What is Natural Wine?

Natural Wine is a unique style of unfiltered, organic wine made with minimal intervention. While there is no regulated definition, this comprehensive guide will help wine enthusiasts understand what sets natural wine apart from conventional wine. From organic farming to spontaneous fermentation, discover the essence of natural wine.

As a result of the untypical way they are made compared to mass-market wines (and even most independent wineries), Natural Wines usually taste very different.  

They can be cloudy, with a fuller, juicier mouthfeel and they present aromas and tasting notes that will at first seem intense, or strange at first. 

To summarize in just one sentence:  Natural Wines are made using organically-farmed grapes and with minimal intervention during the process of turning grapes into wine, as well as the very low or no addition of Sulphites / SO2. 

What is the difference between conventional wine and natural wine?

To understand Natural Wine, you first should understand how both conventional and even organic wine is actually made, especially when made on a large scale.

The reason is because mass produced wine is completely the opposite of what natural wine represents, and is quite eye opening to learn about… 

Tam, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

To expand, think of mass-produced wines which you might find in a supermarket. Many of those brands you see will be made in the millions. Even Champagne brands like Moët & Chandon make 30 million bottles a year, whilst Australian brand Yellow Tail sold 84 million bottles in 2020, and sell more in the US than ALL French producers combined. 

Just think about the production facilities and ultra-processing you need to do in order to make such a product that tastes identical all around the world, which is made from fruit.

These bulk wines are a whole world away from the artisan, low-intervention wines you will find on our webshop and in your local natural wine bars. 

But by knowing how these mass-market wines are produced, you’ll start to understand the middle ground of how conventional wines are made using some of the same principles, and why Natural Wines are so different from even the conventionally-made, independent producers you would not find in Supermarkets.

So, let’s begin with some foreground to the industry of wine.

Wine is a commodity, and with so many millions of customers drinking wine, supply always follows demand.

Think of mass produced products like Coca-Cola. 

Every bottle needs to taste the same, all over the world. And trends can change what people look for in a wine.

If research shows, for example, that customers are craving big, powerful, ripe and fruity red wines, as there were made popular in the 1980’s largely due to wine-critic Robert Parker’s influence, then producers would benefit to create such wines to meet demand - even if their terroir, grapes or region might not lend itself to be ideally suited for such wines.

It’s well documented that the 1980’s saw more producers create wines with higher alcohol levels in addition to a larger range of riper, fruit-heavy styles, which were favoured by Robert Parker’s influential 100 point scoring system that could really make or break a winery based on his scores only.

This is an effect the wine world has called “Parkerisation” as it dramatically changed the sorts of wines created by producers who were following the large demand, and did not just affect fine wine, but entry-level wines too…

Now take an example in today’s world, where everything consumers want, from overseas items and out-of-season produce, we can now find at the supermarket without hassle.

If a customer goes into a supermarket and wants their usual 5.00€ French Sauvignon Blanc white wine to taste exotic, grassy and citrussy, more like you might find mainly in New Zealand, then thats the consumer demand, and the French producer can agree to supply New Zealand- style Sauvignon Blanc made in France. With technology, selected yeasts, temperature adjustments, acid additions and even flavour enhancers - this is totally possible.

But they could also make their Sauvignon Blanc taste similar to what the market wants from a Chardonnay, to also meet demand for such styles. If they know the market wants a rounded, oaky wine with a thick finish - that’s possible, and if they cannot make the price low enough with the cost of real, new oak barrels then they can add in cheaper wood chips to float in the wine to mimic the taste of barrel aged wine, when it is in fact aged in stainless steel. Yeasts which have a vanilla flavour can also enhance this sensation.

That also leaves the question, what does the customer EXPECT when they pick up a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay?

There is a customer demand for knowing to expect with what they are getting when they buy a bottle of wine, and often, wine producers need to fit that mold for their business growth - even if it’s not what the wine would taste like without anything added.

And keep in mind, the same customer also expects the same 5.00Sauvignon Blanc they buy every week to taste exactly the same, vintage after vintage - they don’t care about how the weather was. They want it to taste the same as what they are used to. And that's the demand that the market needs to supply.

