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.