Natural wine can be divisive amongst those who consider themselves oenophiles. And yes, not all natural wines are great examples of the category, but that is the case the wine world over – even in the same cellar there will be great years of one wine and poor years of the same one. Such is the way of wine.
Don’t confuse natural wine for organic wine
Natural wines are in a league of their own. Don’t confuse them for organic wines (although yes they may have been produced using organic agricultural methods). Because organic wine can still contain added sulphites to aid preservation, plus organic wines can be produced on farms that utilise machinery to assist in production.
Natural wines are more akin to biodynamic wines (only without the lunar calendar, the astrology and the buried cow horns), in so much as for a wine to be considered natural it has to have had limited chemical or mechanical intervention. Moreover, the vintner should have as little interference as possible in the winemaking process.
The natural approach to winemaking
Natural wine has gained prominence through recent years as a result of the backlash against modern winemaking, that has fast become the norm. But the natural wine movement is nothing new, it is merely a hark back to the original winemakers, an old-world approach that lets the land do the growing and the grapes ferment into wine.
In fact, in the vast majority of natural wines, the only additives are natural yeasts – wild yeasts that occur naturally on the grapes that help them ferment to become wine. And because winemakers operate a very much hands-off approach there is no filtration or fining of the wines, which can cause a cloudy appearance, but this doesn’t affect the flavour one jot.
Curious now as to how natural wines differ from standard wines?
6 reasons why you should give natural wine a try
- Natural wine tastes different.
Not in a bad way different, but in an uninhibited sort of way. A way that makes you think of wild meadows and long lazy afternoons. If you have ever tried a beer, think of natural wines as the wheat beer, a tastier option that is packed full of interesting flavour, whereas the standard wine is a pint of Stella.
- Natural wine is alive.
By which we mean during the harvesting of the grapes the vintner aims to keep the wine alive – they are striving to ensure the bacterial life in the wine remains as untouched as possible.
- Natural wines are naturally low in sulphites.
If you suffer badly with hangovers and headaches after drinking, you should definitely consider natural wines. The acceptable levels of sulphites in natural white wines stand at 40 mg per litre, and 30 mg per litre for red. Compare that the 160 mg per litre for standard reds and up to 400 mg per litre for whites (although the average is around 210 mg per litre).
- Natural wine is transparent.
We don’t mean in the see-through sort of way, but in the ‘do you really know what you’re consuming when you purchase a cheap bottle of plonk from the local supermarket?’ way.
Natural wine wears its heart on its sleeve and is unapologetic for its lack of additional ingredients.
- It pairs well with food.
There’s a reason that you’ll find natural wines accompanying the menus of the world’s best fine dining establishments – because natural wine quite simply is an excellent companion.
If you’re going to eat local food, food whose provenance the chef has worked hard to ensure, which hasn’t come from outside a 30-mile radius of the restaurant thus maintaining a low carbon footprint, then you shouldn’t do it the disservice of pairing it with a mass-produced wine.
No, if you’re going to put that much effort into a meal, it should be celebrated with a liquid accompaniment that has been made to the same exacting standards, with the same love and devotion as the food you are eating. It should be paired with a bottle of natural wine.
- Because you’ve heard of red and white wine, but what about orange wine?
Orange wine is wine that has had skin contact – it’s white wine that has been made like red wine. The grape juice is left in contact with the skins of the grapes which gives the wine its distinctive orange hue, as well as richer, deeper flavour.
And far from being a fad, or the next hipster craze, orange wine is one of the oldest winemaking techniques in the world, dating back almost 8,000 years. You can’t get more natural than orange wine.