Natural Wine

Conventional, Organic, Natural, Sustainable: Learn the Difference of What's in the Bottle

Conventional wine: Conventional agriculture uses chemical fertalizer to promote a large field of crops and protect against disease. These fertalizers are absorbed by the crops' roots and into the vine's sap, passed through the leaves and onto the fruit.

Organic wine: Organic winemakers must adhere to strict regulations including the types of yeast that can be used during fermentation and post-production storage. To be recognized as an organic wine, the bottle must be certified by the Naturional Organic Program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Often, organic wines are indeed organic but do not become certified.

Sustainable Wine: Sustainable wines come from winemakers that take additional steps beyond organic winemaking to apply sustainable farming practices. Many of these steps have little or nothing to do with the product of the grapes. Examples of these practices include: composting, cultivation of plants to attract insects that are beneficial to vine health, bio-diesel fueled tractors, or ploughing with horses. 

Natural wine: A natural wine is a style of winemaking that can be applied to any wine as long as the winemaker is using native yeasts in the fermentation process and minimal or no sulfur dioxide in the winemaking process. This process is not governed by U.S. laws. Natural winemakers may or may not use organic or biodynamic grapes in their wines. Using native yeasts and relying on minimal manipulation often means that wines have a more unique profile from year to year.

Some perks of natural wine:

• There is a story behind the wine because of the native yeasts

• It is a traditional method connected to its region

• Perhaps better for the world

• It’s delicious

• Huge variety and often higher acidity

• When taken to extremes, can be “microbiological”

• Often made for drinking younger (though there are exceptions, of course)

Some recomended natural wines for the upcoming holidays:

K&L Wines:

2012 Les Roches Sauvignon Blanc $10

2010 Terra Laura Cour-Cheverny $23

2011 Le Paradis Chinon $10

1995 Joel Taluau St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes $27

1976 Couly Dutheil Baronie Madeleine Chinon $55

1992 Huet Clos Du Bourg Vouvray Demi-sec $72


And for those of you in the bay area, at local groceory store Bi-Rite:

Jousset Rose à Lies $20

2010 Un Saumon dans la Loire Sauvignon de Touraine $15

Olivier Lemasson Les Vins Contés Poivre et Sel VdF $20 (my favorite, with notes of white pepper)

2010 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny $19