WHAT IS NATURAL WINE?
So what exactly is natural wine? ‘This is a tricky one’ says Jancis Robinson MW (02 Jun 2012) ‘as the individuals in the amorphous natural wine movement tend towards anarchy and deliberate resistance to any regulation,’ in contrast to organics and Biodynamics. However, the fundamental tenets of natural wine are generally agreed as as follows:
– grape growing must be at least equivalent to organic or Biodynamic viticultural practices, whether certified as such or not.
– hand harvesting only.
– wild yeast for the alcoholic fermentation and for and secondary fermentation in bottle, eg. for sparkling wines (see wild yeast ferments for how a ‘wild ferment’ wine may in fact be no such thing).
– spontaneous malolactic fermentation (no extraneous bacterial cultures permitted).
– no blocking of the malolactic fermentation
– no fining (meaning all natural wines are suitable for vegans and vegetarians)
– no filtration.
– minimal or no added sulfites during winemaking and bottling (Legeron suggests no more than 50mg/L).
WINE QUALITY | Jancis Robinson MW finds ‘strong parallels between the development of natural wine and organic wine. When the market first became aware of organic wines, too many wines were presented as though simply being organic was enough; they didn’t necessarily need to taste good [I concur]. The same seems to be true of some natural wines. In both cases I would much prefer to have my tasting socks knocked off by how delicious a wine is before discovering how it was made. I sympathise with the theory behind the natural wine movement however. The level of additives in many wines is higher than it need be and [I] am strongly in favour of ingredient labelling, or at least some system providing information on what each wine contains other than grapes. It is a strange anomaly that food, but not wine, producers are required to fess up in this respect.’
Isabelle Legeron MW, Natural Wine, An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines grown naturally (2014, Cico Books, London & New York), p133.
Jancis Robinson MW, ‘Those rival natural wine fairs’, www.jancisrobinson.com 02 Jun 2012.
Monty Waldin, Biodynamic Wine (Infinite Ideas, 2016).
Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015).