What is natural wine and should pubs be stocking it?

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Gaining popularity: no additives or processing aids are used in the production of natural wine
Gaining popularity: no additives or processing aids are used in the production of natural wine
The 21st century drinker is increasingly concerned about provenance and ethics in relation to the goods they consume, and wine is no exception in this regard.

Hence, the rise of so called 'natural' wines is hardly surprising. These drinks are popular with consumers due to their organic credentials, and the lack of artificial additives used in their production. A recent study showed 38% of wine lists in London now feature at least one organic, biodynamic or natural wine – more than three times as many as in 2016.

At their most basic level, natural wines are produced from fermented grape juice with nothing added or taken away. Very often these wines are also farmed using herbal sprays and natural composting techniques, making them biodynamic, while others are also labelled ‘organic’ meaning that no artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are used on the vines.

Light haze

No additives or processing aids are used in the production of natural wine, and ‘intervention’ in the fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Neither fining nor (tight) filtration are used, meaning that natural wines often have a light haze. The result is a wine that is said to be ‘living’ and full of naturally occurring microbiology.

Natural wines are typically made by smaller, artisanal winemakers and are fermented naturally or spontaneously, where only the yeasts from the skin of the grapes or from the vineyard are used. As a result, drinkers often report that natural wines taste fresher and more lively.

No sulphites – usually added to prevent oxidation and the formation of bacteria – are added, however, and hence natural wines can be more unstable and unpredictable than their ‘artificial’ counterparts.

These wines can be found all over the world, from European countries such as Austria, France and Italy, to countries further afield like Chile and South Africa.

Health-conscious option

“In our ever health-conscious world, natural wines have become particularly appealing with consumers because they have been made with minimal intervention and without as much sulphur,” explains wine writer Helena Nicklin. “Natural always feels better, right?

“It is well worth pubs considering stocking some but they do need to be aware that natural wines tend to be a bit of an acquired taste (a bit cidery at times). There is a also a lot of bottle variations and they are often a bit cloudy or spritzy as the wines are not as 'stable' as normal wines.

“As long as the customers are educated enough as to what to expect they shouldn't be disappointed with what they are served.”

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