What is it?
Natural wine is crafted in small batches from hand-harvested, dry-farmed, organic, or biodynamic grapes, with minimal intervention in the vineyard and cellar.
Natural wine is nothing new in fact, it’s a continuation of chemical-free farming and winemaking methods which have been done in some parts of the world for over 8000 years. Natural winemakers don’t use industrial chemicals in their vineyards or cellars. Instead, they employ natural solutions with a goal to create a biodiverse ecosystem that’s sustainable and healthy for the environment, their families, and their grapes. The vineyards are always dry-farmed, which means they do not water the vines, this causes the vine roots to dig deep in search of water, creating resilient vines and better fruit. Oftentimes animals such as sheep or goats are used to trim the grass in the vineyards, ducks are unleashed to catch insects while wild herbs and flowers grow in perfect harmony with the grapes. Manual labor, teas, and herbal tinctures are used to treat the vineyards. Natural ingredients copper sulfate, lime, and water are used as an effective fungicide and bactericide for the treatment of the vineyards.
History & Natural Wine
Natural wine has been produced for thousands of years, with evidence of ancient wine production in China from 7000 BC, Armenia 4100 BC, Georgia from 6000 BC, Greece, and Sicily from 4000 BC. Various vessels and tools made from clay and wood were used in winemaking, and continue to be used today.
In the beginning, fermenting grapes into wine was a method to preserve the grapes and was considered a healthy and nutritious drink. The altered consciousness produced by wine was considered spiritual since its origin. The ancient Greeks worshiped Dionysus the god of wine and ancient Romans carried on the tradition of Bacchus. Consumption of ritual wine was part of Jewish practice since Biblical times and, as part of the eucharist commemorating Jesus’s Last Supper, became even more essential to the Christian church.
Wine production and consumption increased, burgeoning from the 15th century onward as part of European expansion. Despite the devastating 1887 phylloxera infestation, modern science adapted, and wine production and wine consumption now occur throughout the world.
Chemical and Additive Free
About five decades ago modern technological “advances” made their way into the wine industry. Chemicals intended to make farming easier and more predictable were invented, and farmers began to use these pesticides and herbicides in their vineyards, essentially ruining the biodiversity and the soil of their vineyards while allowing for mass production of manipulated wine. These new chemicals killed the natural yeast on the grapes which meant wild yeast fermentation was no longer an option and industrial yeasts were invented and are widely used. These industrial yeasts can add flavors and aromas, making wines all taste the same with a lack of character. Winemakers began to use additives which helped them manipulate the taste, smell, and appearance of their wines. All this is perfectly allowed and legal in the USA and EU. All these new methods basically industrialized the wine industry, allowing for the production of a uniform product, large production, and cheap prices. These are the modern wines you find today in your local supermarket, chain restaurants, and big box stores.
Thankfully, some winemakers never adopted these modern practices. Thankfully, today we are more conscious about what we consume and these wines are gaining in popularity.
Natural winemaking is becoming a movement similar to a revolution, an enemy to the industrialization and homogenization of wine in the past five decades. Natural wine producers are independent farmers and winegrowers, while conventional wines are made in factories backed by big banks and venture capital. Natural winemakers reject industrial winemaking techniques and the excessive use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or fertilizers in the vineyard.
Natural winemakers also reject the conformity of taste and dominance of international grape varietals, instead preferring indigenous grapes and authentic wines.
Characteristics of Natural Wine
– Natural wines are farmed employing organic, biodynamic, and sustainable methods, preferring manual labor, and natural remedies such as teas, copper, sulfur instead of modern chemicals.
– Natural wines are made with minimal intervention in the cellar during the winemaking process, often using gravity instead of pumps.
– Natural wines are made with natural wild yeast; no industrial yeast is added to begin fermentation or add flavor, the fermentation is not temperature controlled.
– Sulfur dioxide (Sulfites) is added as the only stabilizer and preservative.
– Often bottled unfined and unfiltered and may contain sediment in the bottom of the bottle.
– If clarifying of wine is done, natural bentonite is preferred over animal byproducts, thus making Natural wines Vegan friendly.
– Indigenous grape varietals are used including exotic and ancient ones.
Natural Wine v. Conventional Wine
To understand Natural wine, let’s talk about all the additives and methods which are not used in Natural wine, but are allowed by the FDA and commonly used in Conventional wines:
– Chemical Pesticides and Herbicides
– Lab-grown yeasts
– Acidity regulators
– Filtering gelatins ( animal product )
– Fining agents such as egg white, casein, isinglass
– Reverse Osmosis
– Gas injections to aerate the wine
How does Natural Wine look, smell, and taste?
Natural wines are different from other types of wine and can taste very different. Because of the wild yeast fermentation, Natural wines have authentic aromas, textures, acidity, and flavors. Natural wines are rarely aged in new oak, preferring instead clay vessels such as kvevri or amfora or concrete. Extended grape skin contact is often used to add structure, color and nutrients to the wine. This process changes the color of the wine by adding the skin’s pigment into the juice, and we get amber or orange wines.
Natural wine is usually unfined and unfiltered, and therefore it can look cloudy and contain sediment. This is especially true for some white and orange wines. Give these wines a little time to breathe by decanting them, then enjoy the clean and exciting flavors of Terraneo Merchants natural wines.
Why drink Natural Wine?
–Natural wine can taste very different from conventional mass-produced wine and it can be a potentially life-changing experience.
– As with all types of wines, there are the good, the great, and also the bad and flawed wines. At Terraneo Merchants we taste all our wines regularly to ensure we are always offering the best Natural wines in the United States.
– We believe synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals have no place in farming or in our food or wines. This is why we do extensive research and lab testing to ensure the wines we offer are pure, clean Natural wines.
Are they Headache-free?
There is no scientific proof that sulfites cause headaches. Too much alcohol, sugar, additives, and preservatives are the more likely culprits. Since Sulfites are the only thing labeled on wine labels, people assume this is the cause of their headaches. Wine-related headaches can be caused by a large variety of substances, many of which are not found in Terraneo Merchants natural wines.
Natural wines contain sulfites which are naturally formed during the winemaking process. There is no such thing as wine with no sulfites.
Terraneo Merchants natural wines contain low amount of sulfites and therefore for those who are highly sensitive to sulfites it is the best option on the market.
Beginning your Journey
Natural wines are the most fascinating beverages available. Like a work of drinkable art, they can be wild, exotic, and fascinating. Discovering natural wines is an exciting and mind-opening experience. Once you begin your journey into Natural wines, it will be tough to go back to drinking conventional wines.