In many ways the Natural Wine Movement (sounds fancy) might best be explained very simply: Of the earth and no more.
Or at least that’s how we often simplistically think about it. Of course it can’t be that simple given our modern agricultural world but it’s a good way to approach an understanding what a small group of vineyard owners and winemakers are attempting to do out there.
There aren’t any official definitions of Natural Wine but there are general guidelines that those who grow, “make,” and consume it loosely adhere to, summed up below:
- It must be grown organically or biodynamically (think Organic on Steroids!). Certification isn’t necessarily a must.
- Native yeasts, preferably non-inoculated, are used.
- Manipulation of the grapes and wine is non-existent or minimal with no chemical additives.
- No fining or filtering of the juice and no or very low levels of sulfates added for preservation.
There’s more of course but those are the basics.
The resulting wines can range from truly funky “Orange Wine” (extended skin contact of white wine grapes) to more subtle reds or rosés that have a lightly cloudy appearance due to the lack of fining or filtering.
They can be quite “clean” on the palate or weird and wild with notes of barnyard to them. A true gamut of styles is out there although it can be hard to find examples to try.
If you visit the Wine Mine, we tend to have more “clean” examples on hand as many of the traits displayed by Natural Wines are considered flaws by most winemakers, however in low levels can add distinctiveness and interest to the bottle.
We always have some on hand ranging from examples such as a famous Orange Wine from Sicily (COS), a fun, low alcohol and savory Zinfandel from Lusu right here in Berkeley, a funky Orange wine with a light effervescence from Greece, and more.
In other words, enough to give you a taste of what they’re all about.
David Sharp is an oenophile, and owner of the Wine Mine at 5427 Telegraph Avenue in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.