August 05, 2021 by Arden Montgomery
‘Gaux to the World of Natural Wine
No category of wine sparks debate like that of natural wine. Love it, hate it, or simply just don’t understand it, this hands-off style of winemaking is becoming more and more popular amongst consumers and industry folk alike. Here at Argaux, our stance towards natural wine is pretty simple – just like with any region, grape variety, or wine style, there are plenty of good and bad examples out there, and natural wine is no exception. The key to drinking great natural wine is simply knowing where to look. Not sure where to begin? That’s where we come in!
Regions: Natural wine is made all over the world and from a plethora of grape varieties. Although this style can be found globally, certain “hotbed” regions include the Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Central California, and South Australia.
Wine Characteristics: High acid, fruit-driven, (generally) low levels of tannins in reds, and low levels of sulfites (often with zero added)
Fun fact: Not all natural wine is funky! When produced at the hands of talented winemakers, great natural wine shouldn’t taste “weird” or “funky” in any way – if anything, it should taste delicious, vibrant, and alive.
‘Gaux to the World of Natural Wine – What To Know
What Is Natural Wine?
No secrets here! Natural wine is exactly what it sounds like: wine made as naturally as possible, meaning nothing is added and nothing is taken away. Although the term is slightly debated (mostly in the realm of sulfites, which we’ll get to in a second), most industry professionals agree that the wines must be, at minimum, made from organic fruit, ferment with natural yeast, and be vinified with a low-intervention mentality, as well as bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Are There Any Natural Wine Designations?
Yes! Well, for French natural wine, at least. As of last year, the official Vin Méthode Nature designation was officially released. In order to obtain certification, the wine in question must be produced from hand-picked and organically farmed grapes, as well as indigenous yeasts. Ultra-technical winemaking methods (thermovinification, reverse osmosis, etc.) are prohibited, and only 30 mg/L of sulfur are permitted, none of which may be added before or during fermentation.
Are all natural wines brightly colored and funky tasting?
No! When made by great producers, well-made natural wines are generally tasty, fruit-driven, and reflective of the places from which they come.
Are Organic Wines and Natural Wines the Same Thing?
Not necessarily. Organic wines, or wines made with organically-farmed fruit, can still be vinified with conventional yeasts and excessive manipulation in the cellar. In this case, such organic wines are not deemed natural wines.
[Read More: Organic, Natural Wine, and Sulfites Guide]
What’s the Deal with Sulfites?
Sulfites (one atom of sulfur surrounded by three atoms of oxygen) are added to wine for preservation purposes. It’s important to note that sulfur is a byproduct of fermentation, so there’s no such thing as a sulfur-free wine. However, there are such things as no sulfites added (or sans sulfites ajoutés in French) wines.
Die hard natural winemakers will claim that wines with any added sulfur are not natural, as the supplemental portion is technically an additive; other natural winemakers will counter that by saying that minimal amounts of added sulfites are necessary to make unflawed wine. Our opinion? Keep the sulfites as low as possible while ensuring that the wine is fault free (and tastes delicious, of course!)
Sourced from the signature basalt and jory volcanic soils of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this medium-bodied Chardonnay jumps with flavors of peach, citrus, honey, marcona almond, and sweet baking spice. Zippy acidity and palate-coating fruit flavors lead to a lingering finish. Serve with gruyere or nutty cheddar cheese for an out-of-this-world pairing.
This ‘no sulfites added’ (sans soufre) Aligoté from Domaine Rougeot is one of our all-time favorite natural white wines. Fruit comes from a 1.5-hectare vineyard dedicated to old vines (40-70 years old) rooted in clay-limestone soils. Post-harvest, the juice ferments naturally in concrete vats and ages in French oak barrels prior to bottling. Expect zippy flavors of green apple skin, lemon rind, and a touch of smoke.
This light and fresh Pinot Noir from Oregon promises to give Old World favorites a run for their money. Flavors of cranberry, cherry, baking spice, and damp soil lead to a soft, lingering finish – the ultimate chillable red! Pair with a variety of meats and veggies or simply sip on its own. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Pinot or Gamay – why choose? For those who love both grapes equally, Passetoutgrain is the answer. Crafted from a blend of both grapes, these light, easy-drinking wines bring the best of the worlds to the table. Rougeot’s signature blend features 70% Gamay and 30% Pinot Noir, which co-ferment together prior to aging. Medium-bodied and bright, the wine shows lively flavors of bing cherry, tart cranberries, potting soil, and potpourri. Serve slightly chilled with herb-roasted chicken, pork chops, or cheese and charcuterie boards.
2018 Domaine de la Bonne Tonne Morgon ‘Grands-Cras’ (3-Bottle Kits Only)
Looking for a go-to bottle of red that promises to please the masses? Domaine de la Bonne Tonne’s Morgon ‘Grand Cras’ has your back. This light to medium-bodied, well-balanced bottle of wine exudes luscious flavors of cranberry, cherry, and a touch of sweet baking spice. Bright acid and velvety tannins lead to vibrang, long-lasting finish. Only 625 cases produced per year.