By: Kayti Doolittle
In the past year or so, you may have noticed a new type of wine quietly starting to take up space on specialty wine shops’ shelves, wine bar menus, and the bar carts of your hippest friends.
Natural wines can be intimidating to the uninitiated, especially because it comes with a whole lexicon of specialized terms like “biodynamic”, “skin-contact”, “native yeasts”, and “pet nat”.
But Natural wine need not be scary - and the unfamiliar words, colors, and tastes it comes with definitely shouldn’t scare you off. Because once you try Natural wine and see the difference between it and commercial shelf wine, you’ll never want to go back.
What is natural wine, anyway?
Many people think of Natural wines as something new, a trendy fad responding to conventional, more established winemaking techniques. In reality, though, Natural wine has a much longer history than what we think of as “normal” wine.
In fact, Natural wine actually came first. It is the original wine. The “normal” wine you find lining most shelves at the grocery store is really more of a chemical concoction than pure wine. It’s sort of like Wonder Bread, or genetically engineered foods. It’s a synthetic imitation of the real thing.
Additive-free wine made through processes of Natural fermentation is an ancient tradition dating back to early human civilization. Only more recently have wine companies started making wine full of sulfites, chemical additives, and other ingredients that expedite large-scale wine operations at the expense of compromising on flavor, health, and environmental concerns.
Because of this, the phrase “Natural wine” describes what a wine is less so than what it is not.
Natural wine is pure grape juice that’s fermented - without anything else added. That means no added sulfites, no artificial coloring or sugar, no genetically modified yeasts, no ammonia, and no egg whites or other animal products that are often used to clarify wine. When you’re buying Natural wine, what you’re getting is good, clean wine – and that’s it.
Beyond that, the grapes for much Natural wine are grown using better farming practices than conventional wine grapes, meaning that the wine – and the soil – are healthier. Natural wine is often produced using biodynamic or organic farming practices. Here’s why this matters to your body and your palate.
Organic and biodynamic farming practices
Conventional farms are basically food factories. Farmers monocrop large areas of land, sapping the soil of its nutrients and destroying animals’ habitats. Then they use conventional pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals to maintain the health of their plants because they’ve created an environment that doesn’t easily support life.
Biodynamic farms, on the other hand, are wild ecosystems. Farmers work with the land to create an environment that supports healthy, thriving plants. They grow a number of different crops, strengthening the biodiversity of the land they’re living on, which in turn creates healthier plants and benefits the entire ecosystem of the farm.
And organic farms use Natural farming practices, meaning no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals disrupting the grapes and leaching into your system.
Grapes from organic, biodynamic farms are richer in nutrients than grapes from conventional farms because they’re grown in thriving soil full of minerals and micronutrients and free from harmful toxins. They also have a more complex flavor profile than other grapes due to being farmed in better conditions.
The Natural wine difference
As we’ve touched on – there are a number of differences between Natural wines and conventional wines.
Not only are you benefiting the environment and your overall health when you drink a Natural wine, but you’re also getting a wine that isn’t some man made chemical concoction. It’s a wine that tastes better and fresher – and that has lower sugar and fewer carbs.
And because Natural wines are fermented in a process that preserves the good bacteria that arise, Natural wine has probiotic benefits that conventional wine simply doesn’t.
When you enjoy Natural wines cultivated from organically grown grapes, you’re indulging in a depth of flavor that’s unparalleled by other wines. You are taking part in ancient winemaking practices. You are supporting small growers and family farmers. And if that’s not enough... You’re also benefiting your body and the planet in the process.
Natural wine anyone?
Really it’s a no-brainer.