What Actually is Natural Wine?

What Actually is Natural Wine?

Like true love or any number divided by zero, natural wine is undefined. But while it has no official rules and it’s not listed in the dictionary, it can be thought of as an umbrella term covering a few general winemaking principles.

  • The grapes are handpicked after being grown organically and/or biodynamically.
  • The winemakers are small-scale producers, often in areas that aren’t thought of as blue-chip wine regions.
  • Fermentation is kicked off with yeasts that exist naturally in the vineyard, and the addition of sulfites is kept to a minimum.
  • Wines are bottled with minimal fining or filtering (a lot of them are cloudy).

In other words, it’s the pursuit to minimize human intervention in the winemaking process to allow the most authentic representation of the land and grapes as possible. 

That’s all well and good, but how does it taste? Generally, natural wine is savory and somewhat cloudy-looking. It’s relatively low in fruitiness and alcohol, and pretty heavy on yeasty or barnyard-y notes. With that said, flavors and styles of natural wine vary quite a bit. And from young Beaujolais to vintage Cristal, you can find natural versions of pretty much any type of wine out there.

So saying “I love natural wine” is kind of like saying “I love wine.” We certainly don’t have a problem with that sentiment– we’re simply saying that it’s worth understanding what you like about it. If you’re intrigued by “funky” flavors in wine, then you should explore the Jura region of France, skin-contact wines from Eastern Europe, or Pét-Nats from pretty much anywhere. Meanwhile, if you want to support independent producers who practice environmentally sustainable farming, but you’d prefer more “traditional” tasting wines, then Beaujolais and the Loire Valley should be right up your alley. And if you enjoy the fact that natural wine’s lack of rules eliminates barriers to entry, putting everyone on a level playing field, then just keep in mind that it’s undefined.

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