What is Natural Wine?
While there is no official definition of "Natural Wine." It is loosely defined as wine that uses grapes that are grown using organic or biodynamic farming practices which are then hand picked and fermented only using native yeasts found on the vine. The wine is then bottled without filtering or fining with little to no sulphur.
Conventional wines sold in your local shop are not produced using organic or biodynamic farming methods. Some wines tout that they are "Organic" however they are typically high intervention wines that the vast majority use added yeasts to manufacture flavors. There can also be added colorings, sulfites, acid and sugar.
They also can use several different techniques of fining and clarifying agents. Here's where things can get a bit nasty. Winemakers have been known to use Isinglass (Dehydrated fish bladder used as a clarifying agent), Protease (comes from pig pancrease and/or stomach used to which is used remove or eliminate proteins), egg whites used as a fining agent as well as different milk products to manipulate aroma and flavor.
Natural Wine refers more so, to an ancient set of viticulture (grape growing) and winemaking practices and philosophies which were put in place long before the development of the many modern technologies that are used to grow and produce "conventional" wines today.
When considering whether or not a wine should be considered "natural" vs "conventional" you have to look at the two sides of the wine's full development, which comes down to two basic questions in regards to natural wine:
1.) How are the grapes grown (viticulture)?
Natural wines are produced using grapes that are grown using strictly organic and/or biodynamic farming practices. The fruit is hand picked, hand sorted and fermented only using only the indigenous yeasts that exist in nature.
2.) What is added during the winemaking (oenology)?
Natural wines are typically bottled without filtering or fining and with minimal added sulphur. These wines typically contain around 10-40 ppm in sulphur while conventional wines have up to 350 ppm.
Now that we have the loose definition out the way we can get into what all of this means. The vast majority of wine you will find in your local shops do not practice organic or biodynamic farming methods. And even if they do, they typically are still high intervention wines that use added yeasts to manufacture flavors
What is Organic and Biodynamic Farming?
Organic farming excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The legal definition of organic wine varies from country to country - the primary difference relates to the use (or non use) of preservatives during the wine making process.
The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association defines Biodynamic Farming as “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition. Biodynamic farming is more about the entire lifeblood of a vineyard - other plants, insects, animals - not just the grapes.
What is an Orange Wine?
Simply put, orange wine is a white wine that is made like a red wine. Instead of crushing and then discarding the crushed grape skins, as is done in white winemaking, orange wines get their distinctive color from the amount of time the juice spends fermenting with the skins. Depending on duration of contact time the resulting wine will display an array of color, from a lighter yellow hue to a more vibrant and deep orange.
The longer the skin contact, the more red wine characteristics you're going to see from these white wine grapes. Longer contact will yield more tannin, more intense flavors, all while maintaining the acidity and the freshness of your white wine grapes!
Whats with all the colors?
There are various different winemaking methods which are used that can insight various colors from the grapes. There are red and white blends, light skin contact, heavy skin contact, grey varieties which all can elicit different colors. intervention from manufacturers adding coloring agents and additives, you're getting the true color of the grape - which can become more complex when you have a blend. The color of wine mainly comes from the color of the drupe of that grape.
Since pigments are in the center of the grape drupe, not in the juice, the color will depend a lot on how long the must (the crushed grapes) is in contact with the skins - a process called "maceration". Depending on how long the skin is in contact with the juice, you can have colors ranging from a glowing yellow, deep orange all the way to your standard red.
What is a "Pét-Nat"?
Short for "Pétillan Naturel" is simply the old fashioned or "Méthode Ancestrale" (French for Ancestral Method) way of making sparkling wine. Bottling the wine prior to fermentation completion produces carbon dioxide from the natural sugars in the grapes. This natural process gives the wine a fizzy and refreshing taste. Perfect for a hot summers day but acceptable for any occasion.
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