Natural and Low Sulfite Wines
Many people think that all wine is natural wine. After all, isn’t wine just grapes that were crushed, put in a barrel, left to ferment, bottled and sent to the local retail store? The short answer is no. But, unlike other food products that have to list their ingredients on the labels, wine labels are incredibly vague and hard to understand. In fact, you can’t actually put the ingredients on the label even if they wanted to because of regulations in the US.
Broadly speaking, natural wine is a term used to describe wines that are farmed organically, typically using practices like biodynamics, and made without adding or removing anything during the winemaking process. This means no fining or filtering and no adding of acid, sugar or any other component. From the grape growing process all the way through bottling, natural wines are made using minimal intervention. Winemakers of this style can even reject fancy machinery in favor of hand picking and making the wine. That being said, there is no legal definition of natural wine, no accreditation that can be received, and no guidelines. Therefore, natural winemaking is a philosophy more than anything else and natural winemakers often have strict, self-imposed standards.
While winemaking has progressed immensely through the use of technology, there has been a call to return to the way wine was made in bygone days. Back in the day, there was no addition of yeasts, stabilizers, acid controllers, sugars, powdered tannins, or other additives that are frequently used in the wine-making process. While these additives can make a wine more stable, extend shelf life and create a taste that is more “user friendly,” they alter the way the wine would naturally taste, according to MYSA.
Because the wines are untouched, naturally occurring processes can get out of control, and give the wine some unfamiliar flavors.
- Brettanomyces: A wild yeast. A little bit gives wine a pleasant barnyard funk; which some enjoy, but in large quantities it is can give an overwhelmingly horsey flavor.
- Volatile Acidity: In small amounts, it can add notes of bright balsamic. In larger doses, however, it can add an overwhelming vinegar taste.
- Oxidation: In conventional winemaking, wine is exposed to air during vinification in a controlled manner. This process creates savory notes of bruised apples or nuts (think sherry). When this process is not controlled, the wine can be overexposed to oxygen and not only turn brown, but lose it’s fruity character.
WHY WE SHOULD TRY IT-
Low intervention in the vineyard and cellar means the wines are able to truly reflect their terroir (or natural surroundings.) This includes location, soil type of the vineyard, and the climate of that particular vintage– something wine geeks love!
WHAT ARE SULFITES?
The biggest misconception about natural wines is that they have no sulfites. Sulfur dioxide, which has been used since Roman times as a disinfectant and an antioxidant, is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Learn more about sulfites, and their effects on wine, here.
Sulfur Dioxide is also the only additive accepted in natural winemaking, and it is up to each individual winemaker to choose if, and how much, they want to add. Natural red wines typically won’t contain more than 10 Milligrams per liter (mg/l,) while white wines typically won’t go above 25 mg/l. When sulfur dioxide is added in natural winemaking, it is typically added in small amounts at bottling. However, many producers will choose not to add any, resulting in a wine that may be a bit more temperamental.
FUN FACT – Spinach, dried fruits and french fries contain MORE sulfites than a glass of wine!
If you are sensitive to sulfites and histamines, TRY The Wand wine filter.The Wand is a filter that removes BOTH histamines and sulfites. Click Here!
NATURAL VS. BIODYNAMIC WINES
Natural Wines –
The grapes used for natural wines are typically grown by small-scale, independent producers picked from sustainable, organic, or biodynamic vineyards. The wine is then fermented with no added yeast (ie. native yeasts) using only naturally occurring yeasts. During this process little or no sulfites are added. There is no official or regulated definition of natural wine which leaves the topic open to individual opinion. When in doubt, just ask!
Biodynamic wines are the result of a closely managed, symbiotic ecosystem among the vineyard. Similar to natural wines, farmers must be minimally dependent on imported materials resulting in a total organic production. The use of GMOs, synthetic chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides is NOT permitted . Often, chickens and cattle roam the property and certain plants are grown to create this fully sustainable environment.
The founder of Biodynamic agriculture, Rudolph Steiner, also found there to be lunar and astrological influences on soil and plant development. A number of Biodynamic calendars have been developed that offer indications for optimal times for sowing, cultivating and harvesting, based on the cyclical changes in the positions of the celestial bodies in relation to the earth, according to NaturalMerchants.com
For more information on what makes a wine organic or biodynamic, click here.
Natural wines are fun and unique! and each one will taste different from the next. The best way to learn more about this topic while better understanding and appreciating the craft is to taste, taste, taste! TRY one of our sommelier recommended organic & natural wines without the funk. Delicious with traditional wine making roots that just so happen to follow the guidelines of organic wine making.
MARIS ROUGE 2018
A BLEND OF SYRAH & GRENACHE
Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, pepper, and blackcurrant. Attractive mouth with a fruited palate. A comforting everyday wine perfect for a roast, barbecue and sharing with friends.
If you have any questions about Natural, Organic, or Biodynamic wine, comment here, visit our Facebook page or stop by the store. We are excited to hear from you!