1. What are natural wines?
Natural wine is wine that is made organically; that is, with minimal chemical and technological intervention. There’s usually no added yeast, no additives included in fermentation and little to no added sulfites.
They are usually grown by small, independent wine producers. Natural wines are different from biodynamic and organic wines, which while made with grapes that have been cultivated according to respective farming practices, still include some external intervention.
According to Philippe, natural wines are “better for your health, for the soil and for the environment”. Growers of natural wines, he explained, seek to maintain the purity of the terroir — the environmental conditions, such as the soil and climate.
“Chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and selected yeast can obstruct the fundamentals of terroir and blur out its purity. We are not against commercialism; we are against over industrialisation of the vineyards and the over extraction of our resources and land to the detriment of its core.”
For example, some natural wine–makers allow indigenous yeasts to lead the fermentation process, rather than inoculating the wine with reliable, more controllable cultured yeasts.
2. Why are the benefits of natural wines?
Michael Volker, a natural winemaker in Germany, puts it this way: “Nothing added, nothing taken away.” Because it’s au naturale, natural wine is dependent on Mother Nature. It goes through “spontaneous fermentation,” much like kombucha, kimchi and sourdough bread, and has similar probiotic effects, according to HuffPost.
A bottle of natural wine contains a multitude of wild yeasts and gut-healthy bacteria as well as polyphenols ― a group of antioxidants proven to improve the beneficial flora populations in our guts ― leading to overall health and longevity, it adds.
Philippe says natural wines tend to carry higher drinkability and more freshness. “From the feedback I have gathered, extreme physical reactions to alcohol are not felt with natural wines — hangovers are lesser, and enjoyment greater.”
Also no two bottles of natural wine are ever alike; every time is a different experience. Each bottle of natural wine is full of its own character, flavours and personality.
3. Which country or region is known for its natural wines?
According to Philippe, Beaujolais and Jura in France are very strong advocates for the natural wine movement. “In Jura, many have never seen a touch of chemical. Other places such as Loire, Georgia, Slovenia, many parts of Italy, from the Friuli to Sicily have always grown organically and refused to partake in industrialising the vineyards.”
These days, there are also natural winemakers in Australia, South Africa and China. “Basically wherever wine is made, winegrowers are getting self-aware, and conscious about how they intervene in the process of winemaking. Natural wines is becoming a global trend and lots are trying to farm organically,” he explains.
However, he warns consumers of, “bigger industries trying to cash in on the wave and exploiting the market by auto proclaiming to be natural or bio. Bio-agriculture still permits a lot of ‘intrant’ and no accreditation or secret stamp is given to natural wines”.
4. Where can you buy natural wines in Singapore?
There are currently around five places offering natural wines in Singapore — Drunken Farmer, Le Bon Funk, Wine RVLT, Open Farm Community and Cheek by Jowl.
Still, Philippe says with interest growing and more people getting on board of the natural wine movement, he expects to see more establishments offering such wines soon.
5. What wine labels should you look out for?
There are plenty of good natural wines, but some well-known labels include Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Yvon Metras, Julie Balagny, Philippe and Tony Bornard, Claude & Etienne Courtois, Julien Guillot, Dario Princic and Hervé Souhaut.
“I would recommend for newcomers and folks curious about natural wines to start with those from Beaujolais and Jura, as most producers in these regions work very ethically. Avoid supermarket beaujolais though.”
6. How do natural wines taste?
The flavour profile of natural wines can vary pretty widely, just like conventional wines. Natural wines have wilder, more intense and unfamiliar flavour profiles, and some can taste or smell musky or a little funky.
“Natural wines are usually more vibrant, have more energy and more volume because we don’t filter as much so you have a nicer consistency,” says Philippe, adding that this can differ too, depending on the type of wine and the styles defined by the winemaker.
However, many producers now tend to bend toward a style that is more pure and refined — i.e. with gentler extraction, less oaky, with more freshness, he says.
“Some of the challenges faced in living wines are how to reduce the faultiness, mousiness, strong volatile acidity and reductions in the wines. However, I prefer to drink something slightly imperfect with personality, than something that is comparable to everything else in the global trend, with no sense of belonging,” he notes. “Just have fun with it! Share a bottle and smile. Keep an open mind.” he advised.
7. How should natural wines be stored?
In terms of how to properly keep the wines, Philippe says it should be just like every other wine – avoid high heat temperature. Another thing to note: Unlike the stamps found on back labels of organic and biodynamic wines, there’s no certifying body for natural wine.