Far from being any kind of official designation, natural wine is a catch-all term for wines that are made with as little human intervention as possible.
In general, organic and biodynamic wines—which are controlled by a certification process with corresponding designations—are considered natural, as are wines that are un-certified in those processes but that utilize any combination of the following: minimal to no use of added sulfites, sustainable farming practices, no chemicals used in either the vineyards or cellars, minimal filtering and by-hand processing whenever possible, to name a few criteria.
While a conversation around healthier and more responsible farming, food processing and consumption has been well underway for decades, little attention has been paid to what people are drinking, where it comes from and how it’s made.
For many wine drinkers, the movement is long overdue.
But despite a progressive philosophy behind the natural wine movement, there has also been a good deal of controversy.
Quality varies, as making wine with such volatile constraints requires the most skilled and knowledgeable to produce successful results.
Sometimes, the bottles spoil or acquire unpalatable faults—other times, the wine simply just isn’t good. Those points are subjects of debate within the natural wine world, too, as thresholds for qualities that used to uniformly be considered winemaking faults, like too much reduction or volatile acidity, are now being considered more along a gradient scale according to personal taste.
France, which has significantly stricter laws governing wine production than the United States does, has been considered a leader in producing high quality natural wines, with major wine producing markets like Italy, Spain, and California just beginning to catch up.
Notable natural wine bars and wine lists are becoming en vogue in Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona, New York, London, Los Angeles and Montreal.
Back on the home front, San Diego’s wine industry has gotten in on the natural wine action on several different levels.
Along with other wine industry professionals in the county, the proprietors of those two bars banded together last year to start the Nat Diego Natural Wine Festival in San Diego.
This year, the festival will take place over two days, July 27 and 28, bringing together winemakers, importers, sommeliers, consumers and other advocates of the natural wine movement.
Industry seminars will be held at The Rose throughout Friday afternoon, with an opening party open to the public to follow at the same location.
Nat Diego will conclude Saturday evening with a free, open