What Natural Means for Wine – On the Need to be Wary of Simple Solutions in the Viticulture of “Natural” Wine
By Matteo Acme, Proviva – Inkarri Biodynamic Wines
Complexity and depth are two of the first aspects we look for in a quality wine. The complexity of its aromas, structure, and the experiences that this wine transmits to us. The depth of the ethical commitment and approach of each producer. It is exactly the opposite of the simplification pushed by “natural” wine marketers. An impoverishing tendency to reduce stories, philosophies, years of work to a single word, a tag, or a “claim” as an advertiser would say.
This process has already happened with words like terroir, oak, place of origin: fundamental concepts of wine that have been emptied of their meanings. The same is happening now with natural wine. The natural wine movement was born to rescue the individuality of each vineyard, to give back a cultural and social content to wine. The goal was that it would no longer be a simple product of consumption but a nourishment that accompanies everyday life. And now, more and more producers, journalists and sommeliers are appropriating the word “natural” and using it to gain visibility or market share.
We have the suspicion that not many of them have deepened that concept. “Natural wine” is a fashionable phrase, simplified, stripped of its deepest meaning: the idea of natural wine is continuously reduced to a minimal element, mechanically reproducible, in this case the absence of sulfites added to the wine. But the natural wine movement was born in Europe exactly as an agricultural, cultural and ethical reaction against the homologation and standardization of industrial wine and its loss of contact with the earth, the soil, and nature.
At Proviva, we are committed to practice and transmit this tradition. Our wines are produced from certified organic and Biodynamic grapes, fermented with their own indigenous yeasts and processed without any additives of any kind. The raw material is naturally cultivated, and natural is the process of vinification. But we reject the label “natural wine” if that only refers to the presence or not of added sulfites. Our approach is somewhat deep and complex. We want to put the methods of grapes production and the relationship between winegrowers, nature and consumers back at the heart of the discussion. We don’t believe that every wine becomes “natural” just because no sulfur is added. This is a great example of over-simplification.
A few months ago, in France, a group of producers drew up a possible definition of what they call “Vin Méthode Nature,” natural method wine. It is an attempt to define and give substance to the word natural. In order to use the vin méthode nature logo, wines have to be produced from certified organic grapes, harvested by hand and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Manipulative practices (widely used in the wine industry) such as sterile filtration, thermoflash pasteurization and osmosis are prohibited. The addition of sulfites as a preservative function is allowed up to a maximum of 30 milligrams per liter (the same as parts per million, ppm). In wines labeled as Made with Organic Grapes, up to 100 can be added; up to 350can be added in conventional wine production). This is an appreciable attempt to deepen and systematize the concept of natural wine.
In Argentina, “natural” already appears as a “spoiled” word, a simplifying label only for marketing. We work towards complexity and a serious and committed approach to the subject: in viticulture, be wary of simple solutions, take the time to go beyond labels. A true natural wine, coming from clean grapes, respectful of nature, without manipulation or additions, is the most faithful representative of a place and a vintage. It is a healthy cultural product, alive and radically anti-industrial.
From this point on, we can give back a true meaning to the words natural wine.
Proviva embodies the quest for a wine identity that is both original and authentic. Their estate-grown wines are produced exclusively from organic and Biodynamic vineyards located in the best terroirs of Mendoza. The resulting varietal wines are the purest expression of the region’s outstanding calcareous soils. Organic and Biodynamic agriculture guarantee a viticulture with no inputs, where vines authentically express the character of place. Inkarri natural wines are Demeter Certified Biodynamic, Made with 100% Certified Organic Grapes, Certified Vegan and Non-GMO Project Verified. Find out more about Inkarri Biodynamic Wines.