If you like me are on the lookout for the healthiest possible wines to drink, natural wines are definitely what you need. Yet the question is how to recognize one as such?
Now, we have been in a slightly more fortunate position in terms of wine knowledge and expertise, hence we decided to compose this short shopping guide to natural wine. After all, you only need natural wine certification to guarantee you the most pure wine possible. We at Organic Wine Club are with you.
Yet it is not that simple unfortunately. There is no certification body for natural wines. No such thing, nada.
There is organic certification (Soil Association, ECO Cert and a few more) and Biodynamic (Demeter and just a tiny bit more), but that’s about it.
Does this certification any help one of us? In theory yes as it will guarantee that the level of sulphites will be lower than 100 mg/l. It will be a great deal for many as most of conventional wines could have concentrations reaching 300 mg/l easily and that’s not healthy at all. Ask me as a guy with nutrition certificate or as a WSET certified wine expert - no-one can deny that it is bad news. Yet even 100 mg/l is not an answer for allergy sufferers or asthmatics. They require levels lower than 45 mg/l (World Health Organisation).
Many natural winemakers do not opt for a certification of any sort as it in many cases requires them to have a more significant production capacity to outweigh the costs related.
Biodynamic certification is deemed as slightly stricter, but, at the time of writing, they haven’t adopted any stricter approach to use of sulphites in winemaking.
Many organic wines are therefore produced by organic principles but the wines are not properly certified. Based on our (sometimes very intimate) conversations with winemakers, they simply do not want to enter the bureaucracy, they deem it to be expensive and several times we even heard something along the following lines: ‘rebels do not seek proof’. They prefer to rely on the word of mouth knowledge of their product, they have enormous pride of their wines and also a very humbling decency about the business.
‘Natural wine’ is some sort of fiction term - there is no regulation or certification about whether that given wine was produced using wild yeasts or naturally without major interruption to the process. So called ‘vin naturel’ will probably not have an indication of the exact use of sulphites and probably will state a natural process of some sort. Fair enough.
But what is ‘real wine’? We all want a real stuff, an adulterated product, free from additives, preservatives and especially flavour adjustments and colourants. The reality or a bitter truth of our modern wine production is that in many cases you get a very chemically adjusted wine that is not alive, it is not full of beneficial bacteria, it is simply coloured alcohol. I expect a nasty response from a huge number of big wine brands, but I don’t care. Let them prove they don’t adjust their wines with sugar, flavourings and an enormous amount of sulphites!
You are probably wondering why there is such a deal about the certification for natural wines. For many winemakers it is down to conditions year on year - put simply, they sometimes need to add a bit more sulphites in order to compensate for a very damp climate in order not to lose th entire vintage. For the small but passionate guys like those it is a huge deal. For them to add 10 more mg of sulphites is not a tragedy if it means they can feed their family (read, their wine would be good and it will sell out). Yet for the certification guys those 10 mg/l tiny quantity can mean that the wine is no longer regarded as sulphite-free, you see.
We at Organic Wine Club decided to remedy the situation by providing an honest service to both parties involved - our beloved wine club customers and natural winemakers too. Our decision was simple too - we want to take wines that contain sulphites at less than 45 mg/l. It means that these natural wines might not technically be certified or identified as such, but they a great fit for anyone who wants additive free wine and especially for allergy sufferers (like me!).
When you look at this issue further you will probably come to the same conclusion as us - the winemaker’s philosophy is the thing that will determine the quality of the product. You can check their story, how they work in the winery, buy their grapes; you can check their website, check about the guys behind the wine. Wine does not need to be a sheer commodity, we invite you to spend a bit of time learning about its provenance and just a tiny bit more details about the production process. Luckily, we at Organic Wine Club provide you with extensive stories per almost each wine, but you can also check their websites, visit trade shows like The Real Wine Fair and Raw Wine.
Based on what we’ve learned about this business works, knowing a producer a bit better allows you to know their range of wines as they work fairly similarly across the entire range of their wines.
Your next step if to vote for your wine (or wines) with your money. You can see that you also vote for wine philosophy and for an honest and higher quality product. You are not only to drink that gorgeous wine, you are to support those winemakers, their businesses and a bit more goodness in this world. Cheers to that!