If you are passionate about wine, you surely have heard of “natural wine” at least once. Do you know what makes a wine “natural”? Nowadays, natural wine has become trendy; however, it is not something new at all. Let’s find out what natural wine is.
What Does Natural Wine Really Mean?
Natural wine has become a label signifying bourgeois and elite taste in certain wine circles and social groups across the United States. When you read or hear “natural wine” there’s a hint of indie charm to it. Many winemakers have scrambled to put fancy wine labels on their products boasting “natural wine”. But what makes a wine natural is not always crystal clear to the average consumer. Natural wine has thus become a moot point to argue over for both wine purists and traditionalists.
Most of us would think natural wine is a novelty or a fad, however it seems to be simpler than that. Natural wine is none other than conventional wine, that is, wine made from fermented grape juice without additives. This turns out to be a surprise for many, when they discover that natural winemaking is just the old-fashioned traditional way of making wine.
This is why natural wine is more of a concept than a wine category with agreed-upon characteristics on its own. In its purest presentation, natural wine means wine made from unadulterated fermented grape juice. In its truest form, it is wine that protects the microcosm of life in the bottle, keeping it intact, stable and balanced.
Understanding Natural Wine
Understanding the difference between an organic naturally made wine and a conventional one requires understanding of the winemaking process. Winemaking consists of two stages: growing and picking grapes, and then fermentation to obtain wine. In the case of natural winemakers, grapes are not sprayed either with pesticides or herbicides; furthermore, the farmers handpick the grapes without machines.
Natural winemakers rely on native yeast and do not use any additives (like sugar, acid, egg white, etc.) in the winemaking process.
Often, winemakers add sulfites, a preservative and stabilizer that has been used for many years in the industry. Sulfites ensure that the wine you drink tastes mostly the same as it did before being bottled. Natural winemakers either use no added sulfites or use it in small quantities.
Regardless of these distinctions, the presence of sulfites or additives in very small quantities does not disqualify a wine from the natural wine category. Around 10 to 35 parts per million are generally considered an acceptable amount of preservative to add for the bottling stage. In the US the maximum amount is 350 parts per million. Making natural wine can be a risky enterprise, given the environmental and microbial hazards that could potentially damage wine fermentation. Therefore, minor interventions such as restrained use of sulfites afford a sense of security for the grower, while minimally impacting the wine.
Where Is the Natural Wine Trend Headed?
Most experts agree that the modern natural winemaking movement began kicked off in rural France. In France, a group of winemakers started a growing community favoring minimally intervened, holistically produced wine. The first formal showcase of organic wine took place in 1999 and it became a thing in the following years.
Eventually, as more stateside restaurants began stocking natural wines, the media started to cover those restaurants and the fad ensued. People began to associate “natural wines” with cool, fashionable places and cuisines. In recent times, natural wine’s trendiness has expanded far beyond what was initially imaginable.
All in all, identifying naturally made wine can be, at face value, quite difficult. However, rest assured that when you do find an authentic organic wine, the experience will always be a promising one. Generally, true natural wines account for a very small proportion of the wine world. But natural wine has been steadily carving out a niche for itself will surely become more prominent in the industry as time goes by. Moreover, naturally made wine is just another way of enjoying wine to its fullest. For some people, what natural winemakers do goes well beyond the wine itself, it is also a philosophy, a way of life revolving around wine and its relationship with nature. Certainly, it is something worth celebrating.
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Sources: www.rawwine.com www.go-wine.com