On "Natural" Wine: An Interesting Take

There are some very knowledgable people on this board & I’d love to hear their opinions on this article:

I found it informative and thought provoking.

Yeah. There doesn’t seem to be a formal, regulated definition of natural wine. To me ‘minimal intervention’ is headed in the right direction.

Around 20 years ago we met a Sonoma County winery owner/winemaker who fermented his grapes in terra cotta vessels buried in the ground and added no sulfites (just part of his ‘natural’ method). He bottled barrel by barrel as each one could be problematic. He took a lot of criticism for inconsistency though we always enjoyed his wine.

Yesterday a Trader Joe’s worker touted a wine to my wife as being ‘vegan’. I’m assuming that meant no egg whites were used in the fining?

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That’s why I don’t like the term natural wine. There is always human intervention.”

“*Marco likes this alternative definition of natural wine: Nothing is added and nothing is taken away.”

So, he is a natural wine proponent but does like not the semantics?

I thought this was what biodynamic was all about?
Is it a real method or just a term bandied about?
We have a few vineyards here that subscribe to the philosophy.

It’s been my understanding that ‘biodynamic’ refers to how the grapes are grown but stops there.


manually picked grapes from sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards, coming from small, independent producers, with no added yeast (only naturally occurring yeasts are used for fermenting), or yeast nutrients and with little to no sulfites .

We know a couple wine grape producers whose crops find homes with major wineries that own multiple brands. These are dirt on the boots, hands-on (theirs and scores of others’) farmers with no time for, let alone interest in, wordsmiths’ hang-wringing attempts to convey some rhapsodic ideas that are not our acquaintances’ everyday concerns in tending crops that somebody will buy at a price and in quantities that make the sweat and toil worthwhile.

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Thesee are conversations that make me roll my eyes internally while I smile gently and not externally, and pour another glass because its just so smug and self involved that I cant give it serious credence.

Sourdough isn’t natural? Wine isn’t natural? Pickles? Cheese?

These are all incidences of natural fermentations that were first discovered happening ahem naturally and which humans then learned to control to their own benefit.

Because uncontrolled fermentation becomes illness and death in many cases.


One of the approaches I have watched and sampled with interest is no watering, only the rain and dew. The theory of several proponents is that this makes the grapes work harder and develop greater intensity of terroir. I have greatly enjoyed some Oregon PN made this way, but I cannot for the life of me remember the winemaker, perhaps The Eyrie.


The wine grape growers we know are paid by the pound and must meet Brix and other specs before buyer signs off on picking and delivery schedule. If they have to water to meet spec, they will. If you grow and vinify, maybe you have choices about watering – never thought to ask them.

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That’s true of a lot of Southern Oregon grape growers too.
Except we’re technically a desert, averaging about 20" of rain.
Without irrigation, we’d have no wine industry here. Or fruit and pot too, for that matter.
I don’t know the percentage here of growers vs. processors.
You’ve got me interested in finding out.

And some terrific wines made from Southern Oregon grapes are being produced. The winery(ies) I am aware of trying this approach seem to be in the Willamette Valley. Of course even that part of the state seems to be undergoing some climate change. When I went to Willamette in the 1970s it was cool and wet except for a few bright, dry weeks in the summer. I wonder when wine making will move into the west side of the Coast Range.

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We had wine growing friends in the Loire who adhered to strict biodynamique practices. It is a special branch of organic farming. It refers to how the grapes are grown, the land and cultivation.

What is done to or with those grapes after harvest is a totally different conversation.

And natural wines can be made from grapes grown organically or by usual vine culture methods.


Indeed, it’s a terrible term IMO . it has no set definition…besides being fundamentally innacurate, as Mr Lami says.
But worst for me, it is a ‘shield’ descriptor that’s allowed some winemakers to hide flaws in their wines in plain sight, and somehow excuse it…because they are making, uh, ‘natural wines!’

But i think this is slowly all sorting itself. In the past 2-3 years it seems the signs of this movement ‘eating its own tail’ has started to manifest. I’ve anecdotally seen/read wine industry people more recently gently backtracking on their unmitigated fervor for ‘natural wine’ . Did they finally get tired of too-often disappointing bottles (either sampled for review, or going out of their cellar door)? I don’t know. But i had already suspected it was unsustainable, this emperor’s clothes mania for all-things-‘natural’.

I actually enjoy many such minimal-intervention wines. Heck, i’ve made some in my own amateur winemaking (if i allow myself the flexibility of definition that many ‘pro’ producers have in this category). I really hope that we will see more ‘natural’ winemakers shift to quality/consistency as their hard-target for commercial sales. if your wines are coming out poor, either a) don’t sell it; or b) change up your game.

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I had a glass of natural wine a while ago - orange is uber hip here in the Netherlands these days - and it was awful. Complete waste of my 7 euros.

The good thing about the natural wine movement is that is has pushed traditional wine makers into making better wines.

There are still a handful of good natural wines - see for example below the website of a good local wine merchant - but they have become expensive.

These days I mostly buy non-natural wines from Spain, France and Italy from wine makers who pick the best out of both worlds. So, good wines where you can taste the terroir, but they will be stable and consistent.



Sorry for that disappointment! well at least it was ‘just’ 7 Euros. I’ve had disappointment with even pricier bottles. But just FWIW & the benefit of the others in the thread: “orange wine” isn’t automatically ‘natural wine’. It’s a general category not unlike just ‘white wine’, ‘red wine’, etc. That said, certainly we have seen many producers latch-onto orange wine as a vehicle for their ‘natural’ winemaking.

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Some scientific study proved that red wine is best for heart diseases.

here’s everything one needs to know about natural wine. shared a bunch of wine with him over the years:

if that’s confusing (and it’s meant to be), there are some breadcrumbs here:


He had a great sense of humor about the topic & probably would’ve had a great deal more to say about it if he could see what’s happened in the last 10 years. Thanks for the links.


as he predicted, a lot of the wine he imported has become hard to find and expensive. the brun l’ancien can still be had in the $15 range on sale, an annual case purchase for us, fantastic with roast chicken.


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This is an interesting topic, but I imagine I will still buy and enjoy wines made in the typical “not natural” ways, primarily Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, Cabs, Cab blends, and Zinfandels from Napa, Sonoma, and the mountains south of Silicon Valley, and Champagne. However, if I am offered a natural wine or come across some at an affordable price for which a Google search shows some positive buzz, I will definitely try it.