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Natural Wines Explained in Words You Understand

Once in a while, as we wander the aisles of our wine store stocking up on our favorites (bottles that meet the criteria of under $15, with a varietal we recognize, and a pretty label), we stumble across something we’ve never heard about but are too embarrassed to admit it. See: natural wines.

Related: 5 Questions It’s Ok to Ask a Sommelier

Aren’t all wines natural? What have we been drinking all this time?! We investigate.

What are natural wines? The short answer.

Natural wines are when grapes are grown organically and then taking off the vine and into the cellar and that’s it. Winemakers add nothing, take nothing away. Wine is done.

What are natural wines? The long answer.

Here’s the thing. The wine you’re not drinking now isn’t not natural. It’s just that winemakers don’t leave wines alone. For one, they use a gas (sulfur dioxide) to prevent bacterial growth, a practice in use for hundreds of years.

Secondly, they’re making lots of bottles and want most of the bottles to taste the same, otherwise you’ll never know what you’re getting. So they add in carefully selected yeasts during fermentation. This allows them to bring out a specific flavor profile.

Natural winemakers run the gamut. Some just use fewer additives or yeast while still others literally do absolutely nothing. Whatever happens in the bottle is how the wine comes out so you’ll get all sorts of different flavors, colors, and consistencies.

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