The difference between organic or biodynamic and natural wines is that the former is concerned with how the grapes are grown and what happens in the vineyard, whereas natural wine extends this philosophy into the cellar. It’s much more strict about what is and isn’t allowed in the winemaking process. They are as nature intended: a pure and natural expressions of grapes grown on a particular piece of land in a particular year. Organic and biodynamic accreditation bodies are primarily concerned with regulating the use of synthetic chemicals in the vineyard, rather than additives in the winery.
Whilst there is no standard definition, it generally means that practices such as the addition of yeasts or rectification of sugars or acidity which are common in winemaking, are not followed.
The movement in it’s truest form is an important reaction to the negative aspects of industrial approaches to winemaking and is thought by some to have been started in Beaujolais by Jules Chauvet in the 1970s. He got four producers together to focus on producing grapes of exceptional quality which they could then turn into wine with very minimal intervention.
Natural wine is also considered to be “healthier” wine. This is linked to various aspects in the way that it is produced such as:
– the use of naturally occurring yeasts to control and streamline the profile of fermentation, as opposed to chemically made or additional batch strains of yeast
– the production methods used, particularly in fermentation such as using clay amphorae to let the wine breathe and develop naturally rather than in stainless steel equipment
– careful use of sulphur or none at all; sulphur is a preservative that stops wine from oxidising during production and developing ‘off’ aromas but many natural wines have zero sulphur added during the winemaking process, also termed by the French “Sans Soufre”
– zero tolerance towards acidification of wine, which helps give stability for a longer shelf life, but can also hide poor grape quality
Clay Amphorae in Chablis
The downside of natural wine is that they’re unstable and the taste can be quite funky. At Wanderlust, we taste every single wine before it goes on sale and we won’t ever sell wines that are by definition faulty (by a nose of oxidation).