Although the term has been a hot topic among wine geeks for some time now, it wasn’t until my recent visit to Nagoya, Japan that I got a chance to really understand what Natural Wine really is.
Aim and PB had been to a few of their tasting events in the past. Knowing that Kara and I love wine, they called up Joel from Peshico to see if they could arrange a tasting for us.
Although Joel told them that Peshico was moving away from doing tasting events, he invited us down to the store to pick some bottles of wine. We could then head over to a local restaurant to have dinner and enjoy the wines while Joel described them.
We were all like, “Heck yeah, foo!”
And Joel was all like, “Come on down.”
Before we really get into the wine, let’s talk about the umbrella that is Natural Wine…
The term “Natural Wine” is not regulated by any governing body, the way that “Organic” is. Most Natural Wine producers will not include the term on their label. This makes it tough for us American consumers to take hold of.
Natural Wine is not just “Organic” or “Biodynamic”. Those labels refer to how the grapes are farmed. Many Natural Wine advocates will argue that after these organic grapes are farmed, they can be treated in very un-natural ways to make wine.
The best way that I can describe Natural Wine is that it is a philosophy in winemaking.
When grapes hang from vines, as they ripen, natural yeasts will collect on the grapes. These indigenous yeasts will consume energy from the sugar in the grapes through a process called alcoholic fermentation, a natural process in which yeast convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. You may have heard stories of birds eating grapes that have fermented on the vine, gotten drunk, and then flown into windows. Essentially, the alcohol produced here is wine, the way that nature intended.
Of course, the moment that man decides to plant and farm grapes, throw them into barrels and bottles, stick a label on them, and sell them to the public, we introduce a whole bunch of un-natural processes. The goal of the natural winemaker is to intervene as little as possible in this process to make a wine that people will enjoy. In order to do this, winemakers will try to follow a self-imposed set of guidelines. Here are a few of them…
1. Grapes are organically grown (with or without certification).
2. Grapes are dry-farmed.
3. Grapes are hand-picked.
4. Wine is fermented on their natural occurring yeasts.
5. No sugar is added during the winemaking process.
6. Wines are rarely filtered or fined.
7. Very little, if any, sulfites are added during the process.
A quick word on sulfites.
There is no such thing as a sulfite-free wine, because sulfites occur naturally in grapes. While sulfite allergies do exist (the FDA estimates 1% of the population suffers from sulfite sensitivity), the compound seems to get a bad rap from the general public.
Some folks like to blame sulfites for their hangovers, when alcohol is the more likely culprit.
Some folks claim that the sulfites in red wine gives them headaches, so they stick to white. The reality is that white wine contains much more sulfites on average than their red counterparts.
If you are convinced that you have a sulfite sensitivity, you could see an allergist… Or you could do the food test. Do you have reactions to dried fruits? If so, maybe you do have a sulfite sensitivity… Considering that they contain about 10 times more sulfites than wine.
Back to Natural Wine…
I like the idea of being a minimalist when it comes to making wine. It is not the goal of the natural winemaker to make a wine that is consistently the same from one year to the next. It is the goal of the natural winemaker to produce a wine that best expresses the grapes grown in one place during the course of one year. Just like the weather, Natural Wines can vary quite a bit from one year to the next. In a sense, you could consider Natural Wine to be journal that nature has written during one growing season.
You know… This blog is kind of like a journal. Does that mean that Natural Wine is Rad?
Let’s read on, and find out…
After picking out a few bottles, Joel took us over to a local Italian restaurant called Orsarino…
Joel ordered us up some good food. Take a look…
As good as all the food was, this dinner was all about the wine…
I’ve gotta say that ever since this dinner, my mind has been obsessing on Natural Wine.
I was really pleased with how fresh, different, and delicious these wines were.
I’m certain that there are some clunkers out there, but this dinner was a shining example of how good Natural Wine can be.
I want to thank Joel at Peshico for being such a great host, and for sending me a whole bunch of info on the wines we drank that night.
If you get a chance, don’t be afraid to give Natural Wine a try.
PS – For more info on Natural Wine, check out MoreThanOrganic.com.