What exactly is natural wine?

Natural wine, natural wine, living wine, ... Several names are possible, but what exactly are we talking about?

The huge wine planet is being turned upside down by "natural" practices, which although they are not new, have become less discreet in recent years. The excesses of conventional viticulture and vinification are increasingly being questioned by a whole new generation. To understand why, we will try to present you the vision shared by the winemakers we love.



We often talk about "living wine", we can also say "free", because it is difficult to clearly define what a natural wine is. This is a hot topic, because natural wine escapes official regulation and is exempt from precise specifications.

Opinions differ! Some think that the label would allow a better recognition and would prevent the appearance of pseudo natural wines very marketed. On the other hand, for others, it would go against what makes their great richness: their freedom, their diversity.

The objective of this article is not to make a decision or even to give an opinion, we will simply share the main fundamentals that make a wine be considered as "natural".

-        In the vineyard :

Grapes grown in organic or biodynamic agriculture, without any use of synthetic phytosanitary products, prioritizing the use of natural treatments based on decoctions and herbal teas. Permaculture and biodiversity are encouraged, as well as the use of vegetation cover, green manure or preparations based on manure or whey to protect the vines. Sometimes, sulfur and copper can be used in small quantities to fight against diseases such as mildew or powdery mildew.

The help of animals can also be valuable: for example, the horse in the ploughing work, or the mowing of grass thanks to the sheep.



As for the harvest, it is always manual, aiming at selecting and protecting the best grapes.



 -        In the cellar :

In the winemaking process, there are also two visions: those who do not tolerate any input, and those for whom sulfur can be used in very low doses (on the contrary, in the so-called "conventional" wine we can find up to 80 inputs in a bottle).

Table of differences between wines©JustineSaintLo

As for the fermentations, they are made from indigenous yeasts, that is to say naturally present on the grapes and in the winery. Also, any technique known as brutal (yeasting, thermo-vinification, filtration too important...) that could modify the taste of the wine is banned.

To go further, we could also say that the definition of natural wine does not stop at the product itself. Natural wine is also a way of looking at the world that respects its environment, a philosophy that advocates humility: Man should not try to control nature but to adapt to it. And it is the possibility of seeing one's beliefs turned upside down: wine can taste differently!

Making natural wine is a real work of passion, it is audacity, and emotion too. These are winegrowers who want to understand their terroir, to magnify it, who work with respect for the surrounding nature and the living.

Moreover, we sometimes hear that the living wine advocates a less interventionist approach, but this does not mean less involvement, on the contrary! To succeed, you need a great deal of technical skills, observation and adaptability: the climatic hazards are (more and more) numerous. A "natural" winegrower has a lot of work to do: to understand and maintain his vineyard and his soil, but also in the cellar, from the beginning of the fermentations to the bottling.


In the mouth:

On tasting, this can be surprising to the uninitiated! Many of us have a palate sculpted by conventional wine, balanced, made up to please, and compressed to be stable from start to finish in the bottle. Tasting natural wine for the first time is to be ready to be deformed, to make room for emotion, for surprise.

Sulphites in high doses act as antiseptics, they protect the wine from bacteria and also stop the work of the yeasts and therefore the fermentation.

In the case of our wines, yeasts are still present in the bottle. In some cases, a new fermentation takes place after bottling, in a very light way, which leads to a production of CO2 and a slight fizz. Also, natural wines have a greater tendency to develop what is called reduction, which has the characteristic of giving olfactory notes that can be unpleasant when the bottle is opened (cabbage, rubber). The reduction can be easily eliminated, simply by aerating the wine: by decanting it for example.

As for the taste, it is impossible to define what a free wine tastes like, it is made in all the regions of France, and all over the world: from RedIt can be made in all regions of France, and in the four corners of the world: white, rosé, orange, sparkling, ... And it can be vinified in all ways. As in the more conventional wine, there is a huge choice and an endless palette of flavors.

However, some generalities can be stated: in natural wine, we are looking for authenticity, what we want is the taste of the land! Often also, we obtain easy to drink juices, which are on the fresh grape, still crunchy. But beware, far from the received ideas, natural wines are not "simple", on the contrary, we find a great complexity in the tasting, many flavors, and they can be very great wines of tasting and emotions.

What makes the main difference with conventional wine is that the wine will evolve and surprise us throughout the bottle.

And concerning the conservation: yes, yes, natural wines can be kept and aged in the cellar!


In conclusion:

To close this first article dedicated to natural wine, we would like to remember that it is an exciting world that is offered to us, a universe led by women and men full of talent, who have the power to produce juices that give us great emotions and that never cease to surprise us! For our greatest happiness.

With Buvance, we go to meet these people, we always retain a lot of humility, know-how and conviviality. We are proud to represent their work and to allow you to taste these delicious beverages at home.


Photo credit: @clubdesandouilles