The Grape Debate: Natural vs Nurtured

Natural wine is a huge buzz word in the wine community lately. You may have heard it at a winery, seen it in restaurants, noticed it in your local wine shop, or even tried it. 

But what is it really? Lucky for you, we’ve got some answers to that.

A Tricky TimelineNatural Wine

Modern winemaking has become convoluted, scientific and technical. Let’s take it back a couple thousand years…

The earliest recorded evidence was discovered in Armenia and Italy around 6,000 years ago. Pouring a glass was a simple, slow process. Pure grapes were handpicked, and there were no additives involved. 

In the mid-1900s this method resurfaced, piquing the interest of rural French winemakers. This sparked the modern natural wine movement, led by French pioneers Beaujolais, Chauvet and Lapierre. The first natural wine tasting event was held just twenty years ago by La Dive Bouteille in France.

This inspired smaller winemakers to begin producing and importing into the United States. The momentum is slow but steady, and has continued to pop up on more shelves in recent years. It’s good to note that since natural wine is still relatively new to the market, there is no official certification for wineries or vineyards to use.

What is Natural Wine?

Natural Wine: Pure, untreated, naturally fermented grapes. In other words, it’s unbridled, unfiltered, chemical-free goodness.

Pros:

  • Everything is 100% found in nature 
  • Vineyards are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides  
  • Grapes are hand picked 
  • Natural yeast is solely generated by the grape itself 
  • Little to no extra sulfites added
    • The natural reduction in sulfites (approx. 10 – 35 parts/million) can make wine better for those who may have reactions to sulfite in other wine (up to 10x more). 

Cons:

  • Long, manual process for winemakers
  • Challenging to store without sulfites
  • The wine may appear cloudy and/or have a sour taste depending on your palate
    • Not to worry, there are different varieties and flavors to explore, just like your average bottle.

Organic vs Biodynamic

As of today, it’s still difficult for mass producers to distribute. The solution? 

Enter organic and biodynamic wine stage right.

Organic Wine 101

Organic wine in the US can have two different implications: 

  1. “Made with organic grapes”
    • Grapes grown without the use of pesticides or synthetics. There is also a limit on the number of sulfites that can be added.
  2. “Certified organic” 
    • Produced with organically grown grapes with no sulfites added. This is pretty rare as many winemakers still insist on adding sulfites. 
    • This doesn’t mean other things aren’t added to your wine… 

Biodynamic Wine 101

Biodynamic wine takes a more holistic approach to winemaking. There is an emphasis on overall health of the vineyard, lunar cycles, and the entire farm ecosystem (beyond the grapes). 

There are no synthetics used in growth or production, and no additional yeast, sugar, acid, etc. However, they will often still include added sulfites. 

Biodynamic wine has two levels of certification: 

  1. “Biodynamic certified estates” – Label always located on the back of the wine. 
  2. “Biodynamic certified wines” – Label always located on the front of the wine.

Where to Buy Natural Wine

City dwellers may have an easier time accessing the right wine shop, but there are plenty of online options. Any new trend is is difficult to mass market, but there are still ways to get your hands on these wines

Here are three general rules to start your search:

  1. Educate yourself on all your options
    • Hint: You picked an excellent place to start 
  2. Ask questions
    • Hint: Find employees to speak with at your local wine store
  3. Have fun! Natural wine tasting is the same “regular wine” trial-and-error journey.
    • Hint: Don’t let one bad wine deter you from finding your natural wine soulmate.

Can Natural Wine Defeat My Hangover?

Ahh… the age-old question.

There is no scientific proof on whether natural wine can cure all, but it can be a great place to start your own experiment. We all know hangovers and headaches are due to dehydration. Drinking alcohol depletes a lot of key nutrients from your system. 

There are plenty of articles that explain why we feel so bad after a night of indulgence. But one stands out in particular – excessive sulfites. 

Excessive Sulfites

Some folks recall feeling better after a night of drinking natural wine or wine with low sulfites compared to wine with higher levels. 

Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. 

If reducing sulfites is something you want to try out, I recommend being mindful of labels and giving natural wine a taste test. 

You’re now ready to dive into the world of natural wines!

Cheers!

Homegrown Grapes for Wine Making

Courtesy of Wikipedia


Whether you are an old pro at home wine making or just getting started, there is so much potential to create your own signature flavors and creations. Many wine-makers enjoy doing so by growing their own batch of grapes. Homegrown grapes are a growing trend in wine making, and a great way to get more involved in the flavor creation process.
 
Different grapes prosper in different regions, so before getting started it’s important to carefully research which grapes will grow optimally in your specific location and climate. One popular type is vitis vinifera, a grape that produces popular flavors such as Chardonnay, Merlot, White Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Vitis vinifera derives from a European grape family, and is commonly found in areas such as the Pacific Northwest, California, and Mid-Atlantic regions with milder climates. For colder or wetter climates, alternate grape options are often found. Vitis labrusca grapes are a common type of grape less vulnerable to cold, and may be successfully grown in northern regions.
 
Now, for the grape growing. After you have researched the best type of grapes to successfully grow in your region, get started with planting vines. The best time of the year to plant vines is early spring. Vines generally take about three years to mature and bear fruit, so be prepared with some patience. Make sure to pick a very sunny location, with good soil drainage. Nutrient poor soil is optimal for grapes, because smaller, undernourished grapes produce the most flavorful wines. After planting vines, ensure that trellises are at least six feet high. As the vine continues to grow, prune and train the vine carefully and correctly.
 
You will see your vine blossom and mature over several years, until it finally bears fruit. Approximately ten pounds of grapes produce a gallon of wine, meaning ten to twenty vines are needed to produce a smaller batch of wine. Growing grapes is a rewarding aspect of wine making, and allows you to create distinct, authentic flavoring. Remember, great grapes make great wine. While the harvest process is important in developing strong flavors, it is just important to carefully store grapes prior to wine making. Once you get down the basics of growing grapes, break out the wine making kits, and get started on learning how to use your wine making equipment to develop your own signature creation!