by Etty Lewensztain, Wine Expert for the Menuism Wine Blog
Joe Dressner, the revered wine importer and veritable poster child for the “natural wine” movement in the United States, passed away recently, bringing a wash of sadness over the wine world, but also inciting a flurry of pointed discussions centered around natural wine—including what that designation really means, and whether natural wines actually taste better than “un-natural” or commercially produced wines.
I’m an ardent proponent of natural wines not because of the philosophical or environmental connotations that they carry, but because of what’s in the bottle. It’s as simple as that. Mr. Dressner was of the same persuasion.
Gimmicks and shticks are good for marketing, but in the end, the juice in the bottle speaks louder than any sort of larger validation. So what sets natural wines apart from their commercial or “un-natural” counterparts and what makes them taste better—or, shall we say—taste more interesting?
For starters, natural wines are made without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, added sugars, artificial acids or commercial yeasts. Many natural wines are also bottled without shelf-life-prolonging sulfites and with very little or no oak at all. These are “hands-off” wines, wines that reveal their soul as directly as possible without being covered up by other stuff. These are what the wine geeks call terroir wines—made with as little human, chemical or technological intervention as possible in order to let the land and the fruit speak for themselves. Brilliant!
So let’s establish some basic definitions. Here's a look at the differences between natural, organic and biodynamic wine.