Natural wine has been on the rise in recent years, but what exactly does the term mean? Is natural wine better for you than other types of wine? In this cheatsheet to natural wine, you’ll learn everything you need to know including why more and more winemakers are choosing to forego chemicals and pesticides in favour of more natural ingredients and practices.
- Sustainable farming using organic and biodynamic practices, building ecosystem and soil health, ultimately growing healthier grapes, which equals better wine.
- None of the over 200 additives in conventional wines *some producers may add small amounts of sulphur.
- Unfiltered and unfined, no egg or fish products used, meaning vegan friendly wines.
- Small producers, less industrial processes, more care and attention in the winemaking process.
- As 'living wines' we believe they are better for you.
What is natural wine?
Let's dive straight in to it... Here's our definition of what Natural Wine is: Natural Wine is made with grapes farmed using organic, biodynamic and permaculture principals, meaning a strong focus on soil health and no chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Natural wines are created without adding or removing anything in the cellar. None of the up to 200 additives and processing aids used in industrial winemaking are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Generally speaking neither filtration nor fining are used, which means no egg or fish products eg. vegan friendly wines. This results in a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology eg. how wine was made for thousands of years pre-industrialised agriculture.
Winemakers can and will passionately debate some of the nuances of the above, for example whether it's acceptable to add a small amount of sulphur (sulfites / SO2) at bottling and so on, but for now we'll leave it there.
is natural wine better for you?
Spoiler alert... we think so...
Taking all of the above in to account, in our minds wines without up to 200 additives, processing aids, egg and fish products should be better for you, right? You are essentially drinking only pure fermented organically grown grape juice. Coupled with this the living state of a lot of natural wines, you could equate them to alcoholic Kombucha in terms of the microbiology and potential gut health.
Are sulfites in wine bad and do they cause hangovers?
Sulphur is naturally occurring in grapes and does help keep wines stable for transport and storage. However industrial winemaking tends to add a lot of sulfites to wines which we believe is problematic and potentially unhealthy. Do sulfites cause hangovers, we really don't know, we've never found conclusive evidence that this is the case, but it's definitely conceivable and probably depends on the quantity added. We tend to look at this issue in a more wholistic way, too many chemical additions to what can be a natural and beautiful process can't be great and when there can be a whole mess of chemical additives in non-natural wines, we think any of these could cause you problems.
Is natural winemaking sustainable?
Winemaking is a strange beast, as it is a form of farming it still has impacts on the environment and its surroundings. What we love about natural winemaking is it uses organic and biodynamic principals to work towards building soil health, encouraging biodiversity, decreasing erosion and ultimately trying to leave the land better than the farmer found it. Now this still comes with the complexities and debates common with sustainability but we believe natural winemaking is far more sustainable than industrialised winemaking and that's a good thing.
We believe in the wines we sell and the producers we support and we hope you do too. Alcohol is still alcohol though so as always consume in moderation and enjoy our wines with a hearty meal and damn good company!
If you're interested in trying natural wine, our wine packs can be a good way to get started. And never hesitate to ask for a recommendation either via our live chat or via email.
We caveat all of this article with: everyone has a different take on this, this is just ours. If you would like to have a chat about anything in this article eg. whether wines with even a small amount of sulphur added can be called 'natural wines' please email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss at length with a wine in hand :)
Stay safe xo