Did you know that ALL of these can be versions of natural Italian wine?
– a cloudy sparkling wine,
– a crystal clear white wine,
– a deep amber orange wine,
– a light fruity red meant to be drunk young,
– a complex red ready to age for 20 years,
– a luscious dessert wine with wild freshness… and there are many more.
Some smell earthy, barny or even “off” but others do not at all.
Some ferment/age in stainless steel, some in amphorae, some in large barrels, some in barriques…
Some are new entries and some have been made for decades or even hundreds of years.
Some have no sulfites, others a tiny amount.
Some are very low in alcohol, 10%, ranging all the way up to 17% (see Marco De Bartoli below).
Are you starting to get the point?
Wine writers, wine bars, restaurants, etc. tend to narrow the definition, focusing only on biodynamic natural wine or only on orange wine, etc., to simplify things. But I would rather dive into the complexity, open things up…open many bottles up, in fact. Remember, there is no specific set of rules and no designated certification for “natural” wine.
For millennia, all wine made in Italy was what is now defined as “natural”.
Wine made from grapes grown in healthy, living soil without industrial farming methods (ie. no pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, etc.). And in the cellar, fermented with native yeasts. Nothing added or subtracted (except maybe a tiny bit of sulfites at bottling) and no industrial methods (reverse osmosis, spinning cone extraction, etc.)
Industrial farming and industrial winemaking only began in earnest in Italy after World War II. Industrial farming has created an ecological and human health crisis by killing the soil, and it has also created a crisis of authenticity and taste in wine. Why? Because with industrial methods, wine can be made to taste, smell, feel, look any way the consumer or the marketer wants.
Attention: The lovely aroma you like so much in your conventional wine probably came from a packet of synthetic, commercial yeast.
So when we’re talking about “natural” wine, we’re talking everything other than this industrial, “constructed” kind of wine. That leaves a very wide range and plenty of room to decide what to drink, what you like, what pairs well with your food and what goes best with the season, your friends, the moment, etc..
In Italy, “natural” wine is intensely diverse not only because of all the different soils, climate variations, altitude, etc. and the different choices the winegrower can make (pruning, harvesting, vine training methods, fermentation and aging containers, time on the skins or on the lees…) but because of the huge number of grape varieties (700+).
I hope by now I’ve convinced you that there is no one kind of “natural” wine in Italy. Interested in finding out more?
To give a glimpse into the diversity of Italian natural wine, I culled through posts I’ve written. (All the wines I write about are “natural”.) I chose wines and winegrowers most of which will be showcased this weekend at Vini Dei Vignaioli, a natural wine fair in Fornovo a Taro, near Parma, October 28-31.
Click through to the original post for more information.
Light to Medium White
Foradori Fontanasanta Nosiola (or Manzoni Bianco)
Nosiola (or Manzoni Bianco) fermented and aged with long skin contact in clay amphorae
Elisabetta Foradori (biodynamic)
Mezzlombardo (TN), Trentino-Alto Adige
Light to Medium Red
Complex, structured Red for Long Aging
Passito or Other Dessert or Meditation Wines