in appearance, it takes a fairly inquisitive wine drinker to try natural wine. However, with their naturally lower sulphur levels, these wines can be much more open and expressive, often being described as alive, individual and thrilling. Natural wines are very often unpredictable and inconsistent with traditional style wines and they have significant differences with their vintage variations. You can have a very good natural wine one year, then one which is fizzing, bubbling, and smelly the next. The one thing which is consistent with these wines is, they are always going to be different. Some people believe natural wine reduces sulphur allergies, intolerances, wine headaches and hangovers – I’m yet to be convinced of this, but these wines definitely have a feel-good factor about them.
Natural wines are considered ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ in some wine bars
Natutral Wine Fairs
Natural wine fairs are growing in popularity and size across the world i.e. La Dive Bouteille has grown from 15 winemakers to over 200 winemakers from 15 different countries and generating 3,000 annual visitors. The Real Wine Fair has tripled since 2012 and Raw Wine attracts visitors from Japan, China, Australia, Canada as well as the UK.
The savouriness of natural wine appeals to those in the fine-dining food trade who understand taste authenticity. Chefs want wines with clear terroir and around 38% of London’s fine-dining restaurants stock at least one natural wine.
There has been a noticable growth of ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ natural wine bars in New York, Copenhagen, London, Paris and Stockholm with some bars specialising purely in natural wine.
Share your opinions
Because natural wine differs significantly from the modern ‘normal’ style of wine to which we have become accustomed to, it has stirred up many conversations and divided opinions across the wine world. It’s certainly punching above it’s weight (or more accurately – its volume) by breaking just about every rule of modern winemaking, resulting in some terrific wines being produced.
We would be really interested in your thoughts and comments regarding natual wine and if there is enough support for it, we will add some to our collection.