It’s no surprise that natural wine is no longer just a buzz word, but seems it’s firmly here to stay. Whether you’re into health + wellness and organic produce as a whole – or just into drinking wine in general, natural wine is one thing you’ll want to be in on the know about.
Whilst you may have read several articles spouting that drinking a glass of wine every day is good for your health, have you ever stopped to think about exactly what you’re drinking and how that measures up on the health scale?
The wine market is flooded with poor quality wines, which are mass-made in factories, using low grade fruit, often sprayed heavily with insecticides and chemical cocktails to help fertilise the soil. There can often be up to as much as 60 different additives in a conventional bottle of plonk, some of which can include; albumen (egg whites), milk products, Issinglass (fish scales), protease (derived from porcine or bovine stomachs), Casein and Sulphites.
The Sulphite Free Wine = No Hangover
But let’s just take a moment to talk about sulphites.
To most wines, sulphites are mainly added to act as a preservative, preventing oxidation and maintaining a wines freshness. And there have been multiple articles alluding to the fact that it’s largely down to these sulphites that cause the dreaded hangover. Well that isn’t actually true. Dried fruit such as raisins and apricots contain a whole heap more sulphites than wine – so unless you’re getting a bad reaction to dried fruits as well, it’s unlikely that sulphites can be solely blamed for your sore head.
If you’ve ever woken up after having just one glass of wine, or an amount you are usually able to tolerate and felt dreadful, you can thank the wine being over run with chemicals, poor quality fruits and often excess sugar used in processing. Not the sulphites alone.
Sulphites can of course play a part in this – and if you’re able to find a wine that is free from them, or with a lower amount, then why would you not opt for one less chemical in your vino? Largely though, when you go with a natural grower, you know you’re in much safer hands, even if they do use a minimal amount of sulphites in their production.
Many people think that sulphites are to blame for headaches and or hangovers but it is all the other additives in wine that drinkers should be considering. Dried fruit contains huge amounts of sulphur compared to most wines but no-one seems to worry about that. As a comparison toothpaste contains about 1500 parts per million of fluoride compared to most decent wines having well under 100 parts per million of sulphur – Mark Smith, General Manager @ Sager + Wilde Wine bar
Natural Wine Time
So it’s no surprise that natural wine is growing in popularity. Natural wine is a term used to describe wine makers and growers, who go back to the old fashioned way of Vinification. Their techniques are often made with grapes that are farmed organically or Biodynamically, the vineyards are not stripped of nature, and the wines themselves are made without adding additional chemicals.
Ideally nothing is added at all but, some do add minimal sulphites to help preservation. The natural wine way, is pretty much grape juice fermented into wine. Just as nature intended it to be.
Equally the sustainable practises in which natural winemakers adopt to create their wines, look after the vineyards and process their vino, is a completely back to basics approach. Treating the land with respect and not depleting the vineyards might mean that producers can’t yield thousands more bottles than big branded competition, but it does mean you’re drinking a wine, which is more often sustainably and ethically grown.
The Biodynamic Way
Meinklang in Austria practise a biodynamic approach to cultivating their vineyard and growing their vines. Biodynamic is an old practise centered around using the seasons of the moon to harvest and grow. Permaculture practises are often adopted too, with this such vineyard having their own farm and using manure, green waste and rock dust to nurture their crops. A waddling of ducks to eat insects and keep slugs at bay, as well as their own bee’s, kept to pollenate their crops. Nature left to run wild and create what the vineyard term a ‘humus formation’, to restore harmony in the vines’ habitat.
Organic vs Biodynamic
Organic and biodynamic practises are pretty similar – however biodynamic wines have been even less tampered with, the entire farm or vineyard exists and works as a single entity, relying on natural cycles and no need for external inputs. Everything that is used to fertilise, nourish and ferment is produced on site. Organic will use organic seeds, feed for livestock, fertiliser etc and does not necessarily do everything on site. So if you want the purest of them all, that is the most back to nature – a biodynamic will deliver.
Where to shop natural
One of our favourite ways to shop natural though, has to be online. Organic Wine Club source and provide only natural wines. Everything you see online has been tried, tested and handpicked, with Dimitri and Alex, the founders, often opting for what’s seasonally available too – meaning sometimes the wines could be pretty unique.
The ones we focus on the most, are the natural wines, without sulphites, or those limited to 45mg per litre. These being ideal for allergy sufferers. Organic is always a good thing to look for when purchasing wine, because organic wine contains less than 2g of residual sugar per litre and never contains added sugar – Dimitri, Co-Founder, Organic Wine Club.
Winecraft are another great option for an easy way to shop natural wine. They import exciting and exclusive hand-picked organic and biodynamic wines for the UK market and focus on quality, exclusivity and value for money. What’s great about these guys, is that you can read about the producers they work with and their focus on ethicality.
We sell wines which are not industrial, interchangeable, standardised wines which taste like what a marketing plan decided they must; but wines with integrity, true to the place they come from. – Winecraft
So now I guess all that’s left is to get tasting. Ultimately, wine is a little like chocolate, where personal taste wins. Yet when you find a few wines to add to your favourites list, which tick more boxes than just taste, you know you’re onto more than just a trend.
We’ve been out exploring the best places to eat and drink natural wine in London – and we have a feeling you’re going to want to try them all! We’ll be sharing our top natural wine bars with you next week…