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A GUIDE TO CHOOSING NATURAL WINES

So you want to know what is the go with these 'natural' wines? Well we've compiled a few notes on how conventional wines differ from these contemporary ones and common terms that you will hear on the street.


Below is a quick guide to what you can expect from natural wines across the various categories.

But before we start let's just make this very very clear. The common industry consensus on the definition of a natural wine is one that is wine from vineyards that are farmed organically, at the very least, and which is produced without adding or removing anything during vinification, apart from a dash of sulfites at most at bottling.

So the important point is make sure you ask the right questions when people are offering you a natural wine!

 

From Fanta to rust to Orangina, this seemingly new trend, in reality is ancient. Skin contact, skinsy, skin ferment, cloudy whites, however you want to pitch it this is orange wine. Through a twist on the conventional white wine making process, the makers creatively allow the juice of whites to macerate and ferment on its skins (sometimes with stems and this is called whole bunch) from a few days up to a few months. The tannins and phenolics, which are freakin' amazing and should never be wasted, seep into the wine juice and what you end up with what is now referred to as orange wine.

Oranges do have an unusual taste for those who are used to conventional wines, often with tannic intensity and somewhat textural. A lot of our favourite beautiful Italian orange wines. you often get this apricot, peachy stone fruit kind of vibe. Paired with food, notice the tannins soften and flavour profile pop. See below for what a tannin is if we lost you there.

 

If you drink conventional whites, then this category is likely to surprise you the most. Natural whites tend to be fuller in style and more unusual than their conventional counterparts.

White wine is usually made by fermenting only the juice, no skins. Naturals tend to add a small period of skin contact during fermentation (although avoiding the intensity or length of an orange). There are a lot of natural whites that are direct pressed, which means no skin contact, if the winemaker would prefer a cleaner and crisp style.

Whereas conventional whites would often rely on sulphur to block transformations of acids (malic to latic acid) natural winemakers often believe this hampers the full flavour and texture profile a wine is capable of.

 

Natural reds aren’t radically different from those conventional ones, as conventional reds are generally made more naturally that any other style. The juice is left to stew on the skins (and pips or stems) giving it that deep colour.

Natural reds tend to steer away from the aroma of new oak. Often the fruit is harvested at full ripeness, but isn’t left to hang to build up a jam flavour, which is often the case with conventionals. You'll find natural winemakers tend to avoid those big, bold, silky and oaky textures of your classical red wines from the last 50 years. Instead expect something more fresh, bright and fruit forward. 

 

Called Rosé, blush or vin gris, pink wines are crafted with grape varietals from red skins or red flesh, with colour leaching into the wine. This is done through small periods of skin contact in maceration as we've seen with oranges.

Other methods for pinks can by blending red and white wines together or skimming off part of the re-wine production at the beginning of its fermentation process. Its darkness or lightness depends on a variety of factors, length of skin contact time, pigment strength or grape variety. Many winemakers create pinks as an afterthought, so make sure the winemaker has the right intention when venturing into pinks.

 

Fizz. We all used to know only Champagne when it came to bubbly wine, however, there are more and more growers and winemakers experimenting with natural sparkling.

The ancestral and more natural approach, of which most winemakers at Notwasted will follow, is the normal natural winemaking process (wild/vineyard occuring yeasts and sugar fermented). However, all of this is done in the bottle so the carbon dioxide is trapped. Natural bubble is a real art because bottle too late and your sparkling will be flat, bottle too early and the bottle may explode!

 


WINE JARGON

Ferment

The process by which yeasts break down sugars into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide. Natural winemakers rely on wild (vineyard) yeasts, conventionals kill wild and import yeast. 

Tannins

Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in bark, plants, seeds, wood fruit skins etc. Simply put, tannins add both dryness and acidity to wine. Skin contact in fermentation and oak ageing are instigators of tannins.

Macerate

Colour, aroma compounds and tannins are leached into the wine by soaking grapes, grape seeds and stems amongst the wine juice.

Sulphur

Sulfur or sulphur is an abundant, nonmetallic chemical element. Found on your periodic chart with the letter S.

Body

The alcoholic content is one of the main contributors to the ‘weight’ of wine. The higher the alcohol content, the weightier the mouth feels. Extracts (tannins, sugars etc.), the winemaking process of the winemaker and grape varieties also contribute to the body of a wine. 

Skin Contact

The process of leaving the skins of grapes to ferment with the juice for hours, days or event months.

Acidity

When someone describes acidity in wine, this refers to the tartness or sourness of it. If you like a ‘crisp’ wine, then you prefer more acidic wine.

 


Carbonic Fizz From Whole Bunch Fermentation

It’s becoming increasingly popular within the natural winemaking community to look back to past traditional ways of fermenting with whole bunches of grapes. This involves fermenting everything together rather than just the grapes (stems and/or pips).

It is said that by following this method, if the stems are perfectly ripe, it can introduce an element of freshness, complexity, texture and other interesting aromas to the wine.

This is becoming especially prevalent with natural reds.

Can you taste the difference of a whole bunch?