Natural. No sulphur. No filtration. No test-tube yeasts or additives. Just pure ‘natural wine’. They’re everywhere. But is there really such a thing?
And if so, what does it even look like? Forget your clean, crisp and refreshing Riesling and your luscious blockbuster Shiraz. A lot of these ‘natural’ wines are cloudy. They're grubby. In fact, sometimes they're so dirty you can literally see the particles floating about in the bottle.
So what makes a wine natural? First we need to actually consider what defines ‘natural’. I asked Google (because let’s be honest, if Google knows your location and the day you’re going to cark it, it definitely knows what ‘natural’ is). According to Googz, ‘natural’ is an adjective used to describe ‘existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind’.
‘NOT MADE OR CAUSED BY HUMANKIND’. Soz winemakers, but you’ve been fluffing this whole time. All wine is to some degree made by humans. The yeasts, wild or artificial, were put into the grape juice to convert the sugars into alcohol – the crucial step in making wine. God didn’t fly down, walk into the local Ag store, make some measurements and throw it in the mix – a good ol’ fashioned human did.
Sure, that’s a pretty matter-of-fact way of viewing it – but it’s as black and white as that. There’s no such thing as natural wine.
What’s more likely is that many wines marketed as ‘natural’ have been made with minimal intervention. This simply means less human interference, fewer chemicals (if any), wild yeasts (that is, those found naturally in the environment) and maybe a vineyard that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.
Which, for the record, is great. Many of these wines are divine to drink, not to mention sustainable. What’s also great is wines made with minimal intervention are more likely to exhibit flavours that are a true reflection of the terroir in which they were grown.
But in marketing speak, is it better to brand these wines as ‘natural’, however loose the term? Does it matter? And do people really care?
Probs not. And, if it’s for the sake of diversifying winemaking in a manner that doesn’t hurt the environment, I say ‘go nuts’.
So, is there really such a thing as natural wine? Technically, no dice. Wines made with nature in mind and gentle intervention? Absolutely. Call it what you will, just enjoy.