For the past few years, the natural wine movement has been growing at an exponential rate. Natural wine producers believe that wine should be made in a sustainable way that preserves the environment by avoiding pesticides and herbicides. While this is a noble goal, some people think that making wine in this way can leave something to be desired in terms of taste.
The term Natural Wine is simple enough, but it has been the source of much confusion in the wine world. Natural Wine is a title that has been used by wine makers to describe wine that has not been chemically altered in the vineyard, and has not been pasteurized or filtered. (However, some Natural Wine makers have claimed that their wine is entirely organic.) In short, it’s wine made in the most natural way possible.
Megan Bell, winemaker at Margins Wine, is frustrated with the term natural wine.
Although there is no official designation in the United States, it generally refers to wines made without the use of chemicals, flavors or colors and without the addition of sugars or acids, clarification or filtration. Many believe that natural wines should be made without the addition of sulfur or temperature control agents such as dry ice, although others make exceptions for this practice. Despite these porous parameters, Bell considers the term exclusive.
Merlot from Block 10 of Early Mountain Vineyards in Virginia / Photo courtesy of Early Mountain Vineyards.
At events like the RAW Wine Fair, participants must be exclusively organic or biodynamic, contain less than 70 milligrams per liter (mg/l) of sulfites, and use no additives or sterile filtration.
I think these technical details pose a big problem for winemakers if it means they can’t participate in certain wine fairs and can’t sell their wines in certain liquor stores because they have added sulfites, Bell says.
She uses the term low intervention to describe her vinification practices.
It takes about 10 seconds to mix a small amount of KMBS [potassium metabisulfite] powder with water, and then it turns into sulfites, which I add to my wines a week before bottling, she says. So all the organic cultivation, hand picking, fermentation and aging without sulfites, and all the other tasks I did over six months to get the wine to be this natural are now irrelevant because of something that took ten seconds? I don’t think so.
Margins Wine making low-intervention bottles with grapes from under-represented regions / photo courtesy of Margins Wines
Lee Campbell, sommelier and representative of Early Mountain Vineyards in Virginia, also finds such strict views problematic.
Virginia has a long history of winemaking, but it has never been easy. The state’s cold climate, fungi, black rot and high humidity make it difficult for producers to maintain a strict approach to natural wine production. Growers have to use pesticides here and there to at least get out of the season with some grapes. But even one use of non-organic pesticides keeps them out of the conversation about natural wine.
I don’t want to be so dogmatic that I don’t allow winemakers in Virginia or winemakers of color who don’t have the same resources or access [to the wine industry], Campbell says.
Oh, you have a beautiful rose, but because it’s not organic? I won’t put it on my list. I’m not in that position.
Campbell believes that the wine community will only benefit from the variability of the natural wine movement.
Photo courtesy of Early Mountain Vineyards.
I think there’s a way to find out: I like the direction this guy is taking. I like where this person is going.
Written references to natural wine date as far back as 1731, but it was not until the second half of the 20th century that it was first discussed. In the early twentieth century, the term was used to describe the organic wine movement. It has helped them to unite, to speak out against the use of chemicals and to encourage others to switch to organic farming and to practices that use as little intervention as possible.
Today, however, experts like Campbell and Bell say the term can exclude winemakers who cannot meet zero standards, meaning nothing has been added to or removed from the wine during its journey from vineyard to winery.
Not all winemakers can immediately switch to organic or biodynamic farming, use only wild yeast for fermentation and do not add sulfur to stabilize the wine, they argue. Each region has different climatic characteristics and winemakers often buy grapes from individual producers.
For these and other winemakers, the transition to minimal intervention or natural winemaking is a process. Such barriers can exclude them more than maintain the wine’s natural appearance.
Susan E. Ulbrich, wine director of The Cheese Shop of Salem, Massachusetts / Photo: Bree Hurd
I think it’s important to take a hard look at big, blanket statements like I only drink natural wine, says Susan E. Ulbrich, director of winemaking at The Cheese Shop of Salem. Supporting only that which has a fancy name can prevent you from enjoying a truly wonderful wine produced by a dedicated winemaker who, after all, is not necessarily a natural winemaker.
Lauren Hayes, head of vinification at Pammy’s in Cambridge, appreciates what natural wine has done for sustainability and to get more people interested in wine.
I’m glad I live in a time when that word has become inherently tiresome, she says. Of course I’m disappointed in the dogma, I don’t believe select yeasts are the enemy, and I don’t think it’s fair to punish a winemaker who finished a wine from a single vintage or did a fungus treatment because he felt it was necessary. My job is to educate, be honest and buy good wine.
The 69% of U.S. consumers who say they would be willing to pay more for organic products might appreciate such honesty. And replacing a term like natural wine with wine with minimal intervention can shift the focus to processes and create a more inclusive market for traditional and natural wines.
Like any school of thought, the natural school has a cautious side, says Hayes. But that doesn’t mean we should give up.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What makes natural wine different?
The world of wine has changed immensely over the last couple of years. More and more people are interested in learning more about wine, and many people are even jumping into the world of wine by opening a winery or a store. However, one question still remains: what exactly makes natural wine different from regular wine? Although it is different from the majority of wines, the main reason that people drink natural wine is for the taste. www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greece-encyclopedia/greece/literature/literature-artists-and-art-works-e/the-art-world.html www.ellopos.net/elpenor/g Natural wine is a term used to describe wine produced in the most “natural” way possible. It is a term that has become more common in recent years, as more and more people are looking for a healthier lifestyle, and natural wine is certainly a great choice to make. Natural wine is wine that is 100% natural. That means that it doesn’t contain additives of any kind. But what exactly does that mean? There are a few basic rules that define natural wine.
What is the difference between natural wine and regular wine?
What is the difference between natural wine and regular wine? Natural wine does not contain any additives or added chemicals. In this article, we will talk about the main differences between natural wine and regular wine. Unfortunately, the line between natural wine and regular wine is often blurred, and the term rarely means what it should. The term natural wine is often used interchangeably with organic wine and biodynamic wine, with all three carrying their own weight in controversies. What is natural wine then? Natural wine is defined as wine made without additives and is often vinified with little or no intervention. While it’s easy to make a sweeping judgement of natural wine, that would be a mistake, as good and bad examples exist on both sides of the spectrum
What defines a natural wine?
The definition of a natural wine is not cut and dry. A lot of winemakers will argue that organic or biodynamic wines are natural. Others say a wine is only natural if it is made under certain conditions. Some people have an even broader definition of “natural wines,” which includes wines made without additives, temperature control, or micro-oxygenation. Natural wine is increasingly popular these days but what exactly defines a wine as natural? Natural wine is wine that is produced using natural, organic and biodynamic methods; this includes organic and biodynamic grapes, and no additives are added to the wine at all. In contrast, most wine is treated with additives to preserve it and to stop the fermentation process.
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