The only “rule” for natural wine is limit the sulphur dioxide.
The truth about “natural” wine.
‘ All winegrowing involves human intervention, but how much is a choice,” say Marlborough Natural Winegrowers, on the group’s website. The seven member wineries believe less is more: “The less the soil, grapes and wines are artificially manipulated, the more the wines can express where they come from.”
No rules govern “natural” winegrowing, but it generally involves zero or minimal use of the age-old preservative sulphur dioxide. Also avoided are yeast, bacteria and enzyme additions, acid adjustments, fining and filtering. For fermentation and maturation, small oak casks (especially new) are discarded in favour of large barrels, concrete containers and earthenware vessels, including terracotta amphorae.
By encouraging many other producers to rethink their approach to adding sulphur dioxide, oak use and other basic aspects of contemporary winemaking, “natural” winegrowers are exerting a positive influence. But Nigel Greening, of Felton Road winery in Central Otago, says, “There is no such thing as a natural wine; wine is an artificial construct. The [natural wine movement] is a group of people who are clutching at something, and even they aren’t sure what they are clutching at.”
Anyone can claim to be a “natural” winegrower. There is no certification, so consumers just have to trust that approved methods have been used.
Patrick Sullivan, an Australian winegrower, prefers to call himself a “minimalist”. “Let us know when you find someone bottling spontaneously fermented grape juice from uncultivated vines. Then we can really start the ‘natural’ wine movement.”
Aurum Organic Amber Wine 2016
Looking for something totally different produced by ancient techniques? This pinot gris was made by fermenting the grapes with their skins, giving it a backbone of tannin more typical of red wines. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/ vol), it has concentrated, dry flavours of peaches, strawberries and spices, a hint of apricot and loads of personality. $45
Pheasant’s Tears Kisi 2016
This amber-hued medium-bodied (12% alc/vol) wine is from kisi, a native variety of Georgia (the country, not the state.) Fermented in large, egg-shaped amphorae sunk into the ground, it is concentrated, with dry, peachy flavours, a distinct touch of tannin (from lengthy skin contact), and hints of pears, apples, tea and nuts. $44