So you may have heard the words “natural wine” being thrown around lately. While small in size (natural wine represents less than 1% of the world’s wine production), the hype around natural wine right now is significant. With that hype have come a lot of misconceptions that need to be debunked. As someone who sells natural wine for a living, these are the few I encounter the most:
“What? Natural wine? Isn’t all wine natural?”
All wines are made from grapes but that doesn’t mean all wines are natural. Natural wines are fermented using native yeast (no added yeast) with grapes sourced from sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards, produced with minimal intervention and little to no sulfur added.
“All natural wines are weird and funky!”
While there are a lot of natural wines that are “weird and funky” there are also many clean and crisp natural wines. But what do people mean by “weird and funky”? Well, people usually mean that the wine has brett and/or mouse. Brett (full name, Brettanomyces) is a type of yeast that is usually associated with spoilage and is seen as a fault by most. Gives wine the aroma of barnyard, wet dogs, and band aids. Mouse or what the French call, goût de souris, is a taint caused by lactic bacteria. Giving the wine the aroma and taste of a caged or dead mouse (Yeah, I know, it sounds really gross). Usually brett and mouse are both seen as faults, but small amounts of either in a wine can positively contribute to the experience.
There is a wide variety of styles so no matter what you’re in the mood for (whether you want something clean and pure or weird and funky), you can always find something you’ll want to drink. (Or chug, no judgment, glou glou!)
“But, natural wines are so unstable; they aren’t that great for aging. Right?”
Incorrect! While it is true that some natural wines are meant to be drank young. There are tons of natural wines that have been proven to age extremely well.
“If it’s certified organic, does that means it’s natural?”
Not necessarily. Though organic farming is something the natural wine community stands for, organic farming does not mean that the wine was fermented naturally.
“Is natural wine better for you?”
Nope. Many believe that sulfites in wine cause headaches and the lack of added sulfites makes natural wines better for you. Unfortunately, there is still little evidence that sulfites cause headaches.
Now that you know the truth about natural wines, it’s time you went out and drank some! Below are a few of my favorite producers that you should definitely keep an eye out for:
Catherine et Pierre Breton (Loire Valley, France):
I remember the moment I fell in love with cabernet franc. And that was the day I first tried a wine from Catherine and Pierre Breton. The husband and wife team make fun and exuberant cab francs with a bit of a serious side.
François Chidaine (Loire Valley, France):
I have to say that Francois Chidaine really made me understand style and how much the winemaker affects the wine. Chidaine’s personality always shines through, but never overshadows the expression of the terroir.
Division Wine Co. (Oregon, USA):
Kate Norris and Thomas (Tom) Monroe make wine right in the middle of Portland, Oregon. Taking a lot of their inspiration from France, they use grapes grown in the Pacific NorthWest to make wines that have the nuance of French wines with a West coast pop.
Minimus (Oregon, USA):
Chad Stock’s experimental branch of wines. Minimus always produces something unexpected and unconventional. Chad really shows the fun side of natural wines.
Occhipinti (Sicily, Italy):
Arianna Occhipinti is an OG. She started working with wine as a teen and continued on to releasing her own wines at the age of 22. She (along with a few other Sicilian wine makers ) really proved that Sicily was capable of making great wine and focuses on exclusively growing indigenous vines.
Drink well (and responsibly)!