Natural wine is the talk of the moment in Australia. I have a friend who always insists on bringing her bottle of organic wine to parties and dinners. She swears she will never go back to drinking standard wine. Meanwhile, the wine industry is currently shifting toward more sustainable and natural production practices. For example, there are now 5,835 vineyards in the world being either certified organic or in conversion. But what is all this fuss about natural wine and what differentiates it from standard wine? Is the quality better or is it simply healthier?
What is natural wine?
According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, wine is qualified as “natural” when grapes are grown by independent producers and hand-picked from sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards. While natural wine must contain little or no added sulfites, it also has to be fermented with no added yeast and no additives must be included during fermentation. The result is a “living” wine that is wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology.
Organic & biodynamic wines are “natural”
Currently many of the top estates in France and Australia follow biodynamic and organic viticulture. Organic wine is made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Biodynamic wine production uses organic farming methods while also employing soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner’s formulas, following a planting calendar that depends upon astronomical configurations, and treating the earth as a living organism. We can say that biodynamic and organic wines are natural.
Natural wine labelling
There is a wide amount of wine bottles on the market that carry misleading labels and logos when it comes to natural wine. Some of them don’t even carry a label! To cut the story short, until countries introduce proper labelling for natural wine, you need to look for one of the organic or biodynamic labels on your bottle (as below).
Is natural wine healthier than standard wine?
Biodynamic and organic wines contain no added sulfites, as opposed to standard wines. Sulfites are a natural by-product of the yeast during fermentation, so even if you do not add them to the wine, the wine will still contain a low level. They are known to be the main cause of a headache after drinking wine. However, there’s growing evidence that headaches might not be linked to the intake of sulfites. For example, they are found in lots of other foods such as dried fruits, and we don’t get headaches from eating dried apricots or sultanas.Drinking biodynamic or organic wine is certainly better for the environment, but you’ll still probably get exactly the same side effects as standard wine after two glasses, unless you are allergic to sulfites (then you will feel worse indeed).
Do biodynamic and organic wines taste better than standard wine?
Although Biodynamic producers claim to have noted stronger, clearer, more vibrant and more floral tastes in their wine, little consensus exists as to whether organic and biodynamic wines are associated with worse, similar, or better quality than standard wines. However, biodynamic and organic winemakers have noticed that wines without chemicals better express the flavours of the terroir. After all, let’s admit it: regardless of the methods used to make wine, there will still be good wine and bad wine, so keep choosing wisely.
Talking about good wine…check out our selection of good Organic wine
Le Plonque recommends these amazing organic French wines priced from $15.40 to $59.60 a bottle and delivered to your doorstep in no time. I particularly like the rosé Domaine Le Novi, la Croix Figeac and Château Coutet.