What you need to know about natural wine, organic wine, and being a responsible wine drinker
Natural wine, including biodynamic and organic wine, is worth researching, especially if you want to become a responsible wine drinker. Here is what you need to know.
In the age of well-being of Instagram influencers and food bloggers, and the prevalence of cleanses and detoxes, consumers are much more aware of what they are putting into their bodies than ever before. It shouldn’t end with the wine they bring home.
Too often, wine is an afterthought, and bottles with familiar labels and cutesy names are tossed in the grocery cart along with the organic produce and cage-free farm eggs. And that, my friends, just doesn’t make sense.
Many places still view wine and liquor stores as essential businesses during this shelter-in-place period, and for good reason. Wine is a source of comfort, pleasure and something that we can share at home or through virtual happy hours to make the isolation more tolerable. While the focus is on foods that boost the immune system and staying healthy during quarantine, the type of wine we drink should be part of that conversation.
Do yourself and the earth a favor by being a better wine drinker. Follow these tips for how to choose clean, unaltered, and responsibly made wine that won’t blow your budget, made even easier by contactless pickup and delivery services.
Related Reading: The Best Ways to Buy Alcohol Online
What you should know about natural wine
If you’re in touch with the world of wine, or even if you aren’t, you’ve probably heard the term ânatural wine,â an old practice that has seen a resurgence over the past five years or so. So what does natural wine mean and why should we drink it?
Well, it’s not very clearly defined or regulated, but it’s basically wine grapes that are grown without pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard, are hand picked and spontaneously fermented with native wild yeasts. There are no additives, no filtration, no handling. Natural wines are authentic, pure, raw and naked. Sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines all fall into the natural category.
Isabelle Legeron, who is Master of Wine, founder of RAW WINE shows in London and New York featuring producers of natural wines, and all around the authority on natural wine, says we should drink natural because â the natural wine has not been altered with. Something really handcrafted and small production gives you a more authentic wine. It’s more of a representation of where it comes from.
It also has significant environmental benefits, especially for biodiversity. Legeron says that natural winegrowers âencourage biodiversity and wildlife to return to the vineyards. This encourages populations of butterflies, birds to nest nearby, âwhich for human endeavors is becoming increasingly rare.
The natural wines are wild, very expressive, sometimes funky, often lighter, with voluminous sediments at the bottom and more acidic. Some of the natural wine touchstones to watch out for are light, chill reds – or âglou glouâ reds; whites that are cloudy or in contact with the skin, aka trendy orange wines; and the pet nats, sparkling wines made using the original unique fermentation method.
In addition to making the most responsible choice for the environment, you are also doing your body good by drinking natural wine. When you drink natural wine, you are drinking only fermented grape juice, with little or no added sulfites, no chemicals, and nothing fake. Natural wine skins also have more antioxidants, Legeron says.
Another plus: Often, natural wine has a lower ABV, meaning little to no hangovers (if consumed in moderation), and you can drink more without getting hammered.
Mixed opinions on natural wine
While many wine drinkers, especially millennials, embrace the natural wine movement of recent years, some traditionalists vehemently denounce it.
For many years leading up to this new interest in natural wines, it was the bold, oaky, fruity, heavy and opulent great reds of Napa and Bordeaux that were deemed superior, in large part thanks to the Robert Parker point system. and wines the famous favors of the critics. Many reviews of natural wines stem from the fact that the category is not legally defined, and for that, critics like Parker have called it a “scam.” Ironically, it’s the wines that blend together to taste the same vintage after vintage that seem to be a rip off, not the wines that have nothing to hide.
It is these expectations of what a wine from a particular winery, region or grape variety should taste that lead to the opposition of natural wines that disrupt this mentality. Because there are so many artificial ways to protect grapes in the vineyard and tinker with wines in the cellar, there is little to no variation with each vintage. Natural wines can be very spotty from year to year, and that’s seen as a good thing, at least in the natural wine community.
As for those conventional wines with smooth edges, Legeron says âThese wines can be redundant. Why have the same thing year after year? Why have ratings and reviews?
Regarding the backlash from natural wine, Legeron says, âHe ruffled a lot of feathers. It has made a lot of noise for something that occupies so little the market. Fortunately, the amount of coverage he gets is out of proportion to the space he has in the market. “
Legeron also points out that many of these critics cannot necessarily identify the region or the name of the wine they are rejecting. âThese are people who lack experience or who haven’t tasted so many natural wines,â explains Legeron.
LÃ©geron’s advice? “Take it with a pinch of salt and try it for yourself.”
Whatever your preference or your position on the matter, wine made without pesticides or synthetics is undoubtedly good for your body and the environment. Not to mention that you are supporting farmers, small businesses and a reduced ecological footprint, which is crucial, now more than ever.
How to find these wines
If you’re new to sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines, which all fit under the natural umbrella, it can be difficult knowing how to find them. Here are the best ways to start your natural wine adventures:
- Buy at a local independent wine store. The selection of natural wines in supermarkets and grocery stores is meager at best. Wine shop staff are here to help and are your main resource for finding the best bottles to suit your taste and budget. For an even wider range of options, do a little research to see which of your local wine merchants might specialize in natural wines.
- Look for or ask for wines from natural importers. If you are not sure whether a wine is natural, check your local store to see what they have about importers focusing on natural wine producers like Jenny & Francois, Louis / Dressner, SelectioNaturel, Rosenthal, Von Bodem, Brazos, European Cellars and Ole Obrigado.
- Look for natural wine indicators. Another way to search for natural wines is to look for clues on the bottle. First of all, natural wines will rarely be one of the brands that almost anyone could name, such as those that have a cupcake or kangaroo on the label. Some natural wines are in fact certified as sustainable, organic or biodynamic. However, many do not have this certification because it is very expensive, even though they practice the same methods. The logos of the companies granting the certifications will be on the bottle, such as Demeter, LIVE Certified, USDA Organic and a host of others specific to certain countries. Most will include the words “organic”, “sustainable”, “green” or “biodynamic” and will likely have a leaf or plant motif.
When you get started with natural wines, Legeron says to keep an open mind and not to be afraid to try something different, even if it seems cloudy. She recommends starting with the âuber drinkable and super juicyâ pet nats. After all, who doesn’t love bubbles?
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