Despite becoming a very trendy wine style as of late, natural wine has been the prevailing style for thousands of years. This is in itself is far from a historic trend, though – it more or less had to do with available methods rather than taste preferences. So why then, given the development of wine production, have we seen a reversion to this ancient style of wine? And even if a wine is advertised as natural, what does this actually mean – can natural be subjective? In this article, we take a look at this fascinating age-old style of wine.
All You Need to Know About Natural Wine
Understanding an ancient style
Finding natural French wine in Australia is much easier than it was a few years ago, which is interesting considering it is the traditional way to make wine – it is just fermented grape juice, after all. You might have even seen the style advertised as “low-intervention,” naked” wine, or “raw” wine, but these are all just buzzwords meaning the same thing – natural wine! Natural wine is produced from grapes that are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, with the grapes themselves often hand, rather than a machine, picked. After being picked and crushed, winemakers adhering to the style will add wild yeasts – the kind that is floating about the air all around us. Depending on the winemaker, sulfites are also added (but it can be argued that this does not comply with the natural style). Sulfites are traditionally an excellent wine preservative and stabilizer that allows the wine to retain a close flavor profile mirroring the flavor at the time of original bottling. While some natural winemakers do choose to use sulfites, there are still qualities that are up to ten times less than the standard winemaking process.
Natural wine, therefore, is more about what it doesn’t contain than what it does – conventional winemaking has very strict processes that are in place to ensure that the quality remains consistent year in, year out, despite grape crops and weather being entirely inconsistent every year. Consider that things like lab-grown yeast, acid, and sugar are almost universal additions, meaning that significant amounts of intervention take place in standard winemaking practice. Natural wine is also free from the staggering number of approved additives (over 60!) that you might find in your standard wine. Plus, these additives aren’t actually required to be listed on the label, which can mean that you don’t actually know what you’re consuming when you buy a bottle of wine. In the case of natural wines also mean that you know exactly what you’re getting. Some sulfites might be added, but that’s pretty much it, and these are just to help the wine survive the journey to your glass.
An ancient style delivering modern benefits
Although a delicious and interesting style in itself, with an end-product that can be either funky, quaffable or both, natural wine also delivers on another excellent front – sustainability. Creating wine organically or biodynamically farmed grapes, grown without pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals, natural wines also offer a product free from harmful chemicals, and with no need to abide by trends, winemakers are far more likely to hold off on growth related to an ever-changing market.