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natural wine. what is it?..

..and is it all just cloudy and reminiscent of scrumpy?

Natural wine is at its heart wine that has been produced either organically or biodynamically and with a low intervention approach in the vineyard and during the wine making process. There are no regulations to govern this but one thing they all share is a minimal use of sulphur.


Because of this low intervention approach to wine making and minimal use of sulphur a lot of natural wines can be cloudy and even smell a bit funky. This is by no means true of all natural wines and some are as crisp and clean as any wine made using traditional methods.


Amongst the Natural Wine fraternity there are definitely some who gravitate towards “the cloudier and funkier the better”. This is somewhat promoted by some slick marketing and a plethora of Instagram accounts devoted to the cause. There is nothing wrong with the cloudy and funky style of natural wines, some of them are truly fabulous, and it has given a whole new generation of wine makers the freedom (and the market) to create some truly exceptional wine. What were once viewed as faults in wine making can now be seen as desirable traits and characteristics to strive for.


Not all natural wine is cloudy and funky though! There are many that to the eye and the nose appear to be just good old fashioned wine. What they share with their funky cousins is a flavour that expresses the character of the grape and the terroir of the land where it was produced, without hiding behind any techniques in the wine making process. There are some exceptional wines from tiny producers and true artists.


It is an exciting time in wine making as more and more producers from little known regions come to the fore. It’s not all “new” though. Some ancient wine making practiced are being rekindled and its easier to find wine now that tastes as the wine our distant ancestors would have drunk.


Pet Nat (Petillant Naturel) is a lightly fizzy wine produced using the method ancestral. While Pet Nat is growing in popularity, and may seem like the trendiest new thing going, method ancestral actually predates the method champenoise or traditional method (how Champagne is produced) and is the original sparkling wine.


In method ancestral the wine is bottled before it has completed its first fermentation (traditionally they used a change in temperature, otherwise known as winter, to pause this fermentation and then secondary fermentation started naturally in spring). Because of this carbon dioxide is produced by the natural sugars found in the grapes. The wines are not disgorged or further filtered in any way.


The resulting wine is often cloudy and may have sediment in the bottom of the bottle, which is actually lees (dead yeast) and in no way harms the wine. Because so much is left to chance in the wine making method the wine maker has to be highly skilled to limit possible faults. It is common to see huge variation in wines of the same vintage and from the same plot. Pet Nat can be fresh and light and delightful to drink, a natural tendency to lower alcohol also makes them a great option in our ever more health conscious society. It’s about as natural as you can get and an exciting trend to get onboard with.


So no, not all natural wine is cloudy and no, it doesn’t all taste or smell like Scrumpy. But even if it does, please don’t rule it out…