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Natural Wine

Natural Wine

Posted on Jun 27th 2024

Written by
Peter Plaehn, Wine Buyer

What’s Natural Wine? 


A big can of worms, that’s what. No two wine people can agree on what “natural” means, how it’s made, or even what’s natural about it since wine doesn’t exist in nature; it’s a man-made product and always has been. So in the hope of clearing things up, here’s what has shaken out over the last few years now that the natty craze has calmed down somewhat. 


On the surface, it should be simple: use naturally occurring yeasts that live on the grape skins instead of cultured/selected yeasts for fermentation; don’t add anything to the juice, don’t take anything away; no manipulation with technology such as reverse osmosis or cone spinning (to take out alcohol) or adding sugar pre- or post-fermentation to adjust texture; use little to no sulfur dioxide at bottling. Just let the juice do what it does and what happens, happens. Zero In, Zero Out. Sadly, this became a manifesto that let a lot of inexperienced winemakers slide some faulty wine through under the guise of “it’s natural!”. 


“It’s the taste.” This was a common description early on, maybe ten years ago, when these new winemakers were introducing their wines. In a movement that was supposed to champion the purest expression of wine, many tasted like horse blanket and vinegar no matter where they were from, throwing the concept of terroir out the window. Two wines could be made exactly the same way, but if it didn’t have the right bite and smell, it wasn’t “natty”. This has mostly been done away with thanks to, well, skill and practice. 


Now that bacterial spoilage is not nearly the issue it was, the preferred term for natural is “minimal manipulation”, harkening back to the nothing added, nothing taken away” everything started with. This threw the doors open to hundreds upon hundreds of wines made in traditional ways that weren’t smelly or volatile and who didn’t want to be counted among the natty crowd even though they were using the same techniques. The difference? The old adage of “it takes a lot of practice and skill to make it look like you didn’t do anything” is proven true once again. There’s a wide spectrum of these wines from all over the world, so any wine we carry that meets the M/M criteria are labeled with an orange tag. If you want low/no sulfur, no additives or a wine with the ethos of no manipulation, these are for you. 


”How funky do you want it?” Many of the minimal manipulation wines we carry are sound, “clean” (but not like that Cameron Diaz wine’s deceptive claims) and simply don’t have the modern techniques applied that many large brands use to make millions of bottles of affordable wines. But then there are some that are closer to George Clinton on a Satur…well, any time. Here’s a small list of a few bottles and their quantity of Funkadelic-ness. 

None/A Touch of Funk:

All Gulp Hablo Wines

Some Funk:

Full Funk:

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