WHAT DEFINES A NATURAL WINE?

a natural approach from grape to glass

Natural yeasts, low or no sulphur, no additives, no temperature control, traditional oak or concrete vessels, grapes grown without the use of agrochemicals: all of these things and more can contribute to making a natural wine. Natural Wine is a largely undefined term in the wine world, with a few exceptions such as France’s INAO certification of ‘Vin Méthode Nature‘.

But what could be natural in a category that encourages experimentation, breaking from the mainstream and focusing on individual character rather than safe, homogenous character of many mass produced wines? The demand for certification may also not be practical for many small, independent producers. Many of these already practice organic and biodynamic agriculture and winemaking, but the costs and administration of obtaining official certification can be prohibitive. The best bet is to check out the producer, and find out how they define their approach to natural wines. We always look for the use of indigenous yeasts, low sulphites and minimal fining or filtering.

At SustainableWineSolutions, we celebrate the disruption caused by the natural wine movement. We share its vision of prioritising high quality and low intervention, all whilst responding to the desire for transparency about our products and tapping into increasing consumer awareness of the impact of our consumption habits.

WHAT ARE NATURAL YEASTS?

Natural, ambient, indigenous, native – you may have heard all of these words thrown around when talking about natural wines. They refer to yeasts that are naturally found on the grapes, favoured by low-intervention winemakers to get the fermentation going. The alternative is to use cultured yeasts, grown in a lab and formulated to guarantee an easy fermentation: sounds good right? Whilst it may potentially be an easier option for winemakers than the more fickle natural yeasts, you miss out on all the complexity, individuality and real sense of terroir that indigenous yeasts bring. Check out some of our Zero Waste wines that have embraced their natural yeasts:

LORENZO ZONIN’S SYRAH & PETIT VERDOT – Podere San Cristoforo, Maremma Toscana

Fermentation in stainless steel tanks using natural yeasts. 10 months ageing in French oak barrels before release. Very low sulphite additions after the end of malolactic fermentation and before bottling to ensure freshness.

LUIS & MAR PEIQUE’S MENCIA – Bodegas Peique, Bierzo, Spain

Fermentation in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts, with pre-fermentation cold-soaking to ensure gentle extraction of tannin and colour. 2 months on fine lees adds texture and complexity. Low levels of sulphites used during winemaking and before bottling. 

RUTH DE ANDRES’ GARNACHA ‘MOUNTAIN WINE’ – De Andres Sisters, Gredos, Spain

Fermentation in concrete tanks using indigenous yeasts, with no fining agents used. Aged in concrete tanks for 1 year before release, with gentle microoxygenation to stabilise and integrate the wine.  

ARNAUD COMBIER’S CHARDONNAY ‘BLANC SAIN’ – Jeff Carrell, Beaujolais, France.

Fermentation using natural yeasts. Aged in both large oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, with minimal sulphites used only on bottling.