Registration Opens

1 May 2024


24 & 25 March 2025

Winners Announcement

22 April 2025

  • Enter Now


LWC blog

Photo for:




Photo for:




Photo for:




Photo for: The Essence of Natural Wines


The Essence of Natural Wines

Exploring the Philosophy, Craftsmanship, and Global Impact of Natural Wines

Natural wines represent far more than just fermented grape juice - they embody the profound connection between nature's bounty and human stewardship. The natural wine philosophy centers on a non-interventionist approach that celebrates letting grapevines and their precious fruit speak for themselves.  

In the vineyards, natural winemakers eschew synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. They nurture harmonious vineyard ecosystems that thrive through sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices attuned to nature's rhythms. Vineyard workers become caretakers facilitating balanced plant and soil health.

Within the cellar's hallowed walls, a similar restraint guides the natural winemaking process. Commercial yeasts, enzymes, and myriad other additives are shunned. Instead, only native ambient yeasts transform grape sugars into alcohol through spontaneous fermentation. Gentle handling and traditional techniques like foot-stomping reign supreme over the mechanical intrusion.

No excessive manipulation, no masking of flaws - the results are unvarnished, naked representations of what each terroir can naturally manifest in a given vintage. Every sip offers a translucent window into a specific time and place. Vineyard qualities like soil composition, sun exposure, and microclimate infuse natural wines with unique personalities. 

Unbridled by homogenizing interventions, natural wines can appear slightly cloudy and display some sediment. They may smell earthy, barnyardy, or decidedly funky. On the palate, they can feel untamed yet vibrantly alive, with bristling energy and textures. Each natural wine conveys an inimitable authenticity that conventional winemaking often obfuscates. 

More than just beverages, natural wines encapsulate a philosophy of responsible land stewardship yielding vivid liquid transcriptions of natural environments. They celebrate human collaboration with nature rather than subjugation. For the growing circle of enthusiasts, natural wines offer a refreshing alternative - a bridge connecting us with the genuine, unvarnished essence of the vine.

Unveiling Terroir

Image Source: WSET

Terroir is often described as the ultimate fingerprint in wine - the inimitable convergence of environmental and human factors that imbue each bottle with a distinct sense of place. For natural winemakers, nurturing and crystallizing terroir expression is their raison d'etre.  

At its core, terroir represents the multifaceted terroir ecosystem encompassing climate, geology, topography, and biodiversity. Natural winemakers harbor a deep reverence for these elements that make every vineyard unique. Each site's particular soils, nutrient profiles, sun exposures, wind patterns, elevation changes, and indigenous plant/animal life contribute irreplaceable terroir signatures. 

Conventional viticulture, with its reliance on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and homogenizing interventions, erects an artificial barrier between vines and terroir. In contrast, natural farming practices like organics and biodynamics seek seamless integration with the vineyard environment.

By embracing holistic, regenerative growing methods, natural vignerons facilitate open communication between vines and their terroir. They cultivate living, nutrient-rich soils teeming with microbial diversity. They maintain balanced vineyard ecosystems that channel the rhythms of nature. This symbiotic relationship allows grape clusters to fully metabolize and encapsulate the terroir's distinct essence.

The culmination is transparent terroir-driven wines where you can practically taste the soil in each sip. Nuances whisper the contours of the land and all its complexities. Aromas and flavors rendered with striking delineation convey vineyard characteristics like chalky minerality, cool climate precision, or sun-baked Mediterranean warmth.

By eliminating the filters of human intervention, natural wines facilitate intimate connectivity between drinkers and place. Each glass offers an authentic terroir transmission - an opportunity to appreciate wine's ability to capture the soul of a specific site. For the natural winemaker, there is no greater pursuit than honoring and amplifying terroir's untrammeled voice.

The Craft of Natural Winemaking

Image Source: Freepik

Natural winemaking is a return to the roots of the winemaker's art form - a renaissance of ancient, minimalist traditions. It represents a conscious pivot away from the increasingly technocratic, intervention-heavy model that has dominated modern winemaking. 

The natural approach begins with utmost respect for nature's inherent wisdom and ability to find its balance. In the vineyards, the vines themselves guide farming practices. Vignerons avoid artificial chemical inputs, instead nurturing rich, self-sustaining soil ecologies through organic or biodynamic viticulture. They painstakingly hand-tend each vine and cluster throughout the growing season.

Once the grapes reach optimal ripeness, determined by the season's unfolding rather than predetermined formulas, they are thoughtfully hand-harvested. The next steps exemplify natural winemaking's minimalist ethos.

