Natural wine has been getting a lot of attention lately. To us, it’s no surprise. The organic food industry pulled in $45.2 billion in 2017. Winemakers are simply responding to the public’s desire for a product with fewer chemicals.
The natural wine craze might be getting plenty of attention these days, but natural wines have been around for centuries. The definition of natural wine? Any wine that doesn’t contain sulfites, chemicals, added yeast or added nutrients. Natural wine also isn’t usually produced by large-scale machines. It’s generally made in small batches by equally small growers.
In an interview with NPR’s The Salt, senior wine buyer Stephen Meuse defined natural wine as best anyone can: “In theory, it's taking fruit that is grown at least organically, then taking it into the cellar and adding nothing, while also not taking anything away."
Many sommeliers agree that this definition is the most accurate when it comes to natural wine.
Natural Wine Vs. Organic Wine
Natural wine is often made with organic grapes, but not all organic wine is natural. Organic wine is simply wine that is made with organic grapes. Many organic wines are not natural, meaning they contain additives, such as yeast and animal products.
Since natural wines don’t contain these additives, they’re great for vegans, too.
Natural Wine Vs. Biodynamic Wine
If you thought we got a little woo-woo with natural and organic wine, wait until you hear about biodynamic wine. It’s natural wine’s even crunchier cousin -- organic farming meets soil maintenance. Biodynamic farmers see their vineyards as a part of a holistic process that includes the vines, fruit, soil, roots — and even the moon and stars.
At the bare minimum, it’s the ultimate testament to reuse, reduce, recycle in the wine industry. At its most complicated, it’s a means of sustainable farming that revolves around the lunar calendar. It was invented in the 1920s by an Austrian philosopher, who based his research off thousands of years of research completed by French monks.
Choose wines with a Demeter International or Biodyvin logo on the label. Both organizations are well-known biodynamic certifiers. If it’s not certified, it might not be biodynamic.
Natural Wine Vs. Sustainable Wine
Just as natural can be organic but organic isn’t always natural, sustainable wines generally encompass many of the above techniques — but just because a wine is organic doesn’t necessarily mean its sustainable.
Sustainable wine is simply an umbrella term used to describe a wine that is manufactured sustainably and socially responsibly. These winemakers create products that leave a minimal footprint on the earth.
Where to Buy Natural Wine
Maybe you think you’ve never seen a bottle of natural wine before. Yet many wines that have risen in popularity just also happen to be natural. Many boutique wine stores and distributors in larger cities have started adding natural, biodynamic and organic wines to their rosters. You can often also buy it online — or order it straight from the vineyard.
Ah, yes. The illustrious orange vino. Some people love it. Others hate it (yes, even orange wine gets the occasional internet troll). Yet the one thing everyone can agree on is that most orange wines are primarily natural wines. The ones that do contain additives usually contain extremely few.
Benefits of Natural Wine
So, what exactly are the benefits of this centuries-old vino? Are there any benefits? Or, is this just some new-fangled marketing scheme?
- It tastes a little funkier (you can’t spell funky without fun) than regular wine
- Natural wine might be better for you
- Your hangover might not feel so bad
- It could help regulate your blood sugar
- Who needs pesticides in their body anyway?
Natural Wine Food Pairings
If you’re planning on ordering a glass of natural wine at dinner, you’ll want to taste it before you buy it. Many natural wines don’t quite taste the same as their garden-variety counterparts. Many wine drinkers describe natural wines as having an earthier taste or complex mouthfeel. You’ll want to take that into consideration when it comes to food pairings.
Many experts suggest pairing natural wine with dishes featuring bold flavors.
You’ll also want to check your expectations at the door. Many people already have an idea of what they like — and what they don’t. If you’ve never experienced natural wine before, don’t walk into the wine bar thinking that it’s going to taste exactly how you expect it to taste. Keep an open mind and take a few risks.