It’s no surprise that natural wines are gaining popularity in Singapore. After all, it’s made from hand-picked fermented organic grapes, where nothing is added or removed. No added additives like fake oak flavor, sugar, acid, egg white and with little or no sulphites.
Conventional wines (aka non-natural wines) that we drink, on the other hand, comes with a ton of intervention during the wine-making process. You get the pesticides & herbicides in the vineyard, and chemicals you never knew could go into your glasses from the cellar. Winemakers add loads of stuff to regulate flavour, acidity and to preserve them. Sulphur dioxide for one, is why you get a bad hangover the next day. Imagine drinking all that down your gut. So, given the absence of foreign chemicals, additives and manipulation, natural wines sound like the better, healthier option to unwind with. And the best part about growing grapes organically and producing wines naturally is that it reduces the impact to our environment.
Natural wines are often misunderstood as being too ‘funky’ or ‘not clean’ but there’s always something for everyone that won’t feel like an acquired taste. We’re always sourcing for the most interesting and delicious natural wines at Chico Loco for you to try. And if you don’t already know, natural wines and spit-roast chickens are a match-made-in-heaven!
Our General Manager and in-house wine enthusiast, Will Leonard, answers some of the most commonly asked questions about all things natural wine.
What’s in natural wines that’s different from conventional wines?
Natural wines essentially have a different appearance, aroma and flavour. While many natural wines are actually pretty normal in style, some can be really wild and complex. Due to the fact that natural wines are unrefined, unfiltered and well, natural, they might look more cloudy and carry a funkier flavour. While others describe it as ‘sour’, ‘barnyard’, it’s actually a result of the use of native yeasts and lack of preservatives.
Are natural wines the same as organic or biodynamic wine?
Organic and biodynamic wines are part of the natural winemaking umbrella, but their definition and requirements vary.
For a wine to be labelled as ‘Organic Wine’ in the U.S., the wine has to be made from organically grown grapes, and the winemaker also may not add sulfites to the wine at any stage. Even then, organic wines do undergo other technological and chemical processes in the winery, which makes them less than natural already.
Biodynamic wine, on the other hand, goes beyond organic - they take into consideration far more aspects than just the grapes. Biodynamic farming views the farm or vineyard as one whole entity and creates an ecosystem with diversified crops within the farm to self-sustain every section, with each component of the farm contributing to the next.
They pride themselves on using natural materials and composts to sustain the vineyard. A range of animals live on the soil and fertilize it, producing a rich and fertile environment for the vines to grow in, without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase soil fertility. Biodynamic farming also means that they follow a biodynamic calendar as part of the process, from pruning to harvesting.
Despite all these, it is possible for both organic and biodynamic wines to have additives and allow for the use of inoculated yeasts for fermentation and the use of animal-based fining agents, unlike natural wines which involves little to no intervention.
Does natural wine contain sulfites?
Sulfite is a natural byproduct of fermentation, so yes, natural wine does contain sulfite, but not any more that it produces. Conventional winemakers add sulfites to their wines to keep them fresher for longer, but natural wines mean that there is minimal or no added sulphur, giving each bottle a different taste.
Is there an official natural wine certification?
As opposed to organic and biodynamic wines, there is no certifying body for natural wines. But do look for hints like “minimal intervention”, “natural winemaking techniques” and “unrefined/unfiltered”.