What is "Natural Wine"?
Minimal & Mindful
Natural wine, baby. The perfect catalyst for inclusivity the world needs right now. At its core, it is non-pretentious, accessible, and delicious. There is a natural wine for everyone, and the best part: you don't need to know too much about it to appreciate it.
And no, I don't mean 'organic wine', 'clean label certified wine', or 'sugar-free keto wine', Aunt Amy. "Natural" IS a loaded word and can be construed in many ways thanks to greenwashing and corporate marketing. Overall, enthusiasts and winemakers alike can agree that "Natural Wine" is a catch-all term for wines produced using the following minimal standards:
• Made from organic grapes, whether certified or not
• No chemical Intervention
• Wild or native yeast used for fermentation
• Minimal fining or filtering, if any
Ultimately, the beauty of natural wine lies in its lack of definition. Our hard and fast rule is NATIVE YEAST FERMENTATION, always. See the details on each product, or feel free to ask us for assitace in finding the wine that aligns with your values.
We may carry wines that have taken the process a few steps further. Each wines process is clearly stated on our site, so you can make the best choice based on the standards that matter most to you. Some winemakers also require the following in their natural winemaking standards:
• Hand-picked/ hand-harvested grapes
• Biodynamic or organic certification
• 'Sustainability' certifications
• Neutral or no new oak barrels for fermentation
There is no regulated industry standard. Winemakers use buzz words like low-intervention, no intervention, real wine, zero/zero (nothing added, nothing removed) or living wines to better reflect their hard work and individual winemaking practices, so look for these terms when shopping around.
So, how is it different, and what can I expect with "Natural Wine"?
In order to make mass-market wines taste, smell, and feel the way they do, winemaking is legally allowed over 72 different types of additives to play with. These additives essentially pause the fermentation process at just the right time, giving you the familiar taste and consistency you’ve come to expect, any time, anywhere, forever and ever.
But because natural wine minimally intervened with, it goes through continuous fermentation so it can taste a little different! As a living wine, it goes through exciting and vibrant changes that influence the taste batch to batch, and year to year. But they sure can share characteristics of your conventional favorites too! (Just maybe not vanilla through an oak straw)
Domestic natural winemakers are often running small operations, resulting in fewer cases produced each year. With the overall change in climate, wild fires, and unexpected hail storms, high-quality organic fruit can be limited. You will find that these resourceful winemakers- not bound by conventional wine constructs- will do whatever they can to ensure they release a delicious and high quality product. This often means co-fermenting grape varieties, co-fermenting with other fruit like apples or pears, or ageing for slightly less time.
Some winemakers may produce several 'drops' of seasonal or small-batch wines with extremely limited quantities too; driving the chase even the craft beer lover can get on board with.
All wine will naturally contain a negligible amount of sulfites. It is a fermentation by-product and can be added and used as a natural preservative. The difference is conventional wine will contain significantly more added sulfites at around 350 parts per million than natural wine, which sits at a generally acceptable 30-ish parts per million (again, the loose framework here is part of the beauty of it). Though, some natural wines won't contain added sulfites at all, which is where the term zero/zero can come in to play.
You can also come to expect younger wines and chillable reds; made to be enjoyed and consumed fresh.
Wait, are you cancelling my Cabernet?!?
Fact is, nobody's perfect. We simply need to be more informed about our wines and choose to support winemakers that create delicious products and support fair farming practices. Eric Asimov of the New York Times said it best: "...think of wine as food. If political, environmental and ethical considerations enter into your decisions about which foods to buy, they should inform your wine-buying as well."
See Eric's full article here
With us, you will find a rotating inventory of the best winemakers the US has to offer, along with a handful of international favorites. These winemakers put their heart and soul into their wines through their practices and values. We love the winemakers we work with and look forward to collaborating with emerging wineries as the demand for low intervention wine grows! Feel free to reach out anytime if you know of a domestic winery that deserves some much needed attention on USNW!