A natural wine is a type of wine made from grapes that are grown organically or biodynamically without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. The term “natural” refers to the minimal intervention in the winemaking process, aiming to let the grapes express themselves and the terroir (the environmental factors that influence the wine’s characteristics) more authentically.
The principles of natural winemaking include:
Organic and Biodynamic Farming: Natural winemakers prioritize sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices. They may follow organic or biodynamic principles, which involve avoiding synthetic chemicals and focusing on soil health and biodiversity.
Hand-Harvested Grapes: Natural wines are often made from grapes that are hand-picked rather than mechanically harvested. This careful selection ensures that only the best-quality grapes are used.
Minimal Use of Additives: Natural winemakers refrain from adding or using many additives commonly found in conventional winemaking. This includes avoiding sulfur dioxide (SO2) or using very minimal amounts, which is a common preservative in commercial wines.
Wild Yeast Fermentation: Instead of using commercially cultured yeasts, natural winemakers rely on indigenous or “wild” yeasts present on the grape skins and in the winery for fermentation. This can result in more unique and diverse flavors in the wine.
Little to No Filtration: Natural wines are often unfiltered or lightly filtered, which means the wine may appear slightly cloudy or have sediment. This approach allows the wine to retain more of its natural character.
Low Intervention: The winemaker’s role is to guide the process rather than manipulate it heavily. The goal is to allow the grapes and the fermentation process to speak for themselves.
It’s important to note that there is no formal or regulated definition of “natural wine” in many wine-producing regions. As a result, the term can be loosely interpreted and may vary depending on the winemaker’s philosophy and practices. Additionally, while natural wines have gained popularity among enthusiasts seeking unique and expressive wines, they might not always appeal to mainstream wine consumers due to their variability and lack of consistency compared to more standardized commercial wines.
Orange wine, also known as amber wine or skin-contact wine, is a unique style of wine made from white grape varieties but produced with a winemaking technique more commonly associated with red wines. The defining characteristic of orange wine is the extended contact between the grape juice and the grape skins during fermentation.
Typically, in white wine production, the grape skins are separated from the juice before fermentation. However, in orange wine production, the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for an extended period, ranging from several days to even months. This prolonged skin contact allows the wine to extract more color, tannins, and flavors from the grape skins, resulting in an orange or amber hue and distinctive taste profile.
The key characteristics of orange wine are:
Color: As the name suggests, orange wines exhibit a range of hues from pale amber to deep orange, depending on the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and the length of skin contact.
Tannins: Orange wines often have tannins, which are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Tannins add texture and structure to the wine, much like they do in red wines, giving orange wines a slightly grippy or astringent quality.
Complexity: The extended skin contact and fermentation with natural yeasts from the grape skins result in a wine with a broader range of flavors and aromas. You may find notes of dried fruits, spices, floral elements, and a distinct nutty character.
Natural Winemaking: Many orange wines are produced using natural winemaking principles, emphasizing minimal intervention and avoiding additives.
Often Dry: While some orange wines may have a hint of residual sugar, many are fermented to dryness, meaning they have little to no residual sweetness.
Orange wines have a long history dating back thousands of years, with roots in traditional winemaking regions such as Georgia and northeastern Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia). In recent years, orange wines have experienced a resurgence in popularity, attracting adventurous wine enthusiasts who appreciate their unique and expressive nature.
Due to the skin contact and tannins, orange wines can be quite versatile when it comes to food pairings. They can complement a range of dishes, including grilled meats, poultry, vegetarian cuisine, and dishes with bold and spicy flavors.
When someone says a wine is “corked,” they are referring to a wine fault caused by a chemical compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). This compound can develop in natural corks when certain fungi come into contact with chlorinated compounds, such as those found in some cleaning agents or pesticides used in cork processing facilities or wineries.
When a wine is corked, it has been contaminated with TCA, resulting in a range of undesirable characteristics that negatively impact its aroma and flavor.
The most common descriptors for a corked wine include:
Musty or Moldy Smell: The wine may have a damp, musty, or moldy odor. This smell is often likened to wet cardboard, old books, or a dank cellar.
