Everyone has been going on and on about natural wine these days. So what is natural wine you might ask? What is all the hype about? Interestingly enough, it’s not that easy a question to answer. There is no exact definition of what natural wine is. But the idea is that natural wine is unfiltered wine made without additives. And more specifically, the grapes are organically or biodynamically grown and hand-picked, versus picked by a machine.
But to make it even more complicated, wines that are organic or biodynamic aren’t always natural. The most important part to natural wine is that there is no fining or filtering (nothing added and nothing taken out). But what could you possibly add into wine, isn’t it just grapes? The truth is, mass-produced wine usually has a ton of crazy ingredients added in to make the wine taste the same every time. Things like isinglass (fish bladders), mega purple, and wood chips are added into the wine while it’s being made to enhance the flavor.
Natural wine is made without any of these additives: It is simply just the grapes. Natural winemakers do add in some sulfur (which is naturally occurring in wine anyway) to keep it stabilized. They usually add in about 10 to 35 parts per million of sulfites while conventional winemakers can add up to 350 parts per million.
Natural wine is also not a new thing. Many producers have been making “natural wine” for years; they just haven’t labeled it as such. Most people agree that natural wine generally started in rural France but it has recently become very popular all over the world. If you are interested in trying some natural wine yourself there are a number of great shops all over Los Angeles, including Helen’s Wines, Larchmont Wine and Cheese, and Domaine LA. Other wine shops, such as Monsieur Marcel at the Grove, continue to sell conventional wines but also offer a natural wine section.
This is all well and good but the real question is why should you drink natural wine? There are many reasons why. The first and most obvious is that there are no additives and the wine is technically better for you. You’re not drinking flavor enhancers and other things that you might not want in your body. Second, natural wine is fun! Natural wines are unique and a lot of them don’t taste like something you’ve had before. They can be funky but they can also be very classic. If you want to try something interesting and unique, check out Feints by Ruth Lewandowski. This is a wine made out of Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Arneis and Montepulciano grapes that are grown in California and then fermented in Salt Lake City. This wine is $25 and very light, fresh, and slightly zippy. For something more classic tasting, try Lapalu’s Beaujolais-Villages (around $20 a bottle). This is a Gamay that is very fruit-forward and full of flavor.
So the next time you head to a friend’s for dinner or to the park for a picnic, bring a natural wine and check it out! Head to a local store and don’t be afraid to taste and ask questions to find out what interests you.
Cassidy Rose Gyetvan is an actress, casting director and sommelier based in Los Angeles. She has worked at numerous wine shops and restaurants around LA and her taste focuses on natural and unique wines.