It turns out that this new trend in winemaking is not yet another marketing fad.
According to Stephen Meuse, senior wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen, and former Boston Globe wine columnist for 15 years, “It's taking fruit that is grown at least organically, then taking it into the cellar and adding nothing, while also not taking anything away."
As I see it, it’s a move towards artesian wines where wineries are thriving for consistent outcomes. These winemakers aren’t looking to mask or correct taste problems but rather rejoice in them!
As for the naturalist winemakers, "On one end, you have people trying to edge themselves toward fewer additives, no additives, organic fruit — but then [they] will rely on a little sulfur or added yeast to correct problems," Meuse says. "And then, way out on the extreme end, are people who farm organically and then insist on letting the wine completely take its own direction. They're OK with organic matter in the bottle. And their wines take on different flavors. ... tangy, cloudy, yeasty." The natural wines are still alive and can exhibit yeasty and microbial action. Meuse adds that it's fun to observe their character changing as it sits in your glass.
But one caution for those who are looking to jump on the natural wine trend. Organic wine does not mean natural wine. In organic wine production there are no chemicals in the vineyard, but organic winemakers can add sugar and clarifiers which may be made with fish, animal products, or egg whites. Not so for natural wine – however there are no regulations stipulating what “natural wine” is – so for now, be sure to read the labels, and websites carefully.
One note: expect a different taste, inconsistencies and in some cases volatile results. Meuses’ caution? These wines "can be dark, oxidized, flat on the fruit, broad in texture."