If you’re keyed into the food and beverage world, chances are you’ve caught whiff of one of the buzziest new terms: natural wine. It’s certainly a movement that’s grown in popularity over the past few years. But ask a wine professional, merchant or server at your favorite restaurant about natural wine and you’re likely to get an earful of varied responses, the most common among them that it’s hard to define.
Just what is a natural wine?
Nebulously defined, natural wine is wine made the old-fashioned way with nothing added and nothing removed; this covers commercially produced yeasts, added sulfur and filtration processes. It is generally agreed that grapes must be grown organically and the wine is made with minimal human intervention and without the help of fancy machines and technology. There are no real standards, regulations or certifications that exist for natural wine, so this loose description––which changes depending on who you’re talking to––leaves a lot of gray area. Natural wines tend to embody a more interesting and unique flavor profile and are much less uniform than conventionally produced wines, with variations from bottle to bottle, vintage to vintage. Additionally, because of the low-intervention approach to winemaking, any natural flaws in the crops are apparent in the resulting bottle, which is both good and bad, depending on your personal preferences.
Is natural wine better than normal wine?
Not necessarily; again, it’s just a different option. A lot of people––sellers and drinkers alike––see natural wine as the trend du jour, favored mostly by tradition-bucking millennials. But as we grow more and more concerned with the foods we put into our bodies and how they are produced, it’s only a matter of time before we offer the same attention to what we are drinking when we pop the cork. You might prefer a natural wine if you’re wanting to explore wines with bolder flavor profiles that more easily express the fruit and the conditions in which they’re grown. Natural wines present an opportunity to celebrate small producers––many come from small-production vineyards and boast an idyllic story about a profound connection to the land. Natural wines can also be easier to drink thanks to lower alcohol content.
I did hear that natural wine won’t give me a headache…
Many claim the lower amount of sulfites in natural wine is the key to hangover-free imbibement. While sulfites might be the culprit for some drinkers, most of us typically experience the dreaded wine headache due to higher alcohol or sugar content. Most natural wines are lower in both alcohol and sugar as well as excess additives and sulfites, allowing you to escape an overserved evening without the same pains as if you had drank conventional wine.