Here is a hands-on explanation of what natural wine is.
- A natural wine is very digestible. It is better for your health than an organic wine. I explain the organic against health dilemma there.
- A natural wine has more taste, more aromatic intensity, than an organic wine. I start to show it below.
What natural wine is
A natural wine is fermented grape juice, with nothing added or removed. Almost. More specifically, a consensus is to call natural wine the product of the fermentation of organic grapes, unfiltered.
Discussion is that there may possibly be supply of sulfur dioxide, in very small doses. The residual value, when the bottle is opened, may be around 10 mg/l (according to FrenchScout.com). So it is purer than a vibrant wine.
The purity of natural wine enables an enormous expression of aromas with sometimes unprecedented manifestations: cloudiness, volatile acidity, tiny gas beads (I say the wine is "perlant"), oxidation (like baked apples), others. If the quantity of unprecedented is too high for you, you may speak of deviances.
Natural wine can be stored for years at a maximum of 14°C. (How to keep wine at home.)
Is it radical? Yes, it is. An ideal compromise is available with vibrant wines.
The movement for natural wines
Vins naturels are a movement, not a label. The idea is to stop considering that a person is making the wine: the vintner is rather accompanying the winemaking. A method for making a natural wine goes with:
- permaculture or organically-grown grapes;
- harvested by hand;
- rushed to the winery;
- fermented on wild yeasts;
- no rape pummeling;
- a level of sulfites at 20 mg/l at most.
Jules Chauvet: "The ideal would be not to treat with sulphite: you would then have to be sure of the harvest and of yourself".
How to spot natural wine
There is no legal or regulatory definition, or certification, of natural wines. This is why there is no mention of "natural wine" on the label or on the back label.
However, since November 2019 there is a French syndicate of vin méthode nature who has been in discussions with the administration (specifically the INAO and the DGCCRF) to work on a "charter of engagement". It resembles the definition above, just a little more flexible, in particular the use of sulfites up to 30 mg/l.
Beware that most natural wine activists may prefer to not sign a charter :-)
I have designed an app (a small tool) to find good natural wine wherever there is. With the move of wine shops to shipping, you can get wine delivered almost wherever you are. Here is a list of intense wines to order via the internet; a sort of comparison shopping engine for online natural wine:For example: Illinois | Greece | Colorado | USA | New York City
There also is an interactive map that finds natural wine anywhere.
Do you remember that I wrote a longer article on the relationship between organic grapes and toxic additives?