Natural Wine and What’s Inside

When I mentioned to a few wine friends that I was working on an article about natural wine, I got some interesting responses, all with the same sentiment:

Are you crazy? Good luck with that! And 😐 

As I continued my research, I realized that the topic of natural wine should be added to the list of discussions to avoid on first dates, at dinner parties, and in job interviews. Warning: to date, there are no governing organizations or regulations for defining or labeling any wine as “Natural” in the European Community, North American, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.

A few things most agree upon, to varying degrees however, is that there is no addition of sulfur, sugar, acid, tannins and chemicals while maintaining native yeasts. That said, a few definitions that most people can live with are:

“Natural wine is a wine to which nothing is added, and nothing is taken away.” Notes Alice Feiring, Natural Wine for the People

“Natural wines are wines made with the least possible use of chemicals, additives and overly technological procedures. That includes chemicals in the field, such as pesticides, as well as things like sulfur or any of the almost 200 allowed additives that are legally permitted in wine, “ says Jack Kelly.

Are You Still with Me?

Because I’m about to throw farming into the mix. True natural wines are grown organically or preferably biodynamically and transform into wine without adding or removing anything through the entire winemaking process. Many natural winemakers refer to their wines as alive or raw and compare the exploration of tasting their wine to taking a walk in a vineyard, picking grapes and putting them in a bottle; to preserve the microbiological life of its place and time.

The “raison d’etre,” or “reason for” is to capture the life-force and the living organisms that are native to the fruits’ home; the grapes carry a tiny piece of earth with a creative potential that the Natural Winemaker carefully shepherds into a bottle. Here the vineyard resides until that bottle is opened and its rare universe is explored.

How Did The Natural Wine Trend Start?

The natural wine moment as we know it today began in the Village of Morgon in the French wine region of Beaujolais. In 1981 Marcel Lapierre met Jules Chauvet, Lapierre had taken over his family’s Domaine in 1973 and Chauvet was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a viticulturalist. Chauvet was against chemical fertilizers and pesticides and campaigned for a return to traditional wine methods of Beaujolais. Lapierre liked Chauvet’s wines and realized that he farmed organically.

Rapidly, other local vignerons took notice of the favorable results, not only in the wines but also in the vineyard. Thus a small but mighty group of winemakers began returning to Beaujolais’ past practices of viticulture and vinification: starting with old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding minimal doses of sulfur or none at all and refraining from adding sugar.

All of this is important because, since Lapierre and Chauvet, an astonishing number of winemakers both young and old are adopting or claim to have taken up Natural Winemaking practices in part or whole. And since there are no rules or regulations, it’s important to know who’s who and what’s up from down. It’s like all the variations of being vegetarian combined with gender neutrality.

What to Expect in a Natural Wine

Natural wines are known for being funky, gamey, yeasty and a cloudy. They are often much less fruity and can have a toasted nut aroma profile. They often smell like yogurt, cheese, beer, or cider. They can taste, smell, and feel different to varying degrees between bottles of the same wine. Some natural wines finish fermenting in, bottles, which causes it to carbonate with a natural spritz. They can contain tartaric or wine crystals and throw sediment. These are just a few examples of what to expect, and they are all-natural.

Natural Wines to Try and Where to Buy

To taste how it all started I recommend trying Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, Gamay form France’s Beaujolais region and Guy Breton Cote De Brouilly, Gamay also from the Beaujolais region, both wines are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. Other importers to look for are Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Louis Dressner Selections and Jenny & François Selections.

Natural Wine Shops:

New York

The Ten Bells


Brooklyn

The Four Horsemen

Natural Wine Company


Chicago

Red & White


San Francisco

Terroir

Trou Normand


Oakland

Ordinaire

The Punchdown


Portland

Bar Norman


Natural Wine Clubs:

Unrooted

Cellars Wine Club

Dry Farm Wines

Through the Grapevine

Thirst Merchants

Primal Wine


List of Natural Wines to Look for:

France

Region: Loire

Domain L’Ecu

Region: Bordeaux

Château Le Puy

Region: Champagne

Champagne Fleury


Spain

Region: Andalusia

Bodega Barranco Oscuro

Region: Catalonia

Costador Mediterrani Terroirs


Italy

Region: Trentino Alto Adige

Foradori

Region: Sicily

Occipinti


Slovenia

Region: Brda

Movia


Georgia

Region: Kvemo Kartli

Gotsa Wines


USA:

Region: California

Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery

Margins

Region: Oregon

Paetra Wine


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Jeff Bareilles
Wine Writer at Winetraveler
Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).

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