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What is Natural Wine ?

What is Natural Wine? How is it made? How to recognize a natural wine? Why it is debating? In the worst as in the best, natural wine exacerbates the passions, the taste, the energy transmitted and the freedom of action of the winegrowers. We will explain everything to you !

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The Definition of a Natural Wine

The definition of a natural wine, according to us, seems simple: “It is a wine without synthetic chemicals or oenological inputs, made from organic grapes harvested by hand“. Or almost… Sulphites in wine are debated. While it is commonly accepted that a natural wine can contain up to 30-40 mg/l of total SO2, some natural wine makers and drinkers do not make concessions.

For them, a natural wine must not contain added sulfites (sulfur). To sum up, if the law obliged to mention the list of ingredients on wine bottles (like any other food product, but the conventional wine lobby is quite powerful…), a natural wine would only have the word “grape” written on it (with some sulfites depending on the parishes). While a so-called “conventional” wine could have more than 80 inputs mentioned… Here is a small overview:

Ascorbic acid / Citric acid / L(+) tartaric acid / L-ascorbic acid / L-malic acid L-malic acid / Lactic acid / Malic acid / Metatartaric acid / Tartaric acid / Acidification by electromembrane treatment / Egg albumin / Sulfur dioxide / Self-enrichment by evaporation / Self-enrichment by reverse osmosis / Yeast autolysates / Lactic acid bacteria / Barrels and casks / Bentonite / Beta-glucanase / Potassium bicarbonate / Potassium bisulfite / Ammonium bisulfite. ..

How is Natural Wine made?

A natural wine is not made in a specific way. It can be of any color (red, white, rosé, orange…), be vinified in any way (carbonic, semi-carbonic, etc.) and in any container (barrel, qvevri, stainless steel tank, etc.). The only conditions that we believe it must meet are:

  • Grapes at least organic and harvested by hand.
  • No inputs during the entire wine making process (except for a maximum dose of 30 mg/l of total SO2 added at bottling).
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The difference between a Natural, Biodynamic, Organic and Conventional Wine ?

The difference between these types of wine lies in the products allowed for the cultivation of the vine and during the vinification. Simply put, natural wines contain the least amount of inputs, then there are biodynamic, organic and conventional wines. But to know in detail the list of oenological inputs, the dose of sulfur and the authorized products, we invite you to read our dedicated article: The difference between conventional, organic, biodynamic & natural wine?

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Where to buy Natural Wine ?

Buy in town

In town, there are many wineries offering natural wine. Of course, we advise you not to go to a supermarket or a cellar that is too general. To find one, you can go to our menu: Buy Natural Wine. The good thing is that a wine merchant can advise you a vintage if you are a neophyte. And so are we, here is our selection of the best natural wines.

Buy Natural Wine online

If you want more choice, don’t have a cellar near you or are looking for specific wines, here is a small selection of our favorite online wine shops where you will find a vast choice of quality bottles. And also the best natural wine club :

Raw Wine Uk is the largest choice of natural wine references.

Mysa is a wine club (USA) offering a great selection of natural wines.

Pur Jus offers French natural wines at French prices, delivering in almost all Europe.

Natural Wine : Frequently Asked Questions

Are Natural Wines Organic?

Yes, natural wines are necessarily made from organic grapes (this is one of the essential conditions). However, the opposite is not true. An organic wine is not necessarily a natural wine, because a certain number of inputs can be used during the vinification. For more details, we recommend you to read our article “Difference between organic and natural wine“.

Is Natural Wine a Wine to Keep?

As with conventional wines, it simply depends on the structure of the wine. Between wines that should be drunk within a year and those that can age for a good ten years, the range is wide. Even if they are not the only two criteria, it is the tannins and the acidity that will mainly indicate if a wine can improve with age. To put it simply, the more tannic and acidic a wine is, the more serene it will age.

Why is it expensive?

To say that natural wines are expensive is a statement that is both false, accurate and complex to answer. Firstly, like art, the price of some wines (unlike other agricultural sectors such as market gardening) is not necessarily indexed on its manufacturing cost, but on the emotion it transmits, its rarity, its prestige, the technicality of the winemaker, etc. The right price for a complex, well-balanced terroir wine, with a particular energy and emotion, is very difficult to define since these criteria remain relative. Without forgetting that an author’s wine, like a master’s painting, can be subject to speculation.

However, in general, it is true that a natural wine costs more than a conventional wine (as do all organic foods). There are several reasons for this: natural winemakers often have a smaller farm area, lower yields, higher labor costs, and they also have a greater risk of the winemaking process running into problems… All these costs and risks are logically reflected in the price of the wine.

How to keep it?

They should be stored like conventional wines, but the only difference is that natural wines are more fragile. It is therefore necessary to pay a little more attention to the conditions of ageing, in particular to the temperature of conservation (not more than 15°) and its variations (it should not undergo a radical change of temperature).

Natural Wines can be Fizzy

Sometimes, a natural wine may fizz slightly when opened. This is not a defect, it is just that natural wines have little or no sulfites added, so in order to protect the wine from contact with air (or rather to take the place of air), the winemaker can leave the CO2 resulting from fermentation or add some, and slight bubbles can form. Some people love this sensation in the mouth, as it can bring freshness. For the others, less convinced, it is enough to air the wine, after a few minutes the pearly side disappears.

Why do some Natural Wines Smell Bad?

Some wines without sulfites, also called live wines, when opened, can have an unpleasant smell familiarly associated with that of the farm or a “cow’s ass”. This is called “reduction”. This phenomenon is due to autolysis, i.e. the yeasts in the wine die and remain at the bottom of the bottle. Don’t panic, it’s nothing serious, nor permanent. With a little airing, the wine opens up and the smell disappears.

Why buy a natural wine?

Taste being relative, there are two criteria that seem subjective to us when deciding to buy natural wine.
The first one is that sulfites are classified among the 14 major allergens, so buying natural wine allows to limit health risks (vomiting, headaches, respiratory problems…).
The second is that the grapes are from an organic agriculture respectful of the living. But it is also a way to support independent winemakers.

Author of the article :

Merlin Salerno | Son of a winemaker - Sommelier on the road around the world | Instagram

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