Nat­u­ral wine might be the best thing to hap­pen to wine­mak­ing since screw­tops


What sets nat­u­ral wines apart (for one thing: milder hang­overs), and where to find the best bot­tles.

AF­TER THOU­SANDS OF YEARS OF re­fine­ment you might think that wine­mak­ers would have per­fected their prod­uct by now. Turns out all that re­fine­ment might have been part of the prob­lem. Mass-pro­duced wine is to nat­u­ral wine what au­to­tuned pop mu­sic is to a singer-song­writer with a gui­tar and a bro­ken heart. It’s all about in­di­vid­u­al­ity and char­ac­ter, and you ei­ther like it or you don’t. While there is no of­fi­cial des­ig­na­tion for nat­u­ral wine, it’s made us­ing or­ganic and bio­dy­namic meth­ods, mean­ing wine­mak­ers do ev­ery­thing in their power to let na­ture do its thing, in­ter­fer­ing as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. Nat­u­ral wines are also pro­duced with­out fil­tra­tion or ad­di­tives to in­flu­ence colour and taste, so the purest ex­pres­sion of grapes and soil comes through, no mat­ter how funky, earthy or or­ange-tinted it may be. Nat­u­ral wines don’t taste like any­thing you’ve ever had be­fore, and that’s en­tirely the point.

While you’ll find Bur­gundy pinot noir and Ital­ian Chi­anti made the nat­u­ral way, much of the ap­peal of nat­u­ral wine is its eclec­ti­cism, mean­ing re­gions and grapes you’ve never heard of. Be­cause ter­roir is prized above all else, and grow­ing con­di­tions vary widely from re­gion to re­gion and year to year, you never re­ally know what you’re go­ing to get, re­gard­less of what you think you know about chardon­nay or shi­raz. Plus, thanks to lower sul­fites, nat­u­ral wines are also be­lieved to cause milder hang­overs. It took about 5,000 years, but wine­mak­ers fi­nally seem to have got this whole thing fig­ured. Less might be more af­ter all.

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