The freshly picked grape must be gently transferred to neutral vessels like concrete eggs or old oak casks. Then, through an act of faith, fermentation is left to initiate spontaneously via native yeast populations inherent to the grapes and winery environment. These ancestral yeasts help capture the singularity of the fruit and its precise terroir.

Human intervention is consciously minimized throughout the long, hands-off fermentation process. There are no additions of lab-cultivated commercial yeasts, enzymes, tannins, or other modern adjuncts. The simply crafted wines remain un-fined and unfiltered to preserve their innate vitality.

One of the only concessions to technology that some natural winemakers permit is minuscule sulfite additions to stabilize the finished wines. Even then, the sulfite levels are a mere fraction compared to conventional winemaking practices.

The results are artisanal, "living" wines that appear slightly cloudy yet burst forth with vibrant, complex personalities. They offer greater structural and flavor intensity with intricate mineral and savory undercurrents. Natural wines transmit authenticity by honoring centuries-old vinous traditions rooted in simplicity, and intuition and letting nature run its course.

Embracing Imperfection

In an era where technological interventions allow many conventional wines to achieve clinical consistency year after year, natural wines represent a refreshing counterpoint. They proudly display their imperfections and mercurial nature as badges of authenticity.

For the natural winemaker, each growing season tells a unique story through the finished wines. Vintage variations in weather patterns, soil moisture levels, sunlight exposure, and other environmental influences become written into every bottle's narrative. What may be considered a "flaw" in an industrially made wine is instead celebrated as a reflection of Nature's inherent dynamism.

Subtle cloudiness or sediment offers a glimpse into the unfinished, unfiltered state in which natural wines are presented. Rather than filtering out vinous "impurities," these elements are retained to preserve the wine's innate complexities. Bubbles, fizz, or pestilence arising from residual carbon dioxide merely signal life and vitality.

Image: (L-R) Fermentation, Aging & bottling

Even within the same vintage, some bottle variation may occur due to natural wines undergoing spontaneous fermentations without cultured yeast additions. This results in more heterogeneity even within the same tiny-batch cuvées as the wines follow their own idiosyncratic fermentation trajectories.

To the natural winemaker, each of these so-called "flaws" represents truth rather than defect. They embrace the notion that industrial conformity and technical perfection often come at the price of soul. The quirks and variations in natural wines mirror those of Nature herself - dynamic, ever-evolving, and shaped by circumstances.

This philosophical perspective encourages consumers to appreciate wine with a more open mind. Not as a mass-produced, factory-perfected commodity, but as a living craft product with its distinct personality conveying vintage nuances. For those who transcend conventional expectations, the thrills lie in the surprises - Nature's imperfections manifested in artistic, intentional, and deliciously subversive ways.

A Diverse Landscape

While the philosophy of natural winemaking is rooted in ancient traditions, its modern renaissance has blossomed into a truly global movement. From renowned Old-World appellations to up-and-coming New World frontiers, the natural wine diaspora spans virtually every wine-growing region on the planet. This widespread adoption underscores the universal appeal of crafting authentic, terroir-driven wines through low-intervention methods.

In the hallowed vineyards of Burgundy, Beaujolais, and the Loire Valley, natural wine pioneers like Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard and Olivier Cousin have elevated hands-off winemaking to an art form. They uphold their respective terroirs by fermenting with native yeasts, avoiding additives, and embracing vintage variations. This preserves the expressions of their precious Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chenin Blanc vines.

Travel southward through France and into Italy, where the rolling hills of Piedmont gave rise to giants like Giovanni Sampietro ushering natural Nebbiolo and Barbera’s into the modern era. On the slopes of Mount Etna and across Sicily, trailblazers like Frank Cornelissen catalyze the island's volcanic terroirs through natural-leaning Nerello Mascalese wines of thrilling purity.

Heading west, Spain's natural wine revolutionaries like Dani Landi and Fernando Garcia put ancient winemaking wisdom into practice with an experimental bent. Field blends of obscure grape varieties undergo skin fermentations and aging in Spanish-tilted qvevri and tinajas clay vessels.

Even traditional powerhouses like Germany and Austria have seen the rise of the natural "Gemischter Satz" movement channeling their storied terroirs through biodiverse field blends of Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, and more.

Travel across the Atlantic and you'll find pioneers like Donkey & Goat, Jolie-Laide, and Martha Stoumen leading the charge in California's new natural wine frontier. In Oregon, producers like Brick House and Cameron craft natural expressions of estate Pinot Noir.

Down in South Australia, natural wine stars like Jauma, SC Pannell, and Gentle Folk have captured global acclaim for profoundly pure renditions of Grenache and other Mediterranean varieties from ancient bush vines.

These are just a handful of examples illustrating how natural wine's revival resonates across diverse cultures and climes. From the slopes of the Andes to the hillsides of Lebanon, intrepid natural winemakers are crafting singular, terroir-driven wines that shatter conventions while celebrating vinicultural heritage. This dynamism is what keeps the natural wine movement eternally fascinating.

A Growing Movement

Image Source: Freepik

You're right - while natural wines still occupy a relatively small slice of the overall wine market, their popularity and appreciation are surging at an impressive rate. Here's an expanded perspective on the rising enthusiasm for natural wines:

For years, natural wines dwelled on the fringes, embraced by a devoted but niche group of enthusiasts. However, something has clearly shifted in recent times as these unmanipulated, terroir-driven wines find themselves increasingly coveted by a broadening audience. This groundswell is driven by multiple converging factors.

There is undoubtedly growing consumer interest in authenticity and transparency across many product categories, not just wine. A younger generation has displayed wariness toward industrialized, chemically processed products perceived as artificial or unhealthy. Natural wines align seamlessly with this demand for artisanal craftsmanship and fewer interventions and additives.

Additionally, many drinkers have become fascinated by the lively, distinctive character of natural wines. Rendered without the homogenizing effects of excessive manipulation, these bottles seem to possess unique personalities that change from vintage to vintage or even bottle to bottle. Their vibrancy and unpredictable variations cultivate a sense of romantic intrigue.

The natural wine movement has also benefited greatly from an engaged, passionate cadre of sommeliers, retailers, and writers whose evangelism reaches ever-wider audiences. Their thought leadership nurtures consumer education, allowing more people to approach natural wines with open minds rather than preconceived notions of how wines should taste or appear.

Simultaneously, the natural winemaking community itself has grown exponentially worldwide as a new generation stakes their claim. With more skill and examples to reference, the consistency and quality have improved even as philosophies remain rooted in ancient minimalist traditions.

All these elements culminate in natural wines rapidly transitioning from quirky novelty to prestigious luxury products for many consumers. Scarcity only fuels more speculation, as drinkers obsessively seek out these limited-production, uniquely expressive bottlings from cultured producers worldwide. It's a remarkable transition reimagining what wine can be.

Closing Thoughts

In an era where so much of our food and beverages feel industrialized and mass-produced, natural wines represent a deeply refreshing alternative. They are vinous anachronisms - celebrating the back-to-basic beauty of winemaking guided by ancient, minimalist traditions rather than modern technocratic interventions.

Each natural wine transports the drinker to the source - to the vines themselves thriving in their specific terroirs under Nature's caring hand. The wild yeasts initiating the fermentation, the subtle oxidation gained from aging in neutral wood, the lack of additives acting as conventional winemaking "make-up" - all these elements imbue the wines with unvarnished transparency.

The flavors that greet the palate are vibrant, primal expressions of grape varietals metabolizing their precise environments into liquid form. There are no masking complexities, just purity of fruit and terroir allowed to shine in all their nuanced glories. Earth, spice, floral, and savory notes commingle in complex, constantly evolving portraits capturing each vintage's unique unfolding.

Every sip is a journey into the ineffable, transportive, and romantic. The subtle haziness and sediment become visual cues connecting the taster to the wine's soul rather than superficial visual conformity. Idiosyncratic flavors reveal living microbial characters continuously re-sculpting the wines even after bottling. 

Natural wines also exemplify humanity's strivings to achieve greater harmony with our environments. Through philosophies like biodynamics or regenerative farming, their production represents an active movement towards responsible land stewardship and sustainable agriculture.

In an era of climatic upheaval and industrial absorption, natural wines act as barometers of our earthly reconnection. They are simultaneous anachronisms paying homage to centuries of ancestral wisdom while symbolizing audacious innovation in reuniting human craftsmanship with Nature's cadences. With each pour, we open windows into pastoral places and people whose reverence for terroir manifests profoundly in the living, breathing contents of each toast-worthy bottle.

Header Image: Natural Wines

Article By Gaurav Dixit

Call for domestic and international submission is now open for London Wine Competition. Enter your wines before 31 August 2024 to get super early bird pricing. Register now and ship later to save.

Key Dates