In going after wines that compliment the flavors in food, we’re easily led towards an appreciation of natural wines. The world of natural wines can be confusing to navigate, so we’ve written up our own “manifesto”:
Grapes are grown in a vineyard that is farmed organically or biodynamically. Herbicides are not used to control weeds, but the soil is plowed where possible, often with nitrogen-enhancing cover crops between the rows to encourage soil vitality, deep root growth and aeration.
Grapes are harvested by hand, bringing mature, clean fruit to the winery. Yield (grapes per acre) is controlled by pruning (limiting the number of buds per plant) and by retaining lower-yielding old vines.
Fermentation occurs using only indigenous yeasts naturally present in the vineyard and cellar, allowing the true flavors of the grapes and the terroir of the soil to be expressed. (Of course “stuck” fermentations or vintages with high levels of rot may require added yeasts.)
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is not used, or is limited to as small a dose as possible. Wine-making without SO2 is difficult. In the opinion of most natural wine-makers, it requires that grapes are grown organically in vineyards with healthy wild yeast populations. In addition, it requires time, experience and careful work in the cellar from a wine-maker that is committed to making a wine that is a true expression of their vineyard. Low-sulfur wines can have beautifully complex flavors and pure aromatics with more “terroir” character.