A mass market wine producer makes many hundreds of thousands (often many millions) of bottles a year and their challenge is to satisfy their clients’ requirement for their product to taste the same, which is difficult when the weather, picking time & other factors affect the quality and flavour of the grapes to a huge extent, every year.

So in this case, the mass-market producer may have already agreed with a large supermarket they will deliver 300,000 units next year before it is made, with a contract based on quality, alcohol percentage, sugar levels and more, alongside assurances that it will taste virtually identical to the previous vintage. 

How can a mass-market wine producer make every single bottle taste exactly the same all over the world, year after year, when playing with nature’s variable elements? 

The answer is to manipulate the wine.

Non-native yeasts will almost always be used for fermentation in conventional wine, as the grapes will not be organic. This is because most of the yeast grows on the skins of the grapes, so sprayed chemicals kill the yeast and a natural fermentation is therefore not possible. 

Think of this like making bread at home. Unless you have a ‘starter’ you need to buy a packet of yeast to start the fermentation.

Most mass market producers are in fact more like chemists, using science to create a mass market product much like well known food brands do with ultra-processed food, and yeast comes in many, many different strains which can massively influence the flavour characteristics during fermentation of the wine. 

Yeasts can determine the alcohol a wine produces as well as the speed of fermentation, but flavour characteristics are a primary choice in producers selecting which yeasts to buy from a laboratory for their fermentations. 

What are some examples of wine yeasts and their uses? 

Strain 71B is a yeast strain often used in Beaujolais Nouveau to give a banana flavour, by increasing the formation of isoamyl acetate. This yeast alone is responsible for most consumers thinking this is a natural flavour in Beaujolais Gamay, but it is in fact the yeast causing it.

In Sancerre, a producer states that ⅔ of the producers choose specifically aromatic yeasts to boost the nose of their Sauvignon Blanc.

Lalvin ICV-D47 is a wine yeast used to produce tropical and citrus notes.

Pasteur Red is used to extract more colour, and so often used in classic Bordeaux reds.

We often think of wine as a natural product, but the truth is - what you see in most supermarkets for cheap prices rarely is.

Why do Natural Winemakers use their own native yeasts?

Natural Wine makers often start a spontaneous fermentation using the native yeasts on the skins of their organic grapes, or via a solution of partly-fermented juice called a Pied de Cuve. The reason is because every vineyard has its own yeasts and natural winemakers want to use them, and not allow non-native yeasts to interfere with the wine making process.

On the opposite side, large producers not only find wild yeasts unpredictable (as they can spoil a fermentation) but they cannot easily use their own wild yeasts if they wanted, as mass-market grapes are not grown organically, so they do not have any yeast cells on the skins of their grapes. This is because these have been killed off with chemicals to protect the vines and grapes before harvest. 

In fact, as native yeasts are often undesired, to ensure there are none still present in the wine to interfere with cultured yeasts, Sulphur is used when the grapes are first crushed to ensure fermentation does not begin before desired, and in a more controlled environment.

Why do conventional winemakers need to interfere with wine?

Most mass-market producers buy in their grapes from multiple vineyards, each likely grown on different soils and with different growing techniques, so getting the wine to taste the same becomes even harder on a large scale operation.

Flavour enhancers, colouring, aromas, oak chips, citric acid, gelatine, sugar and hundreds of wine-making additives and techniques will be used in their factories to create a final product that will make the wine taste more like what the mass market demand requires.

How do conventional winemakers alter a wine?

Oak chips, sawdust or even oak essence (a liquid flavouring) are added to many industrial wines to give a barrel-aged flavour at a fraction of the price, whilst still being made in massive steel vats.

If a white wine is not acidic enough, they can add powdered tartaric acid, to fix the problem easily and cheaply.

If a red wine should have more tannin for the market, that can be added in with powdered tannin, made from a growth on oak trees called Nutgall. On the opposite side, if a wine is too tannic and should be softened without waiting for mother nature, then Gum Arabic is an addition to soften tannins and make the texture more easy to drink.

