Discovering the Grapes: Natural Wine

We recently hosted our first ever tasting soiree at our new wine bar, The Amicable Society of Lazy Ballerinas, located on Fleet Street in London. During the tasting, our Wine Bar Manager, Edgar Znutins educated guests on organic, biodynamic and natural wine. As part of our ‘Discovering the Grapes’ series, we’re leaning on the expertise of Edgar and his team at Lazy Ballerinas. We’ve already learned about organic wine and biodynamic wine, and this week, we’re exploring natural wine. Follow along with our series on Instagram @LazyBallerinas #DiscoveringTheGrapes and join us as we learn more about wine together.

What is natural winemaking?

Natural winemaking is a style of wine production that’s likely to use native yeasts (present on grape skins) in the fermentation process and minimal or no sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the winemaking process. When it comes to natural winemaking, the idea is to make wine with as little intervention as possible – similar to how it was made in the Byzantine era when grapes were harvested and treaded and left to ferment. Natural wine will also be ‘unfined’ and ‘unfiltered’, throwing a deposit or even looking cloudy and hazy. There are no laws that define natural winemaking and as such, many winemakers will adopt their own principals when promoting such wines. Natural winemaking has seen a surge in recent years with some critics stating that we are now living in era where wine appreciation involves a look back at the way things used to be done, embracing the past.

What is natural wine?

Because there are no laws that control natural winemaking, it is difficult for wine buyers to know what wines are made following various methods, unless it’s explicitly stated on the label or clearly visible in colour of wine, like with orange wines. It’s also possible for winemakers to gain popularity and marketing value when making and promoting their wines as natural due to high demand in this form of production. Nowadays, in restaurant and bar wine lists it’s more common to find natural, organic and bio-dynamic wines highlighted or in a separate, dedicated section.

Is natural wine better than non-natural?

The subject of natural wines and its importance in modern winemaking is often hotly debated amongst wine producers and consumers alike, with many holding the opinion that ‘no intervention’ and ‘non-chemical use’ wines are better due to the fact they’ve not been fussed with. On the other hand, many producers around the world are already practicing low intervention winemaking and using indigenous yeasts as well as low or no added SO2 which makes them question lack of clarity from respective wine governments on defining rules for natural winemaking. There’s no correct answer when it comes to what differences will yield more benefits and it depends on the winemaking process, personal preference and the wine itself.

Is natural wine sulphur free?

Use of sulphur or SO2 in wine is very much the topic for natural winemaking enthusiasts and many producers will claim their wine is sulphur free. However, it’s worth noting that up to 10 parts per million of sulphur based particles (for every bottle of wine) are produced naturally as a by-product of alcoholic fermentation. In normal winemaking, acceptable levels of SO2 are between 50-150 parts per million. You may have heard people say sulphite-free wine doesn’t give you a hangover. Whilst we can’t confirm this, the natural wine movement is most definitely at the beginning of its journey towards going back to the future – leaving it to the nature itself to bring us pleasure of wine.

Are you a fan of natural wine? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram.