What’s So “Natural” About Natural Wines?

As a general rule, technology is a good thing. Right? It’s a tangible example of humans progression– how we improve our lives and surroundings. The wine industry has certainly seen massive benefits from advances in technology. From vineyard to glass, we have tinkered with everything from fertilizer to fermentation. Adding sugars, tweaking yeast; modern winemakers work hard to scientifically engineer every step of the process. Even here at Skolnik, we seek to improve the wine production process with control and waste-reduction provided by our stainless steel wine barrels.

There has, however, been a new trend in the wine industry that rejects technology. Rather than embrace the advances at our disposal, natural wines forgo them entirely. Instead, they seek a return to simpler, more traditional times. These vineyards make wine as their ancestors once did, by merely harvesting grapes, crushing them, and allowing them to ferment. The end result is a straightforward snapshot of that particular vineyard in that particular year.  It also means that any irregularities or impurities, flaws or faults all make it into the end product, warts and all.

Of course, how one defines “warts” is part of the experience. While a drinker could devalue natural wine if it’s cloudy or oxidative, another could celebrate the diversity and find their new favorite bottle among the variety of previously unexplored flavors. It’s also very attractive to anyone who is wary of all the chemicals and additives used in modern winemaking and for those concerned that we are becoming less and less attune with nature as we seek control over every single step of production.

Much discussion has been had about the legitimacy of this movement, with equal part supporters and detractors, but the biggest challenge it faces is the lack of accreditation. At this point, anyone can claim to produce natural wine, and there is not yet a governing body to confirm or deny those claims. There is progress towards rectifying that, and establishing quality charters will do a lot to help the legitimacy of the wines.

Despite any negative opinions though, in a GMO, pesticide and additive-wary culture, natural wine is a growing industry. Perhaps adopting stainless steel wine barrels is the modern touch the movement needs to push it to mass consumption, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. After all, the beauty of stainless steel is that it protects against impurities or unwanted additives. Regardless,it seems that natural wine is here to stay. With about 400 natural winemakers in France alone, and many more around the world, this return to a simpler process and the results it produces has enough fans to sustain it for now.

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