Check out our 3 Membership levels to receive a winebox each 90 days! Get Started
Even though natural wines have just sprung into popularity, it has already sparked off some controversy. There are some, who are of the opinion that natural wines are made of fresh grape. On the other hand, some refer to natural wines to those made with the least possible intervention. That low level of intervention is attributed not only to the work on the vineyard but also to the aging (or more likely conservation) methods such as no addition of sulfur dioxide, more commonly know as sulphite.
Now, a lot of people confuse the natural sulphites that are produced by the fermentation process of wine with the additional sulphites producers add to increase the shelf-life of wines. Sulphites are necessary to kill the yeast and bacteria in the wine and are used widely in the food & beverage industry as a preservative. However, studies show that some people are sensitive to sulphites and consumption of wines with large quantities of sulphites may induce headaches and stomach issues.
Although there is no ruling in Argentina neither the concept “natural wine” is acknowledged, producers associated with SNOB (Society of Natural, Organic and Biodynamic ‘wines’), hold that natural wines are those made of natural grapes. Nothing is either added or removed from the fruit. In other words, fermented grape juice. This way, the result is the ‘true reflection of the earth in which the wine is born’.
Countries have different regulations for the use of sulphites in wines. Regarding the maximum proportion of sulfur per liter that wines are allowed to contain, the European legislation considers natural wines those which contain less than 45ppm of sulphites. In the U.S, that proportion must be below 10 ppm. For SNOB in Argentina, it should be less than 30 ppm, however, they don’t offer certification for meeting such a qualification.
Recently, Alice Feiring, a recognized critic and communicator of natural wines, referred to the rise of Argentine natural wines in an interview for the newspaper La Nacion. “The success of natural wines marked a setback of the use of brand new oak barrels in the traditional market and in the exploration of new types of containers for aging and fermentation”.
Additionally, natural wines are those that apart from having minimum intervention in the whole process and from being elaborated with indigenous yeast, their farming is respectful to the environment and to the time required by each natural cycle.
In Argentina, there are several producers that make their wines even below the limits we mentioned. They are- Ernesto Catena Vineyards, Bodega Krontiras, Chakana Wines, Santa Julia and Domaine Bousquet, among others.
It comes from a very important area in Mendoza: Paraje Altamira. From one of the few organic vineyards in the zone, it is made without adding sulfur from the beginning to the end of the process. After that, it is aged for 12 months in barrels and 6 more months in the bottle.
One of the pioneers in natural winemaking. In this case, the grape comes from a quarter in Vista Flores, with less than one hectare.
It is the first wine without added sulfites that Catena Zapata made. It is a natural wine of Criolla fermented in Kvevri (old clay vessels in which traditional Georgian wine was fermented and stored).
Leave comments if you have any questions or want to know more about natural wines!
Journalist. WSET® L2 Wines & Spirits. Passionate about communicating the wonderful world of wine. Member of ‘Argentina Wine Bloggers’. Critic at ‘Vino Sub30 2015 edition’. Collaborator in Argentine Association of Sommeliers.