Natural wine is a somewhat contentious term, but amongst winemakers and wine fans I’ve found a general consensus that the principals set forth by Louis/Dressner (an importer of natural wines) on the topic are the most accurate:
All wines are made with the natural yeasts on the grapes, in the vineyards and in the cellars. Cultured yeasts to rush fermentation or add “enhancing” aromas and ﬂavors are unacceptable. We look for wines that express their terroir. No enzymes, no hormones.
Growers harvest by hand, not machine. We want the ripest fruit to be brought carefully and lovingly into the winery.
The growers want low yields for greater concentration. We look for growers with holdings in old vines.
We work with growers who plow their vineyards to keep the soil an active eco-system, and who use natural methods in tending their vines. We also look for growers who have selection massale and not clones.
No or Minimal Chaptalization
We do not want an artificially high degree of alcohol produced by adding sugar to the must. Non- or slightly chaptalized wines are more enjoyable and healthier to drink.
Wines are either not ﬁltered or minimally ﬁltered.
We prefer a harmony, not an imposed style — wines should showcase their place of origin and variety character. We are not looking for oak flavor, particular fruits or overly done aromatics. Minimal use of SO2 is encouraged.
We taste at our growers several times before and after bottling before shipping wines. Where possible, we work with the vigneron to make special blends representing the very best wines in their cellar.
Lastly, our most important “principle.” The overblown world of overdone wines is tiresome. But having too many high principals can also be a burden. Let’s drink some wine!
But how do you find it?
My process is something like this:
- go to potentially cool liquor store.
- go to the France section.
- start spinning around bottles looking for Louis/Dressner, Jenny & François, Kermit Lynch, Zev Rovine, Rosenthal Wine Merchants, Selection Massale as importers.
- if nothing, go to the Italy section. repeat #3
- if still nothing, go to the ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ section. repeat #3
- if you run into someone at the store and want to ask about it, use your new language from our friendly Louis/Dressner bullet points above.
- No, natural wine is not the same as organic wine, but many are, and most are biodynamic. There are lots of not very tasty organic wines.
- No, not all natural wines are free of sulfites.
- Most natural wines are lower alcohol (11%-13%)… most commercial wines will be 14%. This is another hot tip to finding natural wines.