In the one corner, weighing in at about 1500 to 2000 producers globally, we have the organic wine movement, going head to head with the new kid on the block, the natural wine producers, of which France alone accounts for about 400 producers. So who do you back in this fight? And let us not forget the greatest contender…the conventional wine producers.
Natural wines are made with minimal technological and chemical intervention in the growing of the grapes and the making of the wine. In contrast, organic wines are defined as wines that were produced from organically grown grapes, but may be subjected to chemical and physical manipulation in the winemaking process. The argument that natural wine producers have, is that wines from conventional producers become uniform. This means that they lack specific regional or varietal character after the winemaker and all his processes and chemicals are done with them. So why are the organic producers so upset about the new natural wine movement?
Organic producers have spent the last 20 years building up the organic brand, putting effort and money into creating quality products, only to have their reputation, in their opinion, possibly tarnished by wines now labelled as ‘natural’. And how many consumers will know the exact difference between these two competitors? Natural wines usually have unusual flavour profiles and are prone to flaws and faults, including oxidation and spoilage. In addition, very little information is available on the ageing potential of these wines. To add to this, organic wine production is subject to country-specific regulation, whereas no such system exists for natural wine…not yet anyway.
So the natural wine philosophy is: ‘nothing added or taken away from the grapes, must or wine’.
Is this the future of winemaking? Is this just a passing fad? Does it have a future? Or is it a real contender?
Cue Eye of The Tiger music…
Elda Lerm is a technical consultant for Oenobrands