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What Is Natural Wine? (and Other Questions, Answered)

February 19, 2021
Photo Credit: Lyuba Burakova

If you drink wine, you’ve probably heard the term natural wine. If wine terms were ranked, this might be the buzziest: There are now wine bars and wine shops dedicated to serving only “natty” wine. But what is natural wine exactly?

If you’re not really sure, that’s okay! In fact, it’s a confusing term that even those who know a lot about wine (or at least say they do) can get tripped up on. Here are the basics so you can head into your wine store (or shop online) with confidence.

What is natural wine?

While there’s no precise definition, it’s generally agreed upon that natural wine is wine that is made with the least possible use of additives, chemicals, and technological intervention. Basically, it’s wine the way it was made years and years ago. Grapes are grown organically, without the use of pesticides, and fermented with their own native yeasts to produce wine in its truest form.

How is it different from regular wine?

In many cases, wines are manipulated with various additives and sulfites so that every single bottle tastes the same. Natural wine, on the other hand, can vary from bottle to bottle. That’s because without these control measures, it’s really a living, breathing thing. Some are funky, some are delicate — which is part of what makes it so exciting!

What does it taste like?

There’s a misconception that all natural wine is funky and weird-tasting, but that’s hardly the case. These wines run the spectrum and there’s really something for everyone. If you like clean, crisp whites, there are plenty that fall in that category. If you’re interested in opening your eyes to something new and different, there’s most definitely a wine for you, too.

Is it better for me?

It’s still wine and wine is still alcohol. It contains the same amount of calories as regular wine, and it also contains the potential health benefits of regular wine has. On the other hand, natural wine is usually made using organic practices and it also contains less sulfites. The latter might be important if you’re someone who has a sensitivity to sulfites. It’s important to note that there’s no such thing as 100% sulfite-free wine; grapes naturally produce a bit when they ferment and it’s permissible for natural winemakers to use add a small amount, if needed.

Does it cost more?

Since most natural wine is made by small-scale, independent producers, it’s often costs more than large-scale wines. But there’s really a natural wine for almost every price point. You’ll find bottles starting at about $15 and going all the way up to more than $100. If your budget per bottle is between $15 and $30, you’ll find a lot of options in this range.

Engage with your local wine shop owner and tell them what you like and what you don’t like. Or try one of these to get started:



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