A Focus on Natural Wine - Wine Guru Brad Looks at the Sustainable Nature of Natural Wine Production
What defines a natural wine?
As with any natural product, the term natural wine simply indicates that nothing artificial has been added to the grape growing or winemaking processes.
While there is no universally accepted definition of natural wine, it is generally agreed that the entirety of the domaine from which the grapes are issued must be farmed organically and/or biodynamically. No yeasts may be added, except in the case of the second fermentation of sparkling wines, when neutral yeasts may be used.
Does natural wine mean organic?
An important distinction: All natural wines are organic, but not all organic wines would be considered natural. Some organic wine cellar regulations permit the use of additives and fining agents that are against the spirit of natural winemaking.
When did natural wine production start?
The natural wine movement began in the 1970s in Beaujolais, France when a Gang of Four people including Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Jean Foillard, got inspired by Jules Chauvet, a winemaker, and chemist. These four people began producing wine by terminating the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides in the vineyards and using grapes that were grown on older vines, harvested later to have longer hang time giving them a riper fruit. With absolutely minimum use of sulfur dioxide, the grapes were very carefully sorted before pressing and excluded the addition of sugar to ferment the juice to increase sweetness or alcohol levels. Later, it became a natural evolution towards greater transparency and environmental responsibility in what winemakers were producing.
Are natural wines sustainable?
Natural wines aren’t just good for your palate – natural wines are sustainable. Not only are they made using better farming
practices (often only manual labour, hand-picking, pruning and foot pressing), but many natural wines are made in smaller batches by people who care about each aspect of the winemaking process, unlike industrial winemaking operations.
Is natural wine usually more expensive?
It’s much easier to make traditional, mass-produced wine than a natural wine, which involves hand picking and pruning, and laborious low-tech processing. More time, more labour, more costs and less yields make natural wines generally more expensive than mass-produced wines.
The law on natural wine production: Vin Méthode Nature
In Spring 2020, the Syndicat de Defense des Vins Naturels (SVDN) had its rules approved by the French Authorities (INAO). It is currently in a three year trial to become a legal definition. The label , Vin Methode Nature’ is available in two versions, “without added sulphites” and with “<30 mg/l added sulphites”. Members must be certified organic, harvest manually and ferment with natural yeast. No additives (except sulphites as mentioned above) and no “brutal” processing aids during production (e.g. reverse osmosis) are allowed.
Blind Corner Wines – organic and biodynamic wines in Western Australia
Blind Corner is a certified organic & biodynamic vineyard & winery. Owners Ben and Naomi Gould started making wines from their sustainably farmed vineyard in 2009, they now run 28 Ha of certified organic vineyards. Their wines have no additives aside from SO2 under 50mg/L, (some at zero), no fining agents, no heavy manipulation, no blocked malolactic, no pasteurisation, and continue developing their natural ethos of minimising outside influences where possible.
With over 25 years of professional experience in the wine industry, Brad Mitton is the founder of Brad's Wine Subscription.