What is Natural Wine?

You have probably been hearing the term “natural wine” thrown around the bar these days. Like many of the buzzwords that float around the food & beverage world, the term “natural wine” might just sound like a cheap marketing term.

It’s no surprise that many people still don’t know how to answer the question “what is natural wine?”

You may think “it’s wine! It’s made from grapes! Of course it’s ‘natural.'”And while you are partially right, you are also partially wrong.

Not all wine is created equal, and I’d love to help shed some light on these new terms floating around the watering hole.

So what is natural wine exactly? The term “natural wine” refers to how the wine is made. A natural wine maker simply relies on the juice in the fruit and the yeast on the skins of the grapes in order to produce the wine.

This approach is also called “low-intervention” wine making, since the wine maker does not add anything to manipulate the wine or the fermentation process.

Believe it or not, many wine producers manipulate their wines by adding dyes, commercial yeasts, additional sugars, acids and more. Many even use methods to filter their wines that involve animal products (vegans, beware!).

Screenshot of rose wine with added ingredients.

Cameron Diaz’s new wine line, Avaline, tries to capitalize on the natural wine movement but produces wine with several additives.

What’s worse is that these additives are often the root cause of the “wine headache” that many people complain about. Unfortunately, these people avoid drinking wine all together because of the affects of the additives in wine and don’t even know it’s the additives to blame.

Sorry, Cameron Diaz, your new angle for selling wine isn’t cutting it.

So, is natural wine better for you? Well, yes and no. Alcohol, at the end of the day, is a toxin and you are responsible for evaluating that intake on your body and health.

However, avoiding a headache when you can and consuming real ingredients found in the natural world sounds “better” to me.

That’s the natural wine difference. Doesn’t it sound better to you?

Why Use Additives in Wine?

Well, to begin, it comes down to supply, demand, and profit (like almost anything else). There are a lot of major wine producers who are in high demand, and their customers expect their wine to taste the same each year. However, Nature doesn’t play that game.

No one can plan the same weather conditions year after year in order to create the same wine year after year.

It’s for this exact reason that there is such an emphasis on “vintage” (the year a wine was grown & harvested). That’s why you’ll see two identical wines from the same producer be priced differently. A major reason could be that the vintages are different.

One might drink better than the other because the growing season was better. This could mean more rain, more sunshine, less rain, less sunshine, no frost, some frost…the list goes on and on because different wines thrive in different conditions.

But the fact of the matter is, wine changes with each year and many producers and consumers don’t want to rely on what a given growing season will bring. Many search for and expect familiarity with their wines.

Unfortunately, that means reaching for some extra help from the not-so-natural world.

Natural wine, on the other hand, embraces the spontaneity that each growing season brings. Each single varietal wine will indicate how the soil health was in a given year. Each wine captures the weather conditions of its respective vintage.

You’re literally bottling up a year of sunshine, rainstorms, and soil. Isn’t that cool?

So, what is natural wine? Its’ history in a bottle. What is natural wine? It’s time in a bottle. What is natural wine? It’s Nature in a bottle. What is natural wine? It’s lightening in a bottle. What is natural wine? It’s magic, y’all. Plain and simple.

Why We Make Natural Wine

foot crushing chenin blanc; what is natural wine

Photo by Nick Gingold

At Más Allá Wines, we make natural wine because we believe that there should be more natural wine in the world.

There was a point in time where my husband and I had to ask ourselves, “What is natural wine?” and “What is natural wine to us? What is natural wine mean for Más Allá Wines?”

We initially wanted to go as old school as possible and try and find a winemaker who would help us make wine without even the addition of sulfites.

We quickly learned about how risky it is to avoid adding sulfites in our wine, so we reconciled with adding about 20 ppm of sulfites to our wine and were happy about it.

And while we do not currently operate our own facility, we work with wine makers and wine growers who share our philosophy and love of low-intervention wine.

It pains us to know that there are wines out there filled with junky ingredients that people blindly consume.

We are delighted to introduce our wines like our 2020 Rosé of Cabernet Franc to customers and watch their faces light up when they learn that the wine is not only organic, but it is also naturally made and free from additives…and it’s also delicious.

It’s why we got into the game and why we’re still playing.

Unlike some other natural wine brands who are able to manage their own vineyards and winemaking facilities, we are a natural wine company that has the unique opportunity to lift up environmentally friendly vineyards who are doing smart work in the fields.

Cue our delicious 2020 Cabernet Franc made with organic grapes from Coquelicot Estate Vineyard.

We get to be picky about our grape selection, which means we are taking extra care to bring you, the consumer, a beautiful bottle of classically styled, naturally made wine.

We care about the product we are bottling for you, which is why we hope you think of Más Allá Wines when you ask yourself, “what is natural wine?”

Natural Wine v. Organic Wine v. Biodynamic Wine

hands holding green grapes - what is natural wine?

Photo by Nick Gingold

You may have heard “natural wine,” “organic wine,” or “biodynamic wine” as popular wine identifiers if you’ve elbowed up to a local wine bar recently. However, these terms are not interchangeable and do, in fact, carry different meanings.

Natural Wine

Wine that is made using low-intervention techniques and no additives (oftentimes with the exception of sulfites).

Organic Wine

Wine made with organic grapes from certified organic vineyards. This means that the vineyard managers only use organic and environmentally-friendly pesticides and herbicides to help protect their vineyard(s) in the growing season.

Can natural wine also be organic wine? YES.

Is all natural wine organic? NO.

Biodynamic Wine

Wine made with grapes from biodynamic vineyards. Now, this is very different from a mere organic vineyard. There are many elements involved in creating a biodynamic vineyard, but the gist is rooted in creating a biodynamic environment around the vineyard.

Biodynamic vineyard managers are heavily invested in the soil health and overall ecosystem of the vineyard. They understand how adding things like a cow horn stuffed with cow manure from a lactating cow can enrich the soil.

Sound a little eccentric? Well, it kinda is. Deal with it. It yields delicious wine and helps heal, revitalize, and strengthen the soil.

Can natural wine be biodynamic? YES.

Is all natural wine biodynamic? NO.

Can biodynamic wine be “organic”? YES

Where You Can Find Our Natural Wine

Visit our online SHOP or, if you’re local to San Diego, visit The Fishery to get some delicious seafood and try our 2020 Chenin Blanc  from Jurassic Park Vineyard.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still asking yourself, “what is natural wine?” my biggest recommendation is to go and try some out! Find a local wine bar and ask your bartender if they have any natural wine. Odds are, they probably do since it’s rather trendy.

Or, better yet, buy a bottle of mass produced wine and a bottle of natural wine and have a blind tasting. Your palate will certainly answer the question “what is natural wine?” before you take a second sip.

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About the Author

Cleo de la Torre is the owner of Más Allá Wines. She is also a mother and former high school English teacher. She taught for several years before she and her husband, Jordan, took a wild leap into the wine world.

She loves wine and its rich history, and much of that love is explored and explained through her blog. Questions, comments or concerns? You can reach Cleo here.