Updated: Mar 29
These days, it seems like you can't take two steps without hearing about natural wine, so we're asing what exactly are “natural wines”? And what’s the difference between those and “biodynamic” or “organic” versus “raw” or “minimal intervention” wines. It's an interesting topic.
What most of these phrases are seeking to convey is the idea that nothing has been added and nothing has been taken away in the winemaking process, from vineyard to cantina, by the winemaker. I’m generally a huge fan of this philosophy, but let’s break it all down a little further.
Natural Winemaking 101
The Basics of Natural Winemaking In many cases, “natural wine” is a shorthand to indicate there have been no chemicals used in the winemaking process from vineyard to cellar, the wines haven’t been clarified and haven’t been filtered and are generally a pure representation of the grapes that made the wine. It’s also a nice not-so-subtle jab to larger more commercial producers to insinuate their products are full of chemicals, artificial processes, and therefore result in an inferior wine that should be scoffed at by those in the know, which is not always the case.
So I Should Only Drink Natural Wine? It's not that simple. People around the world are touting the benefits of “natural wines” and elevating them to the status of mythical healing tonics. Look, by and large I agree wines where chemicals aren’t being added are better than those when the producer is putting god knows what in your fermented grapes. No question do I believe less intervention is better, highlighting the existing, naturally occurring flavors of that year's grapes is definitely best. That’s kind of a no brainer and those are the bottles I'm sending you in wine club. But just because a wine says “natural” “biological” “organic” or any other derivative of the idea doesn't guarantee of the quality of wine you’re about to drink. And just because a wine is "conventionally" made doesn’t mean it’s laden with chemicals and additives. You really have to know your winemaker or have a trusted source that does to guarantee quality.
Drinkability is Key Don't forget one of the most important features of a natural wine: It should actually be something you want to drink! Anyone who tries to tell you a natural wine should have an "off/bad/stinky/downright gross" odor or taste is not speaking truth on quality natural wines. Natural wines should be delicious and leave you wanting another glass.
Wait...What's that stuff at the bottom of the bottle/my glass?! Don't worry! Those naturally occurring sediments are the result of aging and/or the fact that natural winemakers don't use artificial methods to filter their wine. They're perfectly safe, but you might not like the way they feel in your mouth. Be sure to pour slowly from the bottle and don't invert the bottle too much despite the fact that you might want to drink every last drop! No sediment? Not to worry, you natural winemaker isn't playing games, they've just chosen a different way to fill the bottles that minimizes/eliminates sediments.
Winemakers in Control My hope is that even more winemakers will join the many that I’ve met in Irpinia and beyond who flip the bird to anyone who suggests they alter their wines to modify the natural greatness they cull from their vineyards and grapes. Let's celebrate the heroes who make wine that showcases the flavors of the grapes of that year's vintage. Support winemakers who follow their passions and embrace the differentiating characteristics for every year, knowing when you open a bottle from their winery, it will taste amazing year in and year out. Of course, you’re going to love some vintages more than others, but that’s the whole point of wine!
Irpinia Natural Wine Masters some of favorites include: Azienda Agricola Boccella*, Cantina del Barone*, Cantine dell'Angelo*, Il Cancelliere*, Luigi Tecce, Tenuta Vincenzo Nardone*, Cantina Giardino*, Casa Brecceto, La Cantina Di Enza*, Fabio de Beaumont (coming soon!). (* available to taste through our partners at Schneider's of Capitol Hill.)
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