Natural wine is having a moment, with bars opening specifically to cater to the newest member of the beverage market. A holistic approach to viniculture, the wine variety has steadily gained prominence in the last year, using traditional and refined techniques to produce a considered vintage. The search for the best natural wine can become convoluted if you aren’t informed on the hallmarks of the concept, from its origins to technical terminology. Read on to learn the basics of this phenomenon and the 15 best varieties to be sampling.
What is Natural Wine?
Often produced through organic or biodynamic farming, natural wine originates from vineyards in self-taught ecosystems with little technological and mechanical intervention. The wine contains no additives, pesticides and minimal sulfites with the wine going through a natural fermentation process in production. This process allows its microbiological life to remain prevalent once bottled, meaning naturally occurring probiotics are included in every bottle produced.
The process of making the wine is twofold, first though growing and harvesting the grapes to then utilising the crop in the fermentation process. For natural wines, winemakers handpick the grapes used to produce the beverage, rather than relying on a machine for gathering.
Every winemaker engages their own process with natural wines and as there is no legal definitions of what classifies as a natural wine, different producer’s associates often regulate their own codes of practice and guidelines for quantifying the beverage. Natural wines come in red, white, sparkling, rosé and orange varieties.
What type of food should I pair natural wine with?
With the minimal presence of sulfites, natural wine is a lighter, moorish alternative ideal for paring with food. Due to its versatility in flavour and plentiful flavour dynamics, pairing natural wine is much the same as with non-natural wines. Think; reds for winter and heartier meals, like red meat and pasta, and whites and rosés on sunnier days with lighter foods such as salad and meze platters.
What are the key natural wine terms to know?
To understand the world of natural wine from a more nuanced angle, the following four terms will assist you in unpacking its fundamentals like a seasoned expert:
- Skin Contact: A prevalent term in the wine vocabulary, skin contact refers to the skin of white grapes being left on during fermentation. This is especially prevalent when referring to orange white as the technique yields a more orange colour to the liquid.
- Pét-nat: This technique of natural wine making has become a genre in its own right. Technically a sparkling variety, pét-nat is when a wine is bottle before the fermenting process, taking on a fizz-like tendency as it finishes. It can be made with any grape and is typically a hazy, cloudy colour.
- Biodynamic: As mentioned earlier, biodynamics is a farming principle which views the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem. At its crux, it means to treat all grapes with respect and, in turn, the grapes with allow winemakers to produce a refined vintage.
- Sulfites: Almost all wines contain sulfites which are naturally occurring, however organic winemakers argue adding extra sulfites can dull the wine’s organically occurring vibrancy. Those who produce low-sulfite varieties add them only as needed while sulfite-free wines are totally untouched. Some argue less sulfites mean a reduced risk of having a hangover, but this varies between individuals.
With your knowledge now bolstered, we've rounded up the 15 best natural wines to try with your next meal.
Images: Sometimes Always, Juice Traders and DRNKS