Natural wines... Instagram vs Reality
Natural Wine. Heard of it? The new craze in wine drinking seems to be these cloudy, unfiltered wines with minimal intervention… But are they really all that? Or is drinking natural products just trendy and not that enjoyable? Does the natural wine drinker really know what it means?
Let’s have a look at the latest wine trend…
Now let’s start with what natural wine actually means. The truth is, nobody really knows exactly, as there is yet to be set rules on the term’s definition, like we do find with organic and biodynamic wines, that are strictly governed. However, the majority are using the term minimal intervention or zero intervention to describe these, expecting zero sulphite use, zero filtering or fining and no additions whatsoever. Just letting the wines naturally create themselves…. How romantic!
But as just stated, nobody’s really checking.
Now this newfound trend of natural wine production is actually an ancient technique. This was used by the Georgians when making their amphora beauties, when wine was at its inception. Modern techniques of wine production improved this system and created the beautiful crystal-clear wines that we’ve come to know and enjoy. Why would you chuck your Puma Kings back on after buying a brand-new pair of predators?
For me it’s more about the migration towards the use of natural products. This works with today’s generation, rather than the product itself. We are inclined and encouraged to recycle more, lean toward plant-based diets and try to get back to basics. Social media all plays into this too.
“But the thought of a wine without any chemical intervention has to be positive I hear you cry??”
The sad fact is that natural wines are permitted to and do often still use sulphites!! WHAT??? SURELY NOT?? It’s true, so how natural are they? And how do you know?
Let’s be fair, there is definitely a huge drop in chemical use from mass produced wines but not much more than biodynamic/organic wines. Natural wine is made from grapes that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides (as in organic/biodynamic). Natural winemakers handpick their grapes instead of relying on machines to harvest them (as do many winemakers all over the world).
So, what IS different?
When it comes to turning those handpicked grapes into juice, natural winemakers rely on native yeast. This is the stuff that’s whirling around in the air and will land on grapes if you put them in a vat for long enough, to set off natural fermentation. Unlike a good number of conventional winemakers, they don’t use any additives in the winemaking process (egg, milk, oak staves etc).
The lack of additives (milk, egg, vegan fining alternatives) is what gives that cloudy appearance that natural winemakers love to show off in minimally labelled bottles. I love a cloudy lemonade as much as the next person, but there is something satisfying about having a clear drink in your glass.
So, what do they taste like?
That’s a really hard question to answer, as there is so much variation in the term as well as the wines in general. They vary from conventional flavour profiles to weird and funky and sometimes can be overly acidic, like a scrumpy cider. I know I’m not selling it by saying that, but there are certainly some stars out there to make your 1st foray into the world of natural wines a little easier.
One Natural phenomenon is PET NAT (Petillant Naturel/Naturally Sparkling) are a great way to balance the high acidity that some natural wines can have and are a little more refreshing when sharing a bottle on a sunny day…. That Wine Cellar’s recommendation is “GILBERT PET NAT RIESLING – (£25 That Wine Cellar)” Unfiltered and cloudy, with lip smacking acidity, yet absolutely delicious; full of vibrant, textured melon, lemon sherbet and granny smith notes.
There are also more conventional styles of natural wine that are more like conventional wine but without too much intervention. The NATURA SOLI VIN de FRANCE from CHATEAU VIEUX MOLIN (£18 That Wine Cellar) is 100% Carignan, no added sulphur and organic. Enticing nose of stewed bramble fruits, blackcurrant, hints of game. Supple but with a touch of chewy tannin on the finish. Good wine in any book, but particularly impressive as natural.
This is a much more conventional style but with the added boast-ability that natural wines bring.
Natural wines are definitely fun and funky and certainly make you look like you care about your body and more importantly the environment, however are they always worth the money? (often £20+) Possibly not.
If you’re willing to look there really are some gems in the making, but if you know that you’re a fan of traditional wines, I’d stick to organic and biodynamic to get the same sense of helping mother nature, with a fuller purse and a more traditional taste.