Photo caption and photo credit
There is a still-growing interest (and frequent misconception) regarding wines that are called “natural”. I put this in quotations because there is still no agreed upon definition of “natural wines”, though France recently came up with an initial qualification, and many agencies that promote or govern the certifications have their own constitutional definition. Other countries are following suit. Typically, however, they must meet certain criteria to be considered a natural wine— organically or biodynamically farmed vines, hand-harvested, with no herbicides, pesticides, dry farmed (no watering the vines), and minimal to zero adds to the grape must, i.e., no added yeasts, acidifiers, chaptalization, no fining or filtering, etc. It goes on.
Though there is not a single definition of natural wine, there is much agreement on the greatly reduced environmental and ecological impacts that organic, sustainable, and biodynamic farming has over conventional methods that use machines for harvest and spray chemicals to prevent pests and bugs, mildew and other damaging elements.
Natural wines can be challenging at times, however. Sometimes native or spontaneous yeasts can take longer to complete fermentation, and can impart interesting aromas or flavors that may be off-putting to some wine drinkers— they’re “natty”. Think of a sour beer.
Zero or low sulphur additions are common, if not mandatory, for the natural wine producer. That is not to say that there are no sulphites; they just don’t add any sulphur dioxide (SO2), which is a natural, and ancient, preservative and stabilizer for the wines. Grapes by themselves (with no added SO2) create about 30ppm as a byproduct of fermentation, well below the sensory threshold, which starts at about 100ppm. I don’t know if the lower amount is enough to trigger an allergic response in those rare, poor souls with an allergy to sulfites; clearly, the lower the better for them, however. SO2 also helps keep a wine stable for longer in bottle. Not that natural wines won’t or can’t age; certainly, they can, but they may be more prone to spoilage.
We have an extensive array of natural wines, though we don’t display them in one section. That is because there are so many winemakers and families that have crafted wines this way for so long that they haven’t felt the need to obtain and pay for a certification for something that they have been doing for hundreds of years. A few of our favorite natural wine producers are Two Shepherds (CA), Léon Boesch (FR), Villa Job (IT).
Regardless, the wines made in this fashion can be some of the best in the world (DRC), or the most rustic and challenging wines you may try. Like conventionally made wines, there is a vast spectrum of styles and qualities. One thing for sure, however, is that the natural wine movement has great respect for our earth, and has driven vineyard practices and winemaking qualities to new heights. Cheers to that! – Rob Richards
Tacoma Wine Merchants
We have reduced our hours due to Covid 19! Hours are subject to change as the situation is fluid.
12pm – 6pm
Sunday and Monday by appointment – call us!
Robert (206) 227-4575
Kelly (206) 406-2678
Bar currently closed due to Covid-19
ORDER for PICKUP or DELIVERY