The only “rule” for nat­u­ral wine is limit the sul­phur diox­ide.

New Zealand Listener - - CON­TENTS - By Michael Cooper

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

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