Lack of Fruit Aromas: Cork taint suppresses the wine’s natural fruit aromas and makes the wine smell dull and lifeless.
Flattened or Diluted Flavor: TCA can diminish the wine’s flavors, making it taste flat or diluted, with little complexity or nuance.
Dry and Astringent Finish: Corked wines can leave the mouth feeling dry, astringent, or puckered due to the chemical interactions caused by TCA.
It’s important to note that a wine being “corked” is different from the presence of sediment or the gradual aging and maturation of the wine, which can sometimes be mistaken for a fault. Cork taint is considered a defect in the wine, and it is estimated that a small percentage of wines sealed with natural corks can be affected by TCA.
If you suspect a wine is corked, it’s best to bring it to the attention of the server or sommelier if you are in a restaurant or contact the wine retailer if you purchased it from a store. In many cases, they will be willing to replace the bottle or offer an alternative selection. At Crush Bottleshop, we ask that you bring the unfinished wine and cork back to the shop and we will replace it with a new bottle of the same wine.
Several factors contribute to the higher prices of some wines compared to others. The cost of wine can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the following:
Quality and Rarity: Wines that are produced from exceptional vineyards, using high-quality grapes, and made with meticulous attention to detail often command higher prices. Additionally, wines from limited-production or boutique wineries with limited availability can be more expensive due to their scarcity.
Vineyard Location and Terroir: The geographical location and terroir (climate, soil, elevation, etc.) of the vineyard can significantly influence the character and quality of the grapes. Wines from renowned wine regions or prestigious vineyard sites may be more expensive due to their reputation and unique attributes.
Winemaking Techniques: Some winemakers employ traditional or labor-intensive winemaking methods that require significant time and effort, resulting in higher production costs. These techniques can include hand-harvesting, extended maceration, barrel aging, and other artisanal practices.
Oak Aging: Wines aged in oak barrels tend to be more expensive than those aged in stainless steel tanks or other materials. Oak barrels can be costly, and the aging process imparts additional flavors and complexity to the wine.
Aging Potential: Wines that have the potential to age well and improve over time are often more expensive. These wines are often released after spending more time in the winery’s cellars, which incurs additional storage costs.
Brand Reputation: Established and highly-regarded wineries with a strong brand reputation may price their wines higher due to the perceived value associated with their name and history.
Marketing and Packaging: Some wines have higher marketing and packaging costs, which can be reflected in their price. Fancy labels, unique bottle shapes, and elaborate packaging can contribute to increased costs.
Import Duties and Taxes: For wines that are imported from other countries, import duties, taxes, and shipping costs can add to the final price.
Scalability and Economics: Economies of scale can impact wine pricing. Larger wineries with higher production volumes may be able to offer more affordable wines compared to small artisanal producers with limited quantities.
It’s essential to remember that higher price doesn’t always guarantee a wine’s quality or appeal to personal taste preferences. Wine is a subjective experience, and there are excellent wines available at various price points. Exploring different wines and discovering hidden gems can be a rewarding part of the wine journey.
Biodynamic and organic winemaking are both approaches that prioritize sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, but they have some differences in their principles and requirements.
Here’s a breakdown of the main distinctions between biodynamic and organic winemaking:
Farming Practices: Organic winemaking focuses on using organic farming methods, which means grapes are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Instead, organic farmers rely on natural alternatives for pest and disease control and focus on building healthy soil through composting and other organic practices.
Certification: Certified Organic wines must be made from grapes that are certified organic by a reputable organic certification organization. These organizations have strict guidelines and regulations that wineries must adhere to throughout the grape-growing process.
Practicing Organic: Refers to a vineyard or winery following organic farming principles and practices, but without being officially certified as organic by a recognized certification organization. It means that the winery uses organic farming methods, avoids the use of synthetic chemicals, and adopts sustainable agricultural practices, but it may not have completed the formal certification process.
Becoming a certified organic winery involves meeting specific criteria set by authorized organic certification bodies, which may vary depending on the region and country. These criteria typically include restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, as well as guidelines for soil health, pest control, and biodiversity.
