dry farming wines

Explanation of natural wine

Natural wine is both old and modern. What distinguishes a wine as “natural”?

dry farming wines

Jenny Lefcourt and her pals began drinking a particularly fascinating variety of wine when they relocated to Paris in the 1990s to study French literature and movies. This wine tasted “completely different, vibrant, and fantastic,” she recalls. They discovered it at a few of pubs before stumbling across a tasting organized by a nearby restaurant. “There wasn’t really a term for it yet,” she says, but it was the product we’ll now call natural wine, and she started importing it in 2000.

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In some social circles and on certain restaurants across the United States, natural wine has now become a symbol of bourgeois taste. It has become a source of independent social capital, with wine labels as closely observed and obsessed over as music covers were in the 1980s. But what makes a wine “natural” isn’t always evident to consumers who are more accustomed with Trader Joe’s under-$10 area. And it’s sparked fierce controversy in the wine industry, with natural wine purists defending its virtues and exhilarating flavor and traditionalists denouncing apparent shortcomings and even its idealism.

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However, while natural wine has lately become popular, it is not new: For thousands of years, people have made fermented grape juice without additions. (The history of sulfites confuses matters; some think that sulfites were employed to preserve wine in one form or another as early as the ninth century BC.) “People assume natural wine is a fad or a new thing, but it’s the traditional method to create wine,” says Krista Scruggs, a Vermont and Texas-based winemaker and farmer. “It’s old wine that is essentially new.” Here’s what natural wine is, how we got away from it — and then back again — and where it’s going next.

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