Natural wines: threat or menace?

I will dissent. Wines that are marketed as “natural wines” are mostly inferior to normal “unnatural wines” (which are made quite naturally). Natural wines tend to taste like kombucha, or Belgian lambics. I have yet to taste a natural wine that conveys any characteristics of varietal or terroir. They all taste like wild, uncontrolled fermentation products. Why exactly, I don’t know; I am not an expert on the wine production process. There are many good “unnatural wine” producers who use native yeasts.

That’s a gross oversimplification.

Most mass-market wines are highly processed and to my taste whatever might have been interesting about them has been stripped out or covered up by filtering, additives, etc. Many, particularly reds, are overripe, overly alcoholic, flabby, and unbalanced. Losing my taste for such wines got me interested in the “natural” stuff.

Some percentage of wines, beers, and ciders spontaneously fermented without intervention are undrinkable to people who haven’t developed a taste for their weird flavors. I stopped buying Georgian whites by the bottle because I disliked so many of them, but I have friends who like them. Different strokes.

The practices of a small percentage of wineries that don’t market themselves as “natural” are similar to those of wineries that do. In many cases these wineries have been in the same family for generations and mostly stick to the ways they were doing things back in the day. Typically they have adopted some modern practices such as temperature control and judicious use of sulfur dioxide.

In some appellations and with some grape varieties, natural winemakers make some of the best wines, e.g. Pineau d’Aunis, Loire Cabernet Franc, Listán Prieto / Pais / Mission, Beaujolais / Gamay, the Jura, Grolleau.


You’re mixing concepts. The fact that some winemakers (typically New World winemakers) make overripe, overly alcoholic, flabby, and unbalanced wines (I totally agree with this) has nothing to do with “natural” vs. “unnatural” wines.

Virtually all of the wines you can buy at a shop like KLWines are extremely pure (and that includes the big, bloated wines). Yes, many are filtered to remove sediment; yes, many have sulfites; but that’s about it. The notion that classic wines are “unnatural” and that some trailblazing winemakers are now making “natural” wines is just false. That’s not just my opinion. Parker: ‘Natural’ wine will be exposed as ‘fraud’ - The Drinks Business

Wines marketed as “natural” obscure all of the pure wine characteristics important to wine afficionados. I defy anyone to identify the varietal of any wine branded as a “natural” wine. It is damn near impossible. I know because I regularly blind taste wines.

Now, I’m not saying “natural” wines are bad. Kombucha isn’t bad. I drink “natural” wines frequently (generally, at trendy California places that don’t know better). They’re just not as good as classic wine.

Name some specific classic wines under $50 you think are good.

By “mass-market wines” I mean most of what you’ll find at Total Wine. During the pandemic I had some delivered. They were all unsatisfying as none was typical of the appellation or grape variety.

That you don’t like something as much doesn’t mean it’s better. Current releases of many “classic” wines I drank in the 70s and 80s (such as Chiantis and Napa Cabernets) are to my taste Parkerized and undrinkable to the extent that I have to rinse my mouth after I spit them out.

Many expensive California wines use additives such as Mega Purple to achieve the overripe quality Parker taught consumers to prefer.


It’s really an unfair label to claim that because there is “natural” wine that there must be “unnatural” wine, which carries a negative connotation. Personally, I would use “conventional” for wines that are mass produced (where consistency is key) to describe them, because they shouldn’t be looked down upon.

“Natural” wine shouldn’t be generalized to be “funky” or “imbalanced” either because there are many different producers and winemakers out there that really run the whole spectrum.


Over the years we’ve had several wines from Coturri Winery in Glen Ellen, California (near Sonoma). I’m not sure what we’re using here as a definition of “natural” but Tony Coturri makes all his wines without any kind of additives/preservatives. He gets a pretty bad rap for huge bottle variation because he bottles barrel by barrel to avoid any problems.
He’s quite a character. Last time I was there he was fermenting in Terra Cotta fermenters buried in the ground.

All I know is that we enjoy just about all his wines and he has let us taste some he’s stored for 10-15 years.

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I’ve had a lot of delicious wines from Tony Coturri.

There are lots of conventionally produced wines that are low-intervention and have no additives other than sulfur dioxide, but “unatural” seems to me a reasonable term for factory wines that are highly processed (e.g. through reverse osmosis) and contain lots of additives. Not to mention all the things that can be done or not done in the vineyards (see the Coturri interview above).

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Have you tasted any of the Beaujolais from Lapierre, Foillard, Metras, or Dutraive? How about Simon Bize’s Burgundy? Jamet’s Cote-Rotie? Allemand’s Cornas if you’re flush? De Moor’s Chablis? Curious how these register for you, I know we all have really different palates.

It’s hard for Muscat, Gewrurtz, etc. to hide - they seem to announce themselves boldly at any opportunity in my experience, regardless of production methods. Cab Franc rears it’s green-peppery head even when “natural.”

What green-peppery Cabernet Franc have you had lately? I love that character, but recent vintages of wines that used to have that character have not had it. I’ve been known to macerate green bell pepper in a bottle of Cab Franc that didn’t have much going on.

What a lineup!

I’m not a huge cab franc drinker at present, but one that comes to mind is Olga Raffault’s Chinon (2014?). Something like Domaine Bobinet’s Amatéüs Bobi had a vegetal, peppery backbone if memory serves, but maybe not as strong as macerated green peppers :slight_smile:

I had no problem finding the kind of Cabernet Franc I like until recent vintages. With the exception some of the cheapest bottles from K&L and the most expensive from Kermit Lynch (why the fuck is Joguet so expensive?), pretty much every bottle of Chinon, Saumur, or Bourgueil made me happy.

Similar story for Beaujolais. I’m afraid it might be global warming.

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Found this at Hi Times in Costa Mesa. They had several different varietals. They have significantly improved their selection of natural wines.

Meinklang seems reliable to me, I think I’ve liked all their wines I’ve tried.

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Meinlang Orange is my favorite. I panic bought what amounted to nearly a case when the pandemic started, hunting different shops and buying them up out of fear.

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The orange is excellent. They also had these which I’ve never had

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Hi Times is great! They often have a bunch of bottles that would disappear instantly at a place like Domaine or Psychic up in LA. Last time I was there I grabbed most of the Radikon they had left along with the remainder of the Vini Vidi Vinci Chanvan Blanc that my wife adores.

Currently obsessed with Eric Pfifferling’s L’Anglore Tavel Rose. If you ever see it you should absolutely try it. Something a little bit easier to find is Julien Guillot’s Clos des Vignes Du Maynes Cuvee Auguste that I suggest to anyone who likes pinot noirs.