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June 8, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2019 issue

What is natural wine?


Words Fabien Etienne

Natural wine is the hottest thing in the world of wine right now and this has made it the darling of many wine lovers, Sommeliers who treasure the authenticity and uniqueness of each bottle. But what is it exactly?

Natural Wine is farmed organically (biodynamically, using permaculture or the like) and made (or rather transformed) without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor (tight) filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology.

In theory, natural wines are more alive, less manipulated; in practice, die-hard adherence to the philosophy sometimes wins out over actual appeal: Some natural wines are delicious, and some are just flat-out weird. But the passion behind the movement makes the natural wine world hard to ignore.

So to be clear exactly what we mean by natural wine.


A natural wine is a wine made,

  • in small quantities,

  • by an independent producer,

  • on low-yielding vineyards,

  • from handpicked, organically grown grapes,

  • fermentation with indigenous (wild) yeasts

  • no enzymes

  • without added sugars or foreign yeasts,

  • without adjustments for acidity,

  • no heavy manipulation such as micro-oxygenation or reverse-osmosis, spinning cone, cryoextraction.

Most natural wines are neither filtered nor fined. The few that are will either be filtered extremely lightly or fined with organic egg-white.

A natural wine contains no more than,

  • 10 mg/l total sulphur if red,

  • 25 mg/l total sulphur if white.


If sulphur dioxide is added, it will be only at bottling and only in the tinest quantities. Many natural wines are made without the addition of sulphur dioxide at any point.

‘’But exactly how a wine is made is not something that can be decided in advance. Each year, and each wine, is different. The winemaker has to improvise’’.

Today the natural wine movement has grown to become a global phenomenon with wineries around the world either adopting these philosophies or searching for their own ancestral methods. You can find natural wines in many countries such as France, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, USA, and many more.

So what do natural wines look and taste like?

Natural wines can range from wild and funky to exceptionally alive and complex. Many are also very normal in style. Some of the funkiest natural wines may be hard to wrap your tongue around, and are not necessarily for everyone. But with such a wide variety of flavours and styles, it’s likely you can find a natural wine to suit your tastes.

Fabien Etienne is a professional sommelier and wine consultant based in Malta. He organizes wine training, private master class as well as other bespoke wine services. 

Find out more on

Instagram fab_somm or contact him on 9938 8088 or

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