You might ask, isn’t all wine natural wine? The answer is no. The wines US consumers typically buy and drink are allowed to have additives. There are 60+ approved additives American winemakers can use (yeast, fake oak flavor, sugar, acid, egg white and sulfites are some of the most common).
Simply put, natural winemaking has clearly defined rules as to how the grapes are grown and picked and how they are crafted into wine.
While natural winemaking has emerged as a popular approach to how wine grapes are grown and crafted into wine through fermentation, aging and bottling, there are many variables and decisions the winemaker must make. Depending on their expertise, natural winemaking methods can result in huge variability in the quality, shelf-life, and characteristics of the wine.
There are many small (and large) winemakers who experiment much like the craft beer industry has innovated and evolved the diversity of beer experiences. In many respects, Natural Winemaking across the globe is a revolution in how wines are made, with natural methods deployed in different degrees and with diverse results.
Georgian Natural Winemaking Techniques Are Tried and True
Natural winemaking has been the Georgian tradition for 8000 years. Georgian natural winemaking is centered on the methods Georgia invented thousands of years ago. It is a simple equation; the only ingredients in Georgian natural wines are the grapes and their skins. The grapes and their skins are fermented (skin contact fermentation) in Qvevri (large clay vessels) buried in the ground. This results in healthier wines with none of the additives.
In modern Georgian winemaking some experimentation is taking place. Georgian winemakers have are exploring how to diversify indigenous varieties (there are 525 indigenous varietals in Georgia) into terroir based wines to further their uniqueness and support the crafting of high quality wines with distinctive taste profiles.
Natural Winemaking Starts in The Vineyard.
Sustainable farming, dry farming, hand harvesting, bio-dynamic vineyard management, NO chemicals, organic soil management. These are the key tenants for natural winemaking in the vineyard. It takes more work to adhere to natural vine and grape growing, but our Georgian vineyard and winery partners are committed. Just as they are committed to social justice for their employees.
Low Intervention Wines Are Different But Similar
In most cases, Low Intervention Conventional wines afollow many, if not most of the principles of natural winemaking. The similarities and differences are as follows:
- Vineyard Management: Natural vineyards abide by strict adherence to only naturally occuring water sources (dry farming), fertilization (compost and animal (sheep/goat winter grazing), bio-dynamic pest control (NO chemicals). Low Intervention (or Conventional) vineyards may use some irrigation, natural fertilizers and minimal natural pesticides.
- Harvesting: Generally no differences as grapes are hand harvested, crushed and sorted for fermentation by hand. In both cases, our wineries
- Fermentation: Slight difference in Low Intervention fermentation may include limited added yeasts to augment fermentation (versus Natural being purely the yeasts that exist naturally on the skins), fermentation in stainless steel (versus Georgian Natural wines are almost always fermented in Qvevri), may be without skin contact (whereas Georgian Naturals NEED skin contact).
- Aging: Low intervention aging may be also done in stainless steel or oak more frequently than purely natural wine aging which is most often done in Qvevri.
- Bottling and storage: Low intervention wines may filter and use very limited fining at bottling, with potential for some limited additional sulfites added for preservation (but generally much more limited than standard winemaking.
The Aim Is To Let The Grapes, The Terroir and The Wine Sing!
Whether you are making a Natural or Low Intervention wine the thinking is much the same. Less interference from humans results in the wine being reflective of the land, the soil, a parcel of vines and the growing season. Culminating in unique and expressive wines that sing the song of Mother Nature.