WTF Is Natural Wine?

Posted January 08, 2015

Ian Dorin


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Today's we’re talking about "natural" wine. While the term may not be as well known as concepts like organic or biodynamic wine, it's a growing trend, and has some real merits.

Natural wine is made with as minimal chemical usage, as well as little human manipulation during the winemaking process. The term is a loose one, and while there are no governing bodies to certify a wine as “natural”, there are some general guidelines that you can look for such as zero pesticides, the use of naturally-occurring yeast, and in extreme cases, biodynamic farming and no added sulfites. The idea is that nothing is added or removed during the winemaking process.

Sometimes natural wines get the bad rap of being "funky" or "stinky". Just because it's naturally made doesn't mean you can't hose down the cellar every now and again and make sure the "bad stuff" isn't lingering in the cellar (like brettanomyces, which can lead to those VERY funky flavors). Looking to give vin naturel a go? Here are some options to get you started:

2011 Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a terrific operation in Chile that is made in guess what…a garage! How clever. But seriously, the wines are extremely good, and very well priced. The Cab has a nice rustic edge, with a touch of funk (not offensive). They also make a crazy good Cabernet Franc and Carignan as well. Another nice touch is that they use only recycled glass for their bottles, too!

2009 Castello Di Lispida Terraforte

This is something really special. Not only is this wine naturally made, it’s made with vine cuttings from one of the greatest (and tragically famous) natural winemakers in the world, Soldera. The Terraforte has tremendous density, firm tannins, and it evolves considerably over several days of being open. Awesome with heavy meals, as it can throw a lot back at the heaviness, this wine is perfect for grilled lamb with a generously seasoned marinade or sauce.

2013 Poco A Poco Russian River Pinot Noir

Poco a Poco is the second label from the wonderful Sonoma producer Porter Bass. These guys are very big on doing things ecologically, and the wines always have a very genteel side to them. We tasted this over the weekend, and it's a light, elegant Pinot. This is superb with cheese, light pasta, or fish. This is one of the more extreme cases of natural wine making, as it is gravity flow, low sulfur, and organically made. Clearly, it’s working.


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.

Product Label.

Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon

91 Josh Raynolds - Vinous Media

Item: 83947

750 mL

Retail: $32.99

$22.00 per btl

Item: 83962

750 mL

Retail: $40.00

$29.99 per btl

Item: 85024

750 mL

Retail: $25.00

$17.77 per btl