Americans have a long romance with healthy and organic products, so seeing natural wine in supermarkets isn’t a shock so much as a mystery. What goes into classifying a wine as “natural” versus a bottle created using traditional wine making procedures?
Aren’t all organic wines considered natural wine?
The short answer is the definition of natural would mean no chemical additives used in either growing or winemaking. An organic wine uses grapes that experience no chemical manipulation in the growing process however may utilize the addition of sulfites during wine making. This is a subtle difference however an important nuance to the purist.
When delving into the natural movement as a consumer, it is wise to employ the Caveat Emptor philosophy because there is no guarantee a wine labeled “natural” is any expert’s definition of what constitutes truly natural.
The reason is that there is no governing board and no regulations requiring a wine labeled as natural to actually be natural in the pure sense - not even to outline how "natural" is defined. In the United States, the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau) gives winemakers headaches over a variety of labeling issues, however none of them pertain to using the word “natural” on a wine label.
To make the situation even more confusing, winemakers and growers themselves disagree on the level of chemical manipulation that is acceptable for use in a so called “natural” wine.
Stir in greed and the result is unsavory wine consortiums who take advantage of the lack of regulation and oversight to lure consumers to their products, flooding the market with wine that wouldn’t pass the strict list of attributes advocated by natural purists.
Fortunately for healthy wine drinkers, there are many devoted growers and winemakers dedicated to putting out a truly natural product from the ground up.
Isabelle Legeron holds a Master of Wine certification and is an ardent supporter of the natural movement. She is the creator of RAW, a two day festival featuring growers and winemakers who adhere to the strict definition from vineyard to bottle.
Isabelle sees wine as having a living, breathing, almost humanlike existence much like Maya in the popular movie Sideways describing how wine grows and evolves, “gaining complexity until it peaks and then begins its steady, inevitable decline.”
Isabelle who is known affectionately as “That Crazy French Woman,” has been instrumental in pushing awareness by furthering knowledge and advocating best practices from vineyard to bottle via her wide ranging media network. Her vision is to use science to control every step of the process rather than using science to chemically manipulate the natural product.
Interview a traditional winemaker and almost immediately the conversation moves to flavor profiles and how different chemicals added to the process after harvest enhance or suppress inconsistencies in a young still wine.
On the other hand, a discussion with a natural winemaker often focuses on the growing process of the grapes themselves, prior to harvest. The fruit is coaxed along a predetermined path with vineyard manipulations being made constantly to keep up with nature’s curveballs. The word “biodynamic” will be bandied about and cultivation using worm juice might be mentioned.
Bugs are beneficial or harmful and “natural predator” is a commonly used phrase in organic farming because pesticides are off limits. These details, critical in traditional wine growing, are magnified in organic farming where maintaining a delicate balance is crucial to a successful harvest.
What it all comes down to is that wine – natural or organic or traditional – is subjective. You have to like what is in your glass. Natural wine is just another wine avenue to explore and like traditional wine, you will like some and dislike others.
Craveyon is all about exploring and our user friendly Craveyon wine subscription is an excellent way to try new wines. So grab a glass because Craveyon has a wine to fit every occasion and there’s no time like the present to discover your new favorite.