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What is natural wine?

Posted on by Jeff Black

Natural wine is more of a movement than a product as such and is based on thousand year old wine making traditions – the way it used to be done. The movement don’t laud certified organic – every wine we sell at The Organic Wine Cellar is certified organic – but to be considered a natural wine the wine should at the very least be organic or biodynamic and should be preservative free. Essentially, natural wine is about the wine making process and the producer. Let’s look at these aspects more closely…

The natural wine making process

The natural wine making process is about minimal intervention. From grape growing that is allowed to take its own course – and yes that means losses due to diseases and pests – to no additives in the wine.

No preservatives, no “designer” yeasts, no yeast nutrients, no acid and no bacteria should be added to the wine. And yes most conventional wines have all of these things added! Additionally, no fining and no oaking. If the wine is not fined, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans; there are no traces of fish, eggs or milk which are commonly used for fining – though fish not so much these days.

Many conventional winemakers are tasked with ensuring a wine looks, feels, smells and tastes the same, vintage to vintage, as commercially the wine sells – it’s based on that known formula that works for the mass market and any change is shunned as it could negatively affect sales. There’s no experimenting. Costs are tightly controlled. But with natural wine making it’s all about experimenting and variation – true expressions of terroir. The wines are 100% handcrafted – machines are not used to harvest grapes or at any stage throughout the wine making process.

As there’s no clear agreed definition for what constitutes a natural wine, most natural wine producers will loosely align to these philosophies but there are no guarantees. Read the label carefully and research the wine and producer.

The natural wine producer

Typically natural wine producers are very small scale single vineyard operations, not for commercial profit and all aspects of the wine making process are done in-house.

A number of our wineries such as Macquariedale in the Hunter Valley could be considered natural wine producers. Try Macquariedale’s Preservative Free NBG 2015 Red – a good example of a truly natural wine.

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