There are several reasons why a winery might choose to practice organic farming without obtaining official certification:
Cost and Administration: Obtaining organic certification can involve expenses related to inspections, paperwork, and ongoing administrative tasks. Some smaller wineries may find the certification process financially burdensome or challenging to manage.
Time Commitment: The certification process can take several years, as the vineyard must transition to organic practices and maintain them for a specified period before being eligible for certification. Some wineries may prefer to adopt organic practices gradually without waiting for the full certification.
Flexibility in Winemaking: Winemakers might wish to retain some flexibility in winemaking practices that may not align with the strict guidelines required for organic certification. For example, they may want the option to use minimal amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) for stabilization.
Additives and Processing: Organic winemaking limits the use of additives in the winemaking process. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is commonly used as a preservative in winemaking, is restricted in organic winemaking, although small amounts may still be used.
Genetic Modification: Organic winemaking prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in grape cultivation and winemaking.
Holistic Approach: Biodynamic winemaking goes beyond organic practices and follows a holistic approach that considers the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem. It incorporates elements of spirituality and anthroposophy, a philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner.
Biodynamic Preparations: Biodynamic farmers use specific preparations made from natural materials like herbs, minerals, and animal manure, which are applied to the vineyard and compost to enhance the soil’s fertility and overall health.
Astrological Calendar: Biodynamic practices also take into account the lunar and astrological calendar. Certain activities, such as planting, pruning, and harvesting, are done according to specific cosmic rhythms.
Certification: Biodynamic wineries can be certified by organizations such as Demeter, which sets the standards for biodynamic agriculture and processing.
Closed System: Biodynamic farming aims to create a self-sustaining ecosystem within the vineyard, utilizing resources from within the property as much as possible and minimizing external inputs.
Both biodynamic and organic winemaking prioritize sustainable practices and avoid the use of synthetic chemicals. However, biodynamic winemaking takes a more holistic approach by considering the entire vineyard ecosystem, incorporating spiritual elements, and adhering to specific biodynamic principles and preparations. Organic winemaking, on the other hand, focuses mainly on avoiding synthetic chemicals in grape cultivation and winemaking, with fewer considerations for the broader cosmic and spiritual aspects.
Vegan wine means that the wine is processed without the use of any animal-derived ingredients or fining agents. In the winemaking process, fining agents are used to clarify the wine by removing unwanted particles such as proteins, tannins, and phenolics (organic compound). Traditionally, some fining agents are made from animal products, which can make the wine unsuitable for those following a vegan lifestyle.
Common animal-derived fining agents that have been used in winemaking include:
- Gelatin: Derived from animal collagen, usually sourced from pigs or cows.
- Casein: A milk protein.
- Egg whites: Used to remove tannins in red wines and clarify the wine.
- Isinglass: Obtained from fish bladders, mainly used for clarifying cask-aged ales but sometimes used in winemaking as well.
To make a wine vegan-friendly, winemakers can choose alternative fining agents that are plant-based or mineral-based, such as bentonite clay, activated charcoal, silica gel, or pea protein. These alternatives effectively achieve the same clarifying purpose without the use of animal products.
When people describe wine as “dry,” they are referring to the level of sweetness or residual sugar in the wine. In the context of wine, “dry” means that the wine contains very little or no perceptible sweetness.
During the winemaking process, the natural sugars present in the grape juice are converted into alcohol through fermentation. In a dry wine, fermentation is allowed to continue until most of the sugar is converted into alcohol, leaving only a minimal amount of residual sugar in the finished product.
The opposite of a dry wine is a “sweet” wine, where a significant amount of residual sugar remains after fermentation, giving the wine a noticeable sweetness on the palate.
The term “dry” in wine tasting does not refer to the absence of liquid but rather to the absence of sweetness. It’s essential to note that the perception of sweetness in wine can be influenced by factors such as the grape variety, the winemaking techniques used, and individual taste preferences. Different styles of wine can range from bone-dry to off-dry (slightly sweet) to fully sweet.