If the colour of a wine is not perfect, that can be fixed with Pectic Enzymes, or even more interesting a grape you probably have never heard of, called Rubired. This Rubired grape produces a thick gooey juice and just a few drops turns red wine into more serious crimson colours to win awards. 

Whilst no-one will admit to using it, Rubired is in fact produced by a large American wine brand for a product they called “Mega Purple” and Rubired accounts for 5% of ALL grapes grown in California… so its clear it is in higher use than wine lovers would expect..


It is also not uncommon to see larger producers who want to sweeten a wine decide to either chill the wine before the wine has fully finished fermenting, thus keeping some sugar OR add in grape juice to increase the sugar levels. Some winemakers can add different grapes, such as muscat, to add more aromatics to a Chardonnay wine and the consumer would never know because legally, they can call it a Chardonnay if the majority of the wine is this. 

Using other grapes also can lower the alcohol content of a wine, whilst adding more flavour. Adding water to a wine is also not uncommon, but putting the wine through special industrialized equipment is a safer way to not alter the flavour. The factories make use of a “Spinning Cone Column” which is a huge machine that evaporates the liquid, capturing aromas and separating the alcohol, which can then be added back in different quantities to create the final product. More chemistry than winemaking, you probably agree.

How is Bulk Wine Transported?

Even more impressive, is how industrial wine producers ensure every bottle tasting exactly the same, even after shipping all the way around the world.  

Although, many wineries actually ship their wines across seas in huge bags (filling a whole container or larger), and the wine is then manipulated, adjusted to be the specifications required before bottling.


This really means the craft of growing vines to produce amazing wine means less than the actual and rather secretive magic of manipulation in the cellar. 

Mass market wines you find in the Supermarket for cheap prices are an impressive factory-led production cycle with a lengthy marketing image seducing millions to the quality of their vines and grapes, when the scientists in the factories are the real secret - and it’s far from the quality world of Natural Wines you’ll find on this webshop. 

Why do winemakers use Sulphites?

A topic of hot debate: It is the overuse of sulfur in the form of sulphites which is often seen as the most destructive element mass market producers rely on for their operations.

In fairness to mass market producers, they actually have little choice in their business of selling lots of wine at insanely low prices to produce such a factory made wine. Once taxes, distribution costs and middle-men fees are paid there is little profit per bottle made so for them it’s important to create a product like a Pepsi, that always tastes the same and can sell in large volumes. This is where Sulphites are essential.

Sulphur is a preservative and removes unwanted bacteria from wines. It is not easy to make wine without sulphites, and without careful skill from a small-scale winemaker who is knowledgeable of such things (alongside a super-clean cellar), then any wine can spoil and turn into vinegar or develop lots of faults like Volatile Acidity or Mouse, from such unwanted bacteria. 

Sulphites are also a stabiliser, allowing a winemaker to essentially ‘freeze the production process’ at the point they feel the wine is ready. 

The Sulphites kills off the remaining unwanted yeasts, and with heavy addition will create a wine that will not change much over time, yet will be suitable for drinking as soon as it is delivered on the other side of the world, as the wine is essentially more sterile - and there are no bad bacterias which will alter the product.

Why do wines without Sulphur say “Contains Sulphites”?

The reason wines without ADDED sulfur say ‘contains sulphites’ on the label, is because SO2 is naturally produced during the fermentation process, and so all wines - even those without anything added will contain SOME sulphites, which have naturally occurred.  It is a legal requirement to mention sulphites on any food or drink product, as some people have allergies to them.

However, the topic of adding sulfites is the topic of discussion when it comes to natural wine and biodynamic wines. 

Some winemakers will write something along the lines of “Contains Sulphites. None added” or “Contains Naturally Occurring Sulfites”

Do organic wines use Sulphur?

 Yes. Organic wines classes as such, as well as certified Biodynamic wines can add sulfur, as do many natural wines. Although many purists will say a wine is only natural if no sulfur is added. This is where things get cloudy, and the term Low Intervention becomes more used, as a broader spectrum.

The difference between an organic wine and a natural or low intervention wine is the amount of added Sulphites used, as well as the amount of manipulation in the cellar.

What’s surprising and unknown to many wine drinkers, is that even EU organic-certified wines are allowed to use hundreds of additives in the cellar! The introduction of wine QR codes may make this knowledge more known to the common wine lover, about what actually goes into their wines.

As long as the grapes are organic when it was harvested, and certain rules are followed then it can be classed as organic. But chemicals and additions can be added in organic wine in the cellar. So.. some may wonder how essential it is to have organic grapes in the first place if so much manipulation is being done in the cellar on many cheap, mass produced organic wines.

As for the wines you might find in an independant shop, from producers making 100,000+ bottles instead, they’re more likely to not follow similar methods of mass-production and the degree to this really is likely seen in the price: A fine-wine conventional producer is less likely to manipulate their wines so much as a cheap conventional producer, as the quality of their grapes and their skill in the cellar require less intervention.

One element that makes Natural Wines so different to the wines described above (besides an incredible difference in depth of flavour!) is filtration. 

Are all natural wines unfiltered?

Yes, all natural wines are unfiltered.  This is in our definition. Some may argue that light filtration are okay for a natural wine, and this is another case for debate in the ongoing argument about what definition a natural wine should have.

You may compare natural wines and notice some are cloudy, and some are more clear.

The clear wines do not mean they are unfiltered, as wines can also be ‘racked’ which is the process of moving wine from one container or barrel to another, and this reduces the amount of sediment being transferred to or simply bottled in a way that does not include all of the sediment, despite being unfiltered or fine.

So, it’s not always the case, but many natural winemakers leave their wines unfiltered and unfined. What this does is take away much of the refinement that the vast majority of conventional winemakers strive for, as this is associated with ‘how a fine wine should taste’. 

These thinner wines for us do not have the same quality mouthfeel, and so for us personally an unfiltered wine is mostly always preferable to a filtered wine. They also lack the same depth of flavour, as they have lost the essence of what made the wine.

As to how natural winemakers often go about their craft in addition to working with lots of love in the vineyards and by not interfering in the cellar or manipulating the wine as most of the worlds wines are made (we would take a confident guess that at least 95% of all wines produced would not classify as being made in natural ways like the wines on this webshop), this of course has a huge affect on the flavour, texture and dare we say it, ‘soul’ of the wine.

Whilst there is no strict definition, mostly everyone will agree that Natural Wines to be made adhering to the following principles:

  • Using only Organically-farmed or Biodynamically-farmed grapes. Although, no certification is required to be classed as a natural wine.
  • The use of only native or wild yeasts for fermentation.
  • Using no added flavour enhancers, sugar, acid or manipulation techniques.
  • No Fining and a very limited use of filtration, if any at all.
  • Using a very minimal use of sulphites during wine production or bottling, with none at all being preferred.

Note again that some insist only a wine without added sulphur at any stage is a true natural wine. This is the most difficult wine to make, as the wine is then much more susceptible to faults. Think of Sulphur use as being able to kill off bacteria in wine… but this can also kill the good bacteria that benefits the wine, as well as any bad bacteria that could spoil it.

Wines without added sulphites are often referred to as the following terms: Living Wines / Vin Vivant, Zero-Zero Wines, Pure Wine, Vin Pur Jus. Winemakers will sometimes indicate on their labels “Nothing Added, Nothing Taken Away” to highlight no sulfur additions (or anything else) have been added to their wines.

Are Biodynamic Wines the same as Natural Wines?

Biodynamic Wines are not the same as natural wines, but most natural wines are biodynamically made, with holistic practices and an approach to farming influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. 

Where natural wines differ mostly is the approach to intervention in the cellar and filtration, rather than a quality-driven approach which is “more than organic” specifically in the vineyards. Natural wines are also generally not certified by any official organisation (there are a few, such as Vins Method Nature) but not to the scale of large Biodynamic certifications like Demeter.

What are some common Natural Wine faults and how to identify them?

Natural wines can sometimes develop faults due to the lack of added sulfites. Common faults include:

  • Mouse: A bacterial fault that creates an unpleasant aftertaste
  • High Volatile Acidity (VA): Acidic compound that results in a vinegar-like smell or Nail-Polish remover.
  • Excessive Brettanomyces (Brett): Adds earthy or barnyard aromas, which can be desirable in small amounts

  • What is Mouse in wine?

    Mouse aka Mousiness is microbacterial issue that affects some wines without added sulphites, which creates a strange sensation and flavour on the tongue a few seconds after contact is made. It is called mouse as it resembles the sensation of it you were to imagine eating the sawdust of a mouse cage, which not only dries the palate but is very unpleasant. It is the fear of mouse, which is why many producers add sulfur to their wines. 

    Mouse is usually only first noticed after bottling, and can actually fade with time aging in the bottle. It is for this reason that winemakers working without sulfur will often hold wines back a while before releasing them, to ensure mouse does not occur due to the bottle shock of travel. Some zero zero winemakers we know have  40,000 bottles of wine not released on the market due to mouse, which they need to wait to fade. This is the reality of being a winemaker working without added sulphites - it is a challenge and things do not always work out, no matter how skilled it all comes down to bacteria.

    Just a dash of sulphites can prevent mouse from occurring, and this is why most natural winemakers will add a tiny amount at bottling to preserve the state it is being released in. 

    What is Volatile Acidity (V.A) in wine?

    Volatile Acidity is described as a specific measure of a wine’s gaseous acids, and this is separate to the amount of Acid on the Ph Scale. 

    There are multiple acids which can affect the total Volatile Acidity (V.A), most prominently Acetic Acid. It is this that gives a smell like vinegar, whilst Ethyl Acetate is the acid that gives off a smell like nail polish remover. Both are, of course, quite unpleasant in high doses, and can overwhelm a wine. However, in balanced amounts V.A can “lift” a wine to new heights and expressions, so is not totally hated by wine lovers. It is when it dominates over everything else, or is too sour, that wines are often seen as totally flawed.

    Natural Wines are more susceptible to V.A, however, many natural wine drinkers are more open and welcoming to it than in the conventional wine world

    What is Brettanomyces (Brett) in wine?

    Brettanomyces, commonly referred to as ‘Brett' , originally comes to a winery from the skins of a vineyard's grapes, or from barrels… and sometimes fruit flies. There is no easy fix for it, but this organism gives off notes of barnyard, sweaty leather, and sometimes bandaid. Although… it can also produce slightly more appetizing, softly floral notes. There are two camps with Brett - some love it, others hate it. When it’s moderate, it’s often not too bothersome, but it can overwhelm and make a wine feel very, very rustic indeed. 

    What styles of Natural Wine are there?

    In addition to the usual styles of wines found from traditional winemaking methods, Natural Wines have some styles usually only made naturally. 

    These include Pet Nat wines, also known as Pétillant Naturelle, Ancestral or Col Fondo wines as well as Skin-Contact wines, which are known as Orange Wines or Amber Wines due to their colour.

    Pet Nat Wines

    What is a Pet Nat wine?

    A Pet Nat is a sparkling wine very popular in the Natural Wine movement. The bubbles in the wine are formed naturally, as the wine is bottled before it has fully finished fermentation. Pet Nat wines, often referred to as Pétillant Naturelle, Ancestral or Col Fondo are either disgorged before being made available to the public, which is a process of removing the excessive yeasts and taming the bar pressure.

    This is useful as making Pet Nats can be unpredictable and are susceptible to overflowing or ‘exploding’ on opening, if the bar pressure is not accurate.. Generally, undisgorged Pet Nats are cloudier and more at risk of bubbling over (often resulting in losing ⅓ of the bottle). Pet Nats are often sealed with a crown cap and are fun, fresh and easy going with a yeasty touch on the palate, but some can also be complex and more structured.

    What is an Orange wine?

    An orange wine is simply a white wine made with skin-contact maceration. What this means is the skins of the grape have been used in the fermentation process, giving their colour and tannins to the fermenting juice. As all grape juice is clear (even in red wines, where the skin also gives colour and tannin), it is the skins of the grapes which give a unique appearance and extra flavour to a skin-contact wine. 

    The flavours of an orange wine can vary depending on the grape, and aromatic grapes like Gewürztraminer or Malvasia are popular choices as the skin-contact brings out a bitter touch that works well with the herbal aromatic and sometimes floral characteristics of the grape. Common flavour characterics of orange wine without being grape specific include orange peel or similar citrus fruits, black tea, apricot or peach, eucalyptus and other herbs.

    Orange Wine

    What types of Orange wine are there?

    Whilst the general process of making Orange wine is often the same, the length of skin-contact can affect how strong the maceration flavours impart, which is also affected by the type of grape and thickness of the grape skin.  Some skin-macerated wines can taste very easy going and fun, without any tannin whilst most can be rather strong in their tannic structure. The wines of Kakheti in Eastern Georgia, where the wines are often left to macerate for at least 6 months in Qvevri are known to be very tannic and thus, need a lot of time to age before they are more drinkable. 

    The region of Friuli in north east Italy and parts of Slovenia are known to be experts in making Orange wine, with producers like Radikon and Gravner showing the world the style that can be made in the region. The wines have structure and tannin, as well as elegance and complexity.

    What is a Ramato wine?

    The Pinot Grigio grape, also known as Pinot Gris, Grauburgunder or even Rülander is a pink skinned grape which when made as an orange wine turns a vibrant copper Rosé colour.

    This type of wine when a Pinot Grigio macerated on the skins is known in Italy as a Ramato and in Slovenia, where the style is very popular, as a Sivi wine. This skin-contact style of Pinot Gris is also very popular in Alsace, as a vibrant French wine. It is essentially an orange wine, but the hue of the colour is different to most but there are similar flavours, if not a bit more fruit based than other grapes when macerated.

    Who are some popular natural wine producers?

    There are many hundreds of popular natural wine producers, but if you are new to natural wine we suggest starting with some easy drinking wines made by producers in Europe. 

    Consider trying the following natural wine producers, great to try a range if new to natural wine. 

    Pittnauer, Koppitsch & Ziniel Wines from Austria

    Patrick Bouju, Bobinet & Les Vins Pirouettes in France

    Marto Wines, Lelle Ihr Weine, Brand Bros & Vin De Lagamba in Germany 

    Clos Lentiscus, Vinessens or Entre Vinyes in Spain

    Lammidia, Porta del Vento and Mirco Mariotti in Italy

    Natural Wine Tips

    Looking to try your first natural wines?

    That’s great! We would suggest trying the more fun style of natural wines, indicated on our webshop as such, which are all also in the more affordable region too. These wines are easy to drink, playful and usually with a flavour profile very different to traditionally made wines.

    Browse the fun wines HERE

    Prefer us to pick? Well, we have made a natural wine box just for that, which you can find here.

    We also have a wine club if you would like a subscription to receive wines from us monthly, or even bi-monthly. Cancel anytime.

    Popular Budget Natural Wines:

    Want some advice on what natural wines to buy first on your journey? We love these below!

    Claus Preisinger - Puszta Libre

    Claus Preisinger - Puszta Libre

    A vibrant, light Austrian red natural wine best served chilled

    Weißer Mulatschak | Weisser Mulatschak. Natural Wine by Meinklang.

    Meinklang - Weisser Mulatschak

    A very easy-going, light orange wine from Austria without any tannins, so great without food.

    Pet Nat Wine

    Porta del Vento - Voria Pet Nat

    A delightful Pet Nat sparkling natural wine from Sicily, which is nice and refreshing.

    Mol 2021 | Natural Wine by Patrick Bouju.

    Patrick Bouju - Mol

    A juicy French red blend, with no added sulphites.

    Natural Wine Example

    Vin de Lagamba - Frauenpower

    A charming, German RED sparkling natural wine, similar to a lambrusco. This one is just 9.5% alcohol, perfect for sunny afternoons. Serve cold.