Natural and biodynamic wines have been major buzzwords over the years and continue to command attention in the world of wine. With a rise in enthusiasts opting for wines that are produced without adding or removing components during the winemaking process, it raises the question – what makes the wines ‘natural’ and what makes it ‘biodynamic’?
For natural wines, there is currently no legal definition, but is best described as a wine that uses organically grown, hand-picked grapes that are free from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, naturally fermented with no acidity regulation and free from sugars, sulphites and preservatives.
In theory, all of these elements are beneficial, but does it create a better wine and more importantly, does it taste better? Natural wines are said to express the character of the grape variety and region, allowing it to be more authentic in taste.
Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Wine Expert Martin Hudson MW examines this and explains “whilst all this may be laudable, it does create some problems.” Natural wines can be unstable. Without the preservatives (sulphur dioxide), they struggle to survive transportation and storage and are prone to oxidation and bacterial spoilage, which can give it an unusual texture.
The wine tends to have an orangey-brown hue similar to that of cider and a tart acidity. Martin adds“Whatever the final definition of “natural” wine becomes, this is undoubtedly a movement that has grown significantly in recent years, but consumers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of the philosophy before ordering a “natural” wine to accompany their food.”
Some examples of natural wines also follow biodynamic principles. Similar to organic farming, it is produced without chemicals, but also includes no yeast additions and acidity adjustments. It is a holistic grape-growing approach that views the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem and accounts for astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine must meet the standards of the internationally recognised certifying body – Demeter Association- and guarantees that the wine has been produced biodynamically.
These methods result in a balanced wine in both flavour and alcohol content, more stable than that of “natural wines’’, it is said to have a stronger, more vibrant taste. The natural vs biodynamic wine debate goes on, but what can be said is that the biodynamic approach allows for greater attention from wine growers in the vineyard, with a self-sustaining philosophy that can only result in a good bottle of wine.
Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Top 5 Natural Wines:
Gentle on the palate, the2009 Beaune, Les Epenottes, 1er Cru, Dominique Lafon, is a soft, graceful bouquet leading to very pretty, stylish fruit with a burst of greater red fruit energy at the back of the palate.
2008 La Combe d’Orveaux Vieilles Vignes, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Domaine Bruno Clavelier, delivers a striking combination of power and finesse with an excellent finishing drive. A highly complex nose of minerally, cool pinot fruit is followed by beautifully detailed, racy and remarkably fine middle weight flavors.
For something on the fruitier side,2011 Chablis Premier Cru, Mont de Milieu, Domaine Pinson Frères, is well defined and vibrant with orange zest, lime and grapefruit, well-judged acidity and it fans out beautifully toward the finish.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director highly recommends the2007 Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru, Sylvain Loichet.It is a dark and brooding 2007, with powerful fruit up front, the structure behind is still a little fierce. On day two, the wine comes together beautifully. Morris suggests to open the bottle well in advance and decant.
An easy to drink wine, 2013 Pulenta Estate La Flor Malbec, shows a bright ruby color, with a clean, floral nose intermixing violets with raspberries and hints of sweet spices. The palate is juicy and fresh, with clean flavors and polished tannins.