What’s the Deal with Natural Wine?
Natural wine is in vogue, and so are complex terms like biodynamic wine, organic wine grapes, and wild fermented wine. And although there’s no doubt these wines are often a better alternative to conventional wine, there are still a lot of consumers who don’t know about this trend. The good news? Natural wine is here to stay.
Let’s talk about natural wine and why it’s trending in the hottest wine markets, from San Francisco to New York. Let’s explore the differences between regular wine and this new wine that has changed the wine world for good.
What is Natural Wine?
Natural wine is not an official term. Unlike organic or vegan wine that is regulated and certified, natural wine can mean different things to different people.
Concisely, natural wine is low-intervention wine, in other words, fermented grape juice and nothing else. Natural winemakers encourage wild fermentation with native yeast and won’t use additives, pesticides,during the winemaking process. When it comes to sulfites, some will add a little sulfites while others will add none.
You might ask, what are sulfites? Sulfites are a natural antioxidant and preservative used in wineries since the Ancient Romans, but they have pros and cons. They are naturally occurring in wine, however, to keep wine safe, winemakers will add it to the wine to prevent ambient bacteria from changing the wine’s bouquet.
Natural wine, whether red wine, white wine, rosé, or a fizzy pet nat, is made with little to no intervention. This means the wine is often unfiltered, and since antioxidants from sulfites do not protect it, it can become a bit funky. Think of Italian skin-contact orange wine, a golden-brown Chardonnay, or a brick-colored Cabernet Sauvignon – that’s oxidation.
However, not all natural wines have sediment in it. While the process is laborious, some winemakers rack their wines to remove sediment. Racking involves moving wine from one container to another, leaving behind sediment that has dropped to the bottom of the tank during fermentation.
Is Natural Wine for You?
Given its odd color, unusual flavor, and aroma, natural wine is often an acquired taste. Still, every other sommelier at a fancy wine bar considers these wines the purest expression of the terroir. Are natural wines for everyone? They aren’t, but you’ll find a natural wine shop in every corner of the earth nowadays, from Italy and California to the most traditionalist towns in France — even in Burgundy.
Since natural winemaking is about the process and not a particular grape or wine style, you’ll find natural wine made with every possible grape, from Pinot and Carignan to Gamay (Beaujolais.)
What Does Natural Wine Taste Like?
Ideally, natural wine should taste like any other wine. Still, since the wine is unprotected by even the most natural preservatives (sulfites), it tends to have a short shelf-life, and the wine can look and taste, unlike anything you’ve tried before.
Visit one of the many natural wine tastings every weekend and take your tasting notes. You might find natural wine to have too much acidity if contaminated with acetic bacteria, or it might remind you of a barnyard if tainted by Brett yeast.
Natural Wine Advocate Alice Feiring said a decade ago in an interview, “Like an actor reaching out into the audience, natural wine breaks the fourth wall.” It’s easy to see why importers now offer natural wine from many wine regions worldwide. But is there an alternative to natural wine?
Organic Wine, The Best of Two Worlds
Although making natural wine with no additives is a romantic proposition, a wine that goes bad in a matter of weeks, even if unopened, is not a viable alternative for most wine lovers.
On the other hand, you can always rely on organic wine. However, to be safe, we suggest that you look into the wine making process. While some companies use organically grown grapes, they can still add chemicals in the winemaking process - in fact over 70 additives - such as mega purple dye, tannin sawdust, acid, sugar, etc.
At Mai Vino, we grow organic grapes and follow the main tenants of natural winemaking - organically grown grapes fermented with indigenous yeast and manipulated as little as possible. We still add a small amount of sulfites like natural winemakers to ensure that the wine shelf is stable.
In addition, Mai Vino, we’ve taken organic wine to the next level and made it vegan-friendly. That means that during the filtering process we use clay instead of fish bladder, egg whites, or milk protein.
We’ve also packaged our wines in a low carbon footprint air-tight pouch that prevents oxidation so you can enjoy the wine for 30 days after opening. We believe that wine is meant to be enjoyed, but it can also be good for you and the planet, and that’s what organic and natural wine have in common.