Natural wine (and food) – Part 5
March 4th, 2019 | Bodega
Of course, I should have pointed out from the offset, that there is no official recognition or certification for the category of ‘natural wine’ – but clearly, as the name implies, they are simply made in the most natural way possible, with nothing added and as little as possible taken away. As I have mentioned before, the downside can be that the wines themselves are inherently unstable. For example, a natural wine might have no sulphur added (leaving them prone to oxidation), they might not be fined to remove proteins (leading to protein instability and cloudiness in the wine). They are also largely unfiltered – a process that cleans the wine, but also removes body and flavour (according to the type and level of filtration used). In the case of natural white wines, they will certainly not be cold-stabilised (and can therefore develop tartrate crystals in the bottle). If the consumer is happy with this, and accepts a multitude of potential flaws, then why not?
To be honest, all wines are ‘natural’ – certainly they will be manipulated by technology or perhaps ‘chemically’ at some point, but never to the extent where flavourings or colourants would be added. For example, some commercial wines (in some wine growing areas) might allow the addition of grape concentrate to sweeten, or tartaric acid to correct the balance, but even these additions are strictly controlled and limited. (I should add that in the case of albariño, we never need to add acidity – the balance in our wine is simply achieved by chosing the optimum moment to harvest).
Perhaps the only way in which the ‘flavour profile’ of a wine can be manipulated is by the choice of yeast added. For example, in some extreme cases, exotic fruit flavours can be infused into a wine by the use of certain yeasts (which can either mask the natural fruit completely or distort it, almost beyond recognition). At Castro Martin, whilst we are obliged to seed our wines with yeast, we always select a very neutral strain that allows the albariño fruit to shine through. OK, we add yeast, but the flavour of our wine is still natural.
Over my last few posts I have broadly outlined many of the steps that we already take to keep our wine as natural as possible, and in my next post I will talk about possible future developments that we are considering.