Why are Natural Wines Becoming Trendy?
There’s a lot more than just fermented grapes juice to natural wine. In the past few years, natural wine has gained some notoriety and traction within the wine community. To the layman, wine is simply the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes but, as one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, wine has undergone a few changes to its process over the past hundred or so years. So there’s actually a good chance that the supermarket wine you love has additives in it like, sulphites, oak barrel and even egg whites. That’s right, the wine you’re drinking might not be vegan.
What Exactly is Natural Wine?
Defining natural wine has always been a bit tricky as there is no official definition and it’s not regulated by any specific governing body or regulator for consistency. Natural wine is made from pure, fermented grape juice - without additives and chemical interference from the winemaker. There are no additives like sulphites, chemical fertilisers or any pesticides involved and it’s as low interference as possible.
The Difference Between Natural Wine and Traditional Wine
The process of producing natural wine isn’t the only difference when it comes to comparing it with traditional wine. You can expect to find a pretty significant difference in the look and taste - the colour of natural wine can appear cloudier than the reds and whites you’re used to seeing in supermarkets. The flavour profile will also be different, some natural wines have been known to have a much sharper, funkier flavour.
Sulphites are a chemical preservative that is added to wine in order to protect them from spoiling and to keep them stable during shipping and storage. Sulphites protect the natural flavour profile of the wine, and they might even temper ‘off-flavours’ that could be present. Some sulphites are produced naturally during fermentation, but in such small quantities that would be insufficient to protect against oxidation and microbial growth.
Some natural wines do contain trace amounts of naturally occurring sulphites - around 10 parts per million (ppm) when compared to the higher amounts of sulphites found in traditional wines, where quantities can reach up to 350ppm - which is the maximum in the US.
What is actually quite alarming, sulphites are banned as being used as a preservative in fresh foods (meat and produce). However, since no other preservatives are uniquely capable of preventing oxidation and microbial spoilage, sulphites have found continued use in winemaking as they enable winemakers to produce the types and different varieties of wines that the world of wine drinkers have come to expect.
Many people have experienced an adverse or even an allergic reaction to high levels of sulphites, but it is still a major point of debate as to whether it is a cause of those bad red wine headaches. If you are unable to find a natural wine alternative, a wine filter could be the solution for you; they are able to selectively remove sulphites once their job as a preservative has ended.