A Guide to Natural Wine

Whether you describe these wines as ‘raw’, ‘real’ or made with ‘minimal human intervention’, natural wines have created a lot of noise, for a seemingly small niche in the world of wine. Natural wine seems to either confuse or excite consumers, there isn’t particularly any middle ground. Here’s what you need to know about natural wine.

What is natural wine?

Whilst there is no official definition, natural wine is considered to be an approach to winemaking which is employed not only in the vineyards, but in the cellars too. Certain commonalities can be found between most producers; biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming practices outside the winery are carried inside and further applied to the winemaking process, with little to no chemical or technological intervention. 

These natural wines are fermented with native yeast, often grown in the vineyard. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined – it’s this hands-off approach in the winery that sets natural wines apart from organic and biodynamic bottlings. Due to the high-risk nature of crafting wines without intervention, and the labour-intensive techniques used (hand-picking, foot crushing), natural wines are often produced in small quantities. 

Why has natural wine suddenly gotten popular?

It might seem like the latest fad in drinks, but the recent explosion in natural wine popularity has been on the cards for decades. As a lot of good wine does, it started in France; some consumers had become disillusioned by the industrialised, overly mechanical methods of wine creation. A small number of winemakers then began making more rustic, traditional wines like those of their grandparents. 

The natural wine ideology has since spread across the globe, with many wine bars and restaurants only pouring the natural stuff. Natural wine festivals are now commonplace across Europe, Australia and the US. 

Natural wines touch upon a lot of the same hot topics prevalent in larger society such as; healthy living, preservation of culture and traditions and environmentalism. With this, it’s no surprise that natural wine is one of the most debated topics within the wine industry.

What does natural wine look and taste like?

Natural wines don’t follow a one-size fits all approach; they can range from wild and funky to exceptionally alive and complex. Some of the funkier natural wines can be a bit hard to wrap your tongue around, and aren’t necessarily for everyone – but with such a wide range of variety of flavours and styles, it’s likely you’ll find a wine that your tastebuds love. 

With their generally lower alcohol levels, natural wines are versatile selections that can be enjoyed either on their own or with food – most natural wines, red and white alike can benefit from some time in the fridge. As they are unfiltered and unfined, natural wines can often appear to be quite cloudy and have a harmless sediment in the bottom of the bottle. 

Is there an official natural wine certification?

No, unlike the stamps found on the back labels of organic and biodynamic wines, there’s no official certifying body for natural wine. Some members of the wine industry are calling for official certification as they believe that this would create transparency for consumers. Others feel that introducing rules and regulations to natural wine would contradict the grassroots beginnings of the new natural wine movement.