A more accurate title for these wines would be 'low intervention'. Natural winemakers aim to add nothing and take away nothing from the wine. What does this mean in practice? All natural wines are organic (often biodynamic also) by their very nature. In the vineyards no chemicals are used and harvest is done by hand. In the winery the yeasts used are those that came in with the grapes naturally...wild yeasts. Intervention during the fermentation process is kept as minimal as possible and nothing is filtered or fined. It sounds like the winemakers do very little when creating these wines, but the truth is it is very difficult to make wine this way and, due to lack of sulphites and chemicals, everything must be kept spotlessly clean to avoid spoilage. The wine maker must have excellent instincts to create a wine that is stable. It's a tough but commendable way of making some of the most terroir focused and interesting wines you will ever try.
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Similar to organic farming in many ways, biodynamic viticulture doesn’t use synthetic chemicals in the vineyard. Biodynamics is very much a farming method and philosophy which links the vines to everything that can influence their health and vitality, including astrological cycles. It can all seem a bit, well, out there. What is without question, however, is that a practice which promotes an entire ecosystem (not just one tiny element of it), scores huge points with Wine Fiend. If you think it sounds a bit ‘fringe’, we can tell you that some of the most expensive, and sort after, wines on the planet practice biodynamic viticulture, just ask the most expensive wine producer in the world, Burgundy’s Domaine Romanée Conti.
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- Vegan & Vegetarian
Vegan and Vegetarian
Hang on a minute! How can a wine NOT be vegan and vegetarian if it’s made from grapes? The answer to that lies in the way that the wines are clarified. Most wines these days are filtered and fined to remove sediments, remaining yeast, tartrate crystals etc. For the most part this is a decision driven by aesthetics and nothing else as many winemakers believe that we consumers demand crystal clear wines with no haze or sediment. Naturally, if left for long enough, wines will clarify unaided as the sediment is allowed to accumulate and settle at the bottom of the bottle. Modern pressure on many winemakers however means there is a desire to speed the process up by using binding agents.
How are these elements removed from wines? Well, there are a number of methods and some of them use animal derived products such as egg albumen, casein (a milk protein) Isinglass (from fish bladders) and Chitosan (from crustacean shells). These are added to the wines and bind to the particulates and cause them to clump and settle much faster, they can then be filtered out of the wine. However, many winemakers realise that the desire to create a wine of crystal clarity with no sediment etc comes at a cost…flavour and character. Also, some winemakers want to avoid the use of animal products in their wine for ethical reasons. Natural wines, by their very nature, are largely vegan friendly and at Wine Fiend we try our upmost to make sure that a healthy selection of our wines are Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
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