Natural Wines

Natural Wines Image

The world of natural wine can be interesting, frustrating and at times confusing. You may have heard about the latest trend in wine under one of its many guises such as natural, low-intervention, natty or raw wine but the actual definition can often be rather ambiguous.

For whatever reason, the topic seeks to divide the wine world with passionate arguments both for and against this movement, so we're here to clear up what natural wine actually is, if it's better for you and what to look out for on the shelf.

There is no universally recognised definition of what natural wine is, but in summary it is generally agreed that grapes are grown by small-scale, independent producers and grown in sustainable, organic or bio-dynamic vineyards. The wine is then fermented with native yeasts, no additives and little to no sulfites added. In short it means that natural wine is made with a low-intervention, hands-off approach that lets nature do it's thing to produce unique wines that are a true expression of the terroir they've grown in.

As a small independent we have always favoured this low-intervention hands-off method. The wines we choose are selected not only on taste and value but also producer principles. With the above definition in mind then we have hundreds of wines for the natural wine lover out there.

So, breaking it down as mentioned above a lot of the wines we stock happen to be natural based on the reasons we selected the producer but there are a number of ‘unique' natural wines out there. Unfortunately, a ‘unique' doesn't always mean ‘quality' and it's easy to get swept up with the cool labels, websites and bottle shops, only to end up with a cloudy bottle of what is essentially vinegar. Without fining and filtering, some impurities will be left in the wine which may add to a ‘funkier' taste that is enjoyed by some (raised eyebrow), but it also makes the wine more sensitive and likelier to spoil. Many of the small producers we champion as an independent retailer, use organic, biodynamic and low-intervention methods but with the use of simple, gentler winemaking techniques such as filtering produces exceptional wines that really are unique to the terroir. It is our job to make sure we show you wines made from sustainable producers which actually taste good and wines which you will enjoy drinking time and time again.

A common question asked is if natural wine is better for you - another tricky topic. Sulphites in wine aren't necessarily a bad thing as there is still no evidence to prove they cause wine headaches (it's often a good excuse for over-indulgence though) and there are often far more sulphites found in foods, e.g. dried fruit. Compared to mass produced supermarket wines, often packed full of additives to hide the flavour of poor-quality fruit and keep consistency over such high volumes, the low-interventional approach will always be better for both you and the environment. Sadly, natural wine isn't the hangover prevention some may claim it to be and as ever moderation may still need to be exercised.

With some guidance though, there are some terrific examples of natural wines, that literally won't cost the earth. This weekend we are tasting two fantastic examples from our friends at Waterkloof Estate in South Africa. These proudly showcase a winemaker who had a vision and a philosophy to create true expressions of the land, to build and sustain natural ecosystems and to give back not only to the land but the people. Paul Boutinot, owner of Waterkloof, made his first wines in South Africa in 1994 (using other people's grapes). It would be a 10 year search until he found the perfect site which he believed had the potential to be world class. Their winemaking manifesto has remained largely unchanged since taking on the site: simple, honest and unadulterated.

Our working relationship with Paul Boutinot goes back to the 1970's when we had a restaurant and he had a small import business, since then both our businesses have grown and changed but the relationship which now spans continents has only grown.

Waterkloof Circle of Life Wines, a grape example of natural wines:

 

Circle of Life white              Circle of Life Red

Circle of Life White                       Circle of Life Red

 

Last Updated: 20/04/2022
Author: Sarah Hattersley
Sarah Hattersley

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