What is “natural wine?”
Chances are, you’ve heard someone mention the term “natural wine.” Maybe you even had the opportunity to taste a “natural wine” or two. And, maybe, you know all about “natural wine” and wouldn’t think of drinking anything else. For those of us who aren’t familiar or are confused with this term, let’s take a moment to break it down.
To understand what natural wine is and why it’s different, we should first shed some light on the rest of the wine world. The vast majority of wine produced around the world (known in the wine world as “conventional wine”) is chock-full of additives – they use herbicides, pesticides, fining agents, acidifiers, de-acidifiers, the list goes on and on. In fact, wine laws in the United States and the United Nations permit a list of ninety different additives that winemakers can legally use. NINETY ADDITIVES?? But wait, isn’t wine just supposed to be fermented grapes? Enter, Natural Wine.
Simply put, natural wine is the result of making wine with as little intervention as possible. “Nothing added and nothing taken away,” a popular saying goes. Natural winemakers use organic fertilizers and pest control in the vineyards, and kickstart fermentation utilizing only the yeasts that already exist on the grapes and in the wine cellar.
Increasingly, natural winemakers bottle their wines without adding any stabilizers, though many choose to add a small amount of sulfur dioxide. However, while a natural wine might be bottled with 10 milligrams of sulfur dioxide per liter, a conventional wine could contain hundreds of milligrams per liter. Many natural wine converts correlate low sulfur levels with less hangovers and headaches. Now, for the record, we are firm believers that drinking too much of any wine is probably going to lead to a headache, but if one glass often leaves you feeling a little groggy, it might be worth trying a low sulfur wine for a change.
Finally, an important element of the natural wine versus conventional wine conversation is perhaps the most obvious element: the human element. The modern wine industry made some incredible leaps forward during the 20th century, and we’re not here to discount any of that. But it’s worth noting that the vast majority of wines made today are made by machines. Tractors with robot arms that pick the grapes, machines that sort the grapes, machines that bottle the wines, you get the point.
Natural wine, on the other hand, often comes from family owned farms, where grapes are picked and sorted by hand, allowing only the best quality grapes to go into the bottle. It’s not unusual for natural winemakers to use a horse to till vineyard soils, or to cork each bottle with a hand operated cork press. This is perhaps the biggest reason that we choose to sell natural wines: while you can taste the difference in quality between a $10 bottle and $15 bottle, the difference could well be somebody’s job. We’re a small business, and we take pride in supporting small businesses around the world.