Decorked: Organic vs Natural Wine

Welcome to Decorked, Delectable's new wine advice column, where we answer your burning beverage questions! First up, we have a question from Donna B., where we discuss what it means for a wine to be "organic," "natural," and more. Donna B.: I’ve heard that pesticides are forbidden in France and Italy, however I have noticed they are now making “organic” wines there. Wouldn’t all Italian and French wines be organic already if they’re not using pesticides? Decorked: That's a great question – and one that touches on many points in the wine world's growing conversation of what it means to be "organic" and "sustainable." On the whole, pesticides are not illegal in France and Italy. In fact, France consistently ranks as one of the world's highest consumers of pesticides. Organic viticulture has steadily increased in France, however. Roughly 7-9% of French vineyards meet organic standards today, up from 0.5% in 1995. It's important to distinguish between "organic wine" and wine made from organically grown grapes. The latter refers solely to what happens in the vineyard. While countries employ different organic certification bodies with varying requirements, typically organic vineyards must comply with a series of practices that eliminate synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Organic wines go a step further. Not only must organic wines come from organically grown grapes, they must also adhere to organic winemaking processes, namely the restriction of added sulfites. The organics situation in Europe is a bit complicated, but recent changes in organic labeling legislation may provide one answer to your question. In 2012, new EU regulations took effect that allow wineries to label their bottles "organic wine" so long as they simply come from organic vineyards. For the two decades prior, the opposite was true – European wines could only be designated as "organically grown," regardless of what happened in the cellar. To confuse matters further, when European wines are imported to the United States, they must revert back to the phrase "made with organic grapes" on the label, in compliance with the USDA's standards. European labeling laws aside, what you alternatively may have observed is the rise of "natural wines" in today's beverage zeitgeist. While the exact definition of "natural wine" remains somewhat nebulous, on the whole it's inclusive of wines that champion non-interventionist practices such as spontaneous fermentation, no filtration, and no added sulfites, to name a few. By default, these producers usually meet the definition of "organic wine," but "natural wine" connotes something further. It's a stylistic movement that has assumed the position of wine's counterculture – wines that often pride themselves in "funky" flavors. Over the past few years, we have seen natural wines migrate from the fringes of the wine world to finding a bit of their own spotlight. This has certainly been the case in France, where regions like the Loire Valley have amassed a number of leaders in the category and Paris boasts a growing map of natural wine bars. With no official "natural" certification in existence, its growth is hard to quantify. But the chatter is out there – and perhaps has contributed to the new wave of "organic" European wines you're alluding to. Do you have any wine, beer, or spirits questions? We’d love to answer you in an upcoming Decorked column. Write us at decorked@delectable.com with your questions today!

Domaine Etienne et Sébastien Riffault

Les Quarterons Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Wow! Not “typical” Sancerre at all! Rich, intense, wild are terms that come to mind, but it doesn’t cross over into the weird category all the way. Yes, there is an orange wine lean here, but there’s still that flinty and floral quality I expect. Add a touch of yeastiness, fresh herb, bruised apple/apple skin, and a mushroomy like “umami-ness,” and you have a very interesting and delicious wine. Think Sancerre meets orange wine meets cider. — 2 years ago

Vijay and Drew liked this
Drew Summers

Drew Summers Influencer Badge

Spot on. Crazy about this one...

Domaine de Vigneau-Chevreau

Cuvée Silex Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc

Dripping with honey, bit of lemon at the end. Great weight. Excellent as an aperitif. Consistently one of my faves. — 4 years ago

Jean-Marc Brignot et Anders Frederik Steen

Harddèche Les Raisns du Gaec du Mazel Red Blend

Lean, slightly metallic nose, blossoms into a lush, funky, cumin situation. If this wine was a person, it would be Jennifer Tilly. — 4 years ago

Scott Kundla
with Scott
Scott, Paul and 1 other liked this

Matassa

Coume de L'Olla Rouge 2015

Marissa A. Ross
9.2

Fresh cold-pressed red Starburst juice. Light, acidic, unfussy quaffing, and god damn delicious. Served chilled and I wish I had another two to two hundred bottles of it. A new "writing wine" most definitely. — 3 years ago

Alicia, Velma and 8 others liked this

Pierre Cotton

AOP Brouilly Gamay 2015

Michael Gallegos
9.1

Funky Indeed. Quartz, rocks/minerals, a little bit of fruit but you have to hunt for it. — 2 years ago

Tom, Daniel P. and 2 others liked this

Jean François Ganevat

Les Chalasses Marnes Bleues Côtes du Jura Savagnin 2011

Great bottle. Lithe with seductive fruit and power. Acidity & minerality keep me coming back for more. — 3 years ago

Eric, Andrew and 2 others liked this

Frank Cornelissen

Etna Rosso del Contadino 2016

Notes of cocoa, tart raspberry and ash on the nose. Tastes like tart bing cherries and volcano essence. Raw but complex. Slight effervescence on the finish — 2 years ago

Daniel P. and Joe liked this

Angiolino Maule

I Masieri Veneto Garganega

Very interesting, like sour beer, but a nice white wine version. If sour beer got cleaned up and went to the sailing club — 5 years ago

Vigneto Saetti

Rosso Viola Lambrusco 2014

Marc Stubblefield
9.1

Funky, earthy, deep red fruit and tiny bubbles. Salumi's best friend. — 3 years ago

Eric, LM and 10 others liked this
Martin G Rivard

Martin G Rivard Influencer Badge

Looks like you had a great weekend Marc!