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Feb. 9, 2022

Library Release - Defining Natural Wine

Library Release - Defining Natural Wine

An ongoing trend and a topic that crisscrossed many of our interviews on XChateau, the natural wine movement got a formal designation in March of 2020. It specifies a set of vineyard and winery practices to qualify for the designation. We discuss the pote


An ongoing trend and a topic that crisscrossed many of our interviews on XChateau, the natural wine movement got a formal designation in March of 2020. It specifies a set of vineyard and winery practices to qualify for the designation. We discuss the potential challenges of implementing the designation and the potential impacts on producers, retailers, and consumers.  

This episode originally aired in May of 2020. To access the rest of our library, become a Patreon supporter, as we’ll soon be making most back episodes only available to our Patreon supporters. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • New definition and denomination for natural Wine in France - Vin Methode Nature (March 2020)
  • Requirements: organically farmed, hand-harvested, indigenous yeast, no inputs added, no manipulations to the wine (e.g., - thermovinification, reverse osmosis, flash pasteurization, cross-flow filtration)
  • Two levels of designation based on SO2 additions - 1 with no SO2 added, 1 with up to 30 mg/L of SO2 added
  • Before this, there was no formal definition for “natural wine” people often confused or used the term for organic and biodynamic farming or with using minimal intervention
  • Natural wine trend
    • Rise of natural wine bars, restaurants lists focused on natural wines, and natural wine stores/sections of retail stores
    • Entire natural wine fairs - e.g. - e.g. - RAW WINE
    • Specific books - e.g., Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron MW
  • Challenges of the natural wine designation
    • It may be difficult to make adjustments in farming or in the winery when issues occur, which may be increasing with climate change
    • Hand harvesting may be challenging and even lower quality in regions with labor shortages (e.g., Australia, New Zealand)
    • Champagne - does not use native yeast for secondary fermentation in bottle and may not qualify
    • Burgundy - often doesn’t get organic certifications in vineyards due to weather challenges but strive for “lutte raisonnée” (the reasoned struggle)to reduce chemical inputs in the vineyard
    • US importers - to be labeled as “organic wine” in the US requires no added sulfur, which applies to only 1 of the 2 designations. Wines without sulfur additions may have stability issues when they  shipped to the US
  • Natural wine retailers - consumers may find the designation confusing as some of their wines will be labeled “natural wine,” but others will not, requiring detailed knowledge of the winegrowing practices of all the wines on the shelf
  • Consumer perceptions
    • Product quality is critical, especially at the higher end
    • Studies have shown people will be ~$3/bottle more for organic wine, which is a ~30% increase on ~$8/bottle average price point
    • Consumers assume fine wines are a natural product and may find the labeling confusing
    • Vegans - egg whites and isinglass (a type of fish bladder) are sometimes used as processing aids for wines (a process called fining) but are not ingredients - may find the designation useful
    • Kosher WineWine - can not be labeled natural as flash pasteurization is not allowed
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