Even though natural wine is increasing in popularity, it’s not anything new. In a recent webinar for Ten Spot, Kaitlyn Ross, a natural wine expert, shared it’s been around for 8,000 years and is as old as wine itself. But what exactly makes it “natural” in the first place, and why is everyone so into it?
According to Ross, there are certain properties that make it natural. “Natural wine is transparent, raw, alive, vibrant, low-intervention, naked, pure, and artisanal. It’s made with organic or biodynamic grapes that are hand-picked rather than machine harvested,” she says. “The winemaker also doesn’t add anything foreign or remove anything from the wine during the winemaking process. And little to no sulfur is used, which is a preservative and the most common wine additive.”
After reading that, you might be thinking you can grab a bottle of natural wine simply by walking into a store and reaching for a bottle labeled organic. But Ross says it’s not actually that easy, because natural wine isn’t the same as organic wine. “All natural wine is at least organic, but not all organic wine is natural,” she says. That’s because while organic wine uses grapes grown without the stuff you don’t want—like artificial chemicals and pesticides—they still contain high levels of sulfur.
Organic wines can contain a lot more sulfur than the very small amount that’s agreed upon within the natural wine community. For instance, a bottle or organic wine might contain 100 ppm (parts per million) while natural wines only allow a maximum of 30 ppm. “Basically, any additives that are allowed in regular wines can be added in organic wines,” she says.
When you’re shopping for natural wine, Ross has some tips.
First of all, start online. The app Raisin is the only natural wine app available, and in order to be featured, the business has to stock at least 30 percent natural wines. You can search for shops, restaurants, and wine bars in your area, making it easy to find an option near you.
You can also get natural wine sent straight to your door from producers in the United States. Or, Ross says to look into joining a natural wine group where you can get tips on new options to try and discuss your favorites with others, even if that’s just on Facebook. One thing’s for sure, though. She says the more natural wines you try, the more you’ll love and appreciate them. So what are you waiting for?