James Feldkamp has long been a wine enthusiast sampling flavors from the vast array of international brands offering a taste of their unique vineyards. Noting the rise of “natural wine,” he helps readers understand below how it differs from other types of wine and what they can expect in terms of flavor and quality.
Natural wine has grown in popularity in recent years mainly because it strives to produce wine that is as untouched by man as possible. James Feldkamp mentions that natural wine (also known as “naked wine”) is like the organic version of the alcoholic beverage. The process relies on organic grapes and shies away from using the many additives that have become so common in winemaking today.
“In order to understand how natural wine is different from the rest, you have to first understand the mass-winemaking process,” says James Feldkamp. “Winemakers either run grape vineyards or purchase grapes from a vineyard that they cultivate into usable liquid through fermentation. It’s here that they may add in dozens of potential ingredients to bring out a particular taste or level of bitterness or sweetness. And throughout the process, many winemakers look to technical interventions to make the process easier or else bring about a specific result. Natural winemaking aims to bottle a product that has had as little technical intervention as possible.”
Often, creators of natural wine go the extra mile to ensure their process is as close as possible to the processes of wine makers from antiquity. This means they’ll likely look to vineyards that grow grapes without using any herbicide or pesticides. These producers will also likely use people instead of machines to hand-pick the grapes used in their wines. Instead of synthetic or enhanced yeast products, natural winemakers will only rely on native yeast.
The end result will be a product that isn’t altered by additives like sugar and acid, producing wine that is as natural as possible. Some natural wines have developed a highly-specific flavor as a result of their natural methods that may not be as appealing to the large international audience of wine enthusiasts. James Feldkamp, for instance, has come across natural wines that are decadent and sweet and others that are as bitter and pungent as pickle juice. It all depends on the process methods of the natural winemakers, the length of the fermenting process, and the grapes and other initial ingredients used.
“Another element of natural wines that I’ve learned people aren’t usually prepared for is its cloudy nature,” says James Feldkamp. “We tend to think of lightly-tinted white wines and bold but translucent red wines as the standard. However, because natural wines aren’t as strained or filtered, their liquid tends to be cloudy or opaque.”
Natural wine has a reputation for a distinctly funky taste, but the flavor varies greatly between producers. And today, wine enthusiasts have a number of natural wine producers to choose from, meaning there are plenty of options for them to potentially fall in love with.