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Food and Beverage Insider: The Natural Wine Guide

The natural wine movement seems to have taken the world by storm. Natural wine bars are popping up all over the country and these wines can be found on many restaurant wine lists these days. Natural wine can be polarizing, some people prefer their funky flavors and others shy away from the deviation and instead stick to the classics. While natural wine has gained popularity in the last few years, it is really the most ancient and traditional way to make wine. In the simplest of explanations, natural wine is wine made with no intervention and no additives, meaning nothing is added and nothing is taken away.

Much of the wine we drink is filtered, sweetened, or flavored in some way, natural wine is not. The use of pesticides and herbicides is prohibited in natural wines, but small amounts of sulfites, a preservative and stabilizer, is acceptable. Natural wines sometimes look cloudy or have more sediment in the bottom of the bottle because it is never filtered, allowing fragments of seeds and skins into the bottle. They can often be described as funky or cider-y, but there are many elegant examples for those who prefer classic wines. There are also sparkling natural wines, often referred to as “pét-nat”, a nickname coined from the French term “pétillant naturel” meaning naturally sparkling. Pét-nats are bottled during initial fermentation, trapping carbon dioxide in the bottle and creating air bubbles.

Natural wines are typically popular among vegans and the reason for this might surprise you. Egg whites are often used as a filter in wine-making; if you think about when you crack an egg and get a little shell in the egg, what happens? The piece of shell is difficult to fish out because it clings to the egg, it’s the same idea with filtration. Eggs whites attract all the little unwanted particles in wine and filter them out. While some winemakers do advertise their wines as vegan, many do not, so it can be sometimes impossible to differentiate vegan vs. non-vegan wines. It can also be difficult to tell from looking at any wine label whether it is natural or not, usually it is best to rely on the sommelier to find out which wines use natural wine-making in a restaurant or shop.

Natural wine is made all over the world, but some regions are more well-known for their natural wine-making methods than others. French wine lovers should look to the Loire, Jura, and southwest France for more natural selections. Many natural wines come out of northern Italy, near Slovenia and most wines from Georgia are natural. Chile has the highest concentration of natural wine-makers in South America and Austria is a prime spot for finding great examples. Natural wine is often debated because of its lack of predictability; there is less control in natural wine-making, allowing for more variation among wines and sometimes faults in the wine. It can be a polarizing topic among wine lovers, but the natural wine world is one worth exploring, while unpredictable, they are wild, intense and never boring.

By Natalie Crooks

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