What is Natural Wine?
By Eoghan Neburagho-Gregg
Realistically, it should be called ‘low intervention wine’, but that’s a mouthful of technical words nobody can be arsed with, including myself. Natural wine is the trendy name adopted by minimal human intervention wine in recent decades which is now becoming the most mainstream alcoholic bevarage across the whole world.
Essentially, minimal intervention is the aim of the game when it comes to natural wine, from planting the vines in the vineyard to the fermentation procedure in the cellar. The main idea behind natural wine making is for humans to intervene as little as possible throughout the entire process.
Wines made from grapes and grapes only, nothing added, nothing taken away.
What truly separates natural wine from it’s conventional counterparts boils down to the methods that are practised in the vineyard, in the cellar, as well as the foundational principles that natural wine was built upon.
Let’s take a closer look at the principles separating natural wine from the rest!
The vineyard is your sacred land as a natural winemaker, these vigneron’s farm the vineyard in an organic manner feeding their vines fertilisers made up of compost or animal and plant compounds. Unlike most big commercial wineries, it is considered sacrilegious to use any type of chemical-based fertilisers or stimulants on the growing grapes during the growth process.
Some natural winemakers also practise biodynamic farming, this is a step further down the minimal intervention road originally ‘founded’ by the late Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamic farming has been mentioned a number of times for its top quality results in large yields and healthy plant life, some would say it’s approach towards agriculture is ”proactive rather than reactive”. and Alice Feiring, author of Natural Wine For the People, sums it up faultlessly,
in biodynamic farming, you pace your practices to natures rhythms…The object is to heal, not to harm.
Both practices nine times out of ten produce outstanding, juicy natural wines!
In essence, wine just makes itself and should be fun. What shouldn’t go on in the cellar is the use of cultured yeasts during the fermentation process and certainly no mass additions of sulphur to the wine.
Natural wine in a way comes from the same family as sourdough bread and delightful, smelly, European cheeses when we talk about fermentation. ”How could they possibly be in the same family?” you’re thinking, right? and fair enough as they’re three completely different things but they all have one important step in common and that’s the use of native yeasts during fermentation. Native yeast live in almost any natural environment and are especially present in places where previous fermenting has occurred. This fermentation process is crucial to making natural wine as the native yeasts from the cellar and vineyard eat the sugars in the grapes and on their skins/stems, turning the grape juice naturally into wine over a prolonged period of time. Some winemakers will add a very small amount of sulphur to there end product in an attempt to stabilise the wine but this is on a minuscule level compared to conventional winemaking methods.
What’s really important in the grand scheme of things is that there is no help from chemical or mechanic products during the entire process of natural winemaking. Thus making them artisanal produce (made in a traditional way) which is a lot better for your health, something that will help our bodies in the long run. From my point of view, a big reason for such growth in the demand for artisanal products like natural wine is down to us Gen Z’s and Millennials, we are genuinely concerned for the well-being of our planet and the chemicals that conventional winemakers across the world are putting into our soils is killing the planet.
I for one will not just sit back and hope everything fixes itself, I won’t give up on our planet that easy and if becoming a natural wine advocate is a step in the right direction towards making a difference I’m all in.
Natural wine has a unique meaning, it can take many appearances such as amber with a hazy hue or candy pink with an elegant sparkle and a deep smell of strawberries and cream. This wine we love to call natural is made in a traditional way, it’s humble and it’s here to stay so I suggest you give it a chance as there is something for everyone’s taste, I promise.