Why you need to give natural wines a fair go

Illustration by TWYLAMAE
Words by Hannah Cole

There’s nothing to fear.

Arguably, there are few things more complicated than writing an article on wine while nursing a hangover. Alas, I am still awaiting maturation, where I will be self-controlled and walk away buzzed, yet coherent. But time cannot wait when it comes to natural wines. I need you to hear about them now. 

Before we start, you need the lowdown on conventional wines. Your everyday bottle may contain any of the following fermentation additives: sulphites, extra yeast, finishing agents from egg white, volcanic clay or fish bladder. Um, yeah, sounds great – I love fish bladder filtering into my beverage of choice. All those additives are used to achieve our desired “flavour, clarity, colour and easy drinkability.” Alongside this, farming practices are commonly more unsustainable as they rake the land and reduce biodiversity.

So, what are natural wines? “Natural” is an umbrella term for wines produced with minimal intervention (different to your organic or biodynamic options). It’s a philosophy held by vintners whereby sustainable farming is at the forefront – manual labour over machinery, avoiding pesticides, and no chemical intervention. Essentially, these are the wines that the eco-aware should *naturally* be selecting.

Natural wines have a hard time in the media, though. They’re deemed “funky,” “cloudy” or “cidery” with often inconsistent results. They’re seen as a risky investment for a risk-averse generation.

Ella Stening – one of the gurus at DRNKS (the guardian angel of Australian natural wines) – is here to change your mind. “Natural wines don’t have to be weird and wild,” she says, “there are growers and winemakers out there who make outstandingly clean and complex wines that lean towards a more classic palate.” I concur and have trialled firsthand.

I’m no sommelier (Bottlemart red tastes like a Chianti to me) but after sipping these natural variations, my palate was enriched, and my mind opened. There are stand-out flavours to explore and delectable fizzes to be found. Each bottle offers something different and that, in and of itself, is special. As Ella puts it “[natural wines] glitter, shimmer and traverse avenues of flavour that you don’t get in conventionally made wines. Ultimately, they taste alive, and it shows.”

The world of natural wines is a diverse and surprising one. Exceedingly so, as I research, taste and glance at Ella’s CV (including making wine in South Africa). So, where is one meant to start? She recommends beginning with some European favourites more suited to a classic palate: Foradori, Occhipinti, Claus Preisinger, Clos du Tue-Boeuf, or local Eastern Peake. For something a little more adventurous, dig into Cantina Giardino, Kindeli Wines, Good Intentions, Partida Creus and Sam Vinciullo.

I’d also read – and since convinced myself – that drinking natural wines can prevent hangovers. Unfortunately, according to Ella, this is unsubstantiated viticultural folklore. However, natural wines mean fewer chemicals, which in turn means reduced reactions to the myriad of additives in conventional bottles. Additionally, many natural winemakers are producing lower alcohol content, which “helps dramatically if you want to feel less like you hate yourself in the morning.” Wise words, indeed.

And yet, I’ve only scraped the surface. We haven’t even mentioned Pet-Nats or orange wines which are well worth the exploration. So, drink well and go forth, my friends. Your natural, earth-conscious journey awaits and there is so much to explore.



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