Something that we have often spoken about is that natural wine is just grapes and time. However, it is well worth remembering that every bottle owes its existence to a master of winemaking, a dedicated group of vineyard workers and a whole team of unseen people that make this seemingly simple equation happen.
When it comes to creating natural wine there are many more challenges posed than when making conventional wine. The vineyard is subject to that often cruel matriarch, mother nature without the protection of fungicides, herbicides or pesticides. This means that if it is unusually hot, cold, dry or wet that year (and it usually is at least one of those things) or if the grapes fall prey to any disease this will enormously affect that year’s vintage.
In the cellar, without the crutch of heavy grape manipulation or flavour-changing additives to lean on, the winemaker must rely on their instincts to guide a barrel to something worth bottling, making constant adjustments as the wine continues to evolve, whilst also remaining flexible to whatever direction a wine should choose to head in. Furthermore, winemakers must keep fastidiously clean cellars to prevent any unwanted bacteria from creeping in. In short, natural winemaking is a hell of a lot of work.
This begs the question, why bother? The answer is two-fold; firstly because natural winemakers all hold the same belief that farming should leave the land in the same or better condition than it was found in. Secondly, all this work goes to create a wine that truly reflects the berries it comes from and the region it is grown in. This intangible and mysterious quality is lost when grapes are subject to heavy manipulation. A natural wine tastes a certain way because that how nature decided it should, however, it requires a dedicated and skilful hand of a winemaker to help it express this. So when you pour yourself a glass of the good stuff, remember the work that went into getting that wine to you.