Natural wines are wines made with the least possible use of chemicals, additives and overly technological procedures. A common phrase refers to winemaking in which "nothing is added and nothing is taken away". For us to consider a wine natural, it must also be vinified as naturally as possible. This means that after it has been cultivated, there is a minimal use of additives and technological manipulations. Examples of additives include sugar, acidifiers, and powdered tannins. Manipulations can include the use of spinning cones to remove alcohol, micro-oxygenation to accelerate aging, and the use of laboratory cultivated yeast.
There are some disagreements within the natural wine community that natural wines should have zero sulfur added (often called 'zero-zero' wines), while for many others, including many of the top winemakers in natural wine, the addition of some sulfur at the point of bottling is acceptable. In any case, the total amount of sufur present in a natural wine is significantly lower than in a non-naturally produced wine. Virtually everyone in the natural wine world agrees that the grapes used must come from organically or biodynamically-grown grapes, and that only wild or indigenous yeasts be used to ferment the juice.
Here is quick overview of the key aspects of what we consider natural wine:
- Organically or biodynamically-grown grapes, with or without certification. No synthetic molecules in the vines
- Dry-farmed, low-yielding vineyards, along with use of plowing or other solutions, such as the planting of organic covering crops to avoid chemical herbicides
- Handpicked grapes
- Use of indigenous yeasts for fermentation
- No added sugars (chaptalization), no cultivated (cultured) yeasts, no foreign bacteria
- No adjustments for acidity
- No additives for color, mouth-feel, minerality, etc.
- No external flavor additives, including those derived from new oak barrels, staves, chips, or liquid extract
- Winemaking that respects the grapes, without heavy manipulation, such as pumping over, micro-oxygenation, reverse osmosis, spinning cone, cryoextraction
- Minimal or no fining or filtration
- Minimal or no added sulfur
This style of winemaking allows for the best possible way to express a sense of place, or terroir. Natural winemaking is not opposed to technology and modernity, but favors techniques that express the natural terroir, the sense of wines from this place in this vintage, rather than commercial ones that tend to homogenize wine styles and erase individuality.
We find the taste and style of natural wines to be exciting and refreshing in our world where more and more is inauthentic and artificially constructed for us as consumers.