Natural wines are the purest form of the “art of winemaking. The low-intervention viticulture and wine production methods that are used have the lowest impact on the environment and are the most ecologically responsible way to produce wine.
Natural wine (fermented grape juice) has been made for centuries. The first documentation of natural winemaking dates back over 8,000 years in the country of Georgia. Natural wine has always been the traditional way to make wine. Winemaking methods changed as our society became more modernized. Many winemakers chose to use “modern” winemaking techniques (including the use of certain additives, modern machinery, and technology). These modern methods are commonly practiced for large-scale wine production as it is an efficient way to produce industrial quantities of wine and is also very cost-effective.
The methods that are used to produce natural wine are not regulated. There is no defined set of rules that must be followed when making natural wine. However make no mistake that those who make natural wine adhere to a strict code of ethics employing specific methods that create the purest, finest, unadulterated expression of wine on the planet. Natural wines are made by small independent producers who are forward-thinking individuals with a strong ethos that respects the environment.
In the 1950s following the end of the Second World War, the natural winemaking trend re-emerged in different areas in rural France. It has since gained enormous popularity around the globe with the emergence of groups of like-minded winemakers who are dedicated to re-establishing traditional winemaking methods.
These winemakers abandoned the use of “modern” methods (ie: the use of artificial yeasts or other additives, mechanized tools, and machines in the vineyard and winery), replacing them with the traditional viticultural practices that were used by their ancestors.
Work in the vineyards is carried out by hand or with the assistance of an animal. All of the work in the winery is also carried out using low-impact methods that are sustainable. These methods of natural wine production create wines that are “healthy” for the planet.
How is Natural wine made?
In the vineyard, organic, biodynamic, or sustainable viticulture methods are practiced. The viticulturist and the winemaker understand that the natural microbes in the vineyard are important to maintaining healthy vines and growing excellent grapes. These microbes produce natural ingredients that are essential during the winemaking process.
Once the grapes have been harvested, there is little or no intervention during the vinification and aging process. Only the natural yeasts that have been produced on the grape skins are used to ferment the juice. After the fermentation is complete, the wines are left to mature and the dead yeast particles settle slowly to the bottom of the maturation vessel.
When the wine has reached maturity, the clear wine is gently siphoned out and bottled. To retain their optimal attributes, once natural wines have been bottled they will benefit by being stored between 57-65°F (14-18°C) and further aging may occur depending on the wine.
It should be noted that just because grapes have been organically or biodynamically grown, this is not a guarantee that the final wine is natural. Often winemakers will use additives in the winery when making the final wine which means that it is no longer “natural”.
Another misconception is that natural wine is unclean, this is not true. There may be small particles of sediment that remain in the bottle. Do not be alarmed. Rest assured that there is nothing harmful in a wine that has not been fined or filtered (the process that removes all of the little particles that build up in the maturing wine such as dead yeasts, etc). The majority of natural wines are clean and clear, displaying the same clarity as a wine that has been fined and filtered.
Natural wines are good for the environment and are healthier to consume as they are chemical-free. Being a responsible wine drinker and consuming natural wines is a wonderful way to take care of the planet.