The barn at Oxney Organic, known for producing organic UK wine.
For natural viticulturists, everything starts with careful cultivation and restoration of the land. An expressive, lively wine, capable of evolving on the taste buds, is the product of healthy, micronutrient dense soils. Natural winemakers use no synthetic pesticides or herbicides in their vineyards. Instead, herbal sprays, like those made from made from nettle or chamomile, are used to treat the vines.
Grapes are hand-harvested and hand-sorted as a low-intervention approach means removing machinery and using human judgement to select the highest-quality grapes. In the cellar, natural winemakers only use indigenous yeasts in the fermentation process. These are wild and freely occurring on the grapes so no synthetic yeasts are added to adjust the wine’s flavour profile.
Natural wine is seen as a somewhat modish and relatively new phenomenon, but it is in fact a return to the oldest viticultural practices. In 6000 BC, in what is now Georgia, farmers were fermenting grapes in terracotta qvevri (large clay containers) buried in the ground. Innovative natural winemakers like Ben Walgate at Tillingham in the UK are reviving the use of these ceramic fermentation vessels and bringing them back in to winemaking practices today.