What is Natural Wine?
Attempting to define natural wine is challenging, simply because winemaking, like nearly everything else, is a series of choices that lead to a final result–and every winemaker faces a unique set of choices. Those who adhere to natural practices in their vineyards and cellars choose a philosophy of minimal intervention at nearly every level of farming and production.
You could think of natural practices as related to methodologies like organics or biodynamics, only without the desire to seek certification. Indeed, there’s a good deal of overlap between these different practices — and all three lead to conscientious farming, which is a good thing. Natural wine, however, has one additional component that’s not always true of certified biodynamic or organic wine: The use of ambient or native yeasts.
(Ambient yeast fermentation is a controversial subject; to read through a lively discussion, check out this post and subsequent comments from the recent 31 Days of Natural Wine hosted by local natural wine lover/video game programmer (and our friend), Saignée.)
Natural winemakers believe that farming without pesticides creates a healthy vineyard environment for indigenous yeast cultures. When the grapes come into a winery, it’s these yeasts — born of the same land and climate conditions as the grapes themselves — that cause fermentation. The use of selected, packaged yeasts, additives like sulfur dioxide, or enzymes to enhance yeast performance, often hinders or overpowers the indigenous yeasts, thereby creating a vastly different wine. As such, you’ll find that natural winemakers do not employ these methods. In so doing, their thinking goes, you end up with a wine that truly reflects the land where it was grown and the conditions under which it was made.
And we believe that such a wine is not only better for you (and the environment), it’s also completely delicious. Curious? Check out the schedule of events during San Francisco Natural Wine Week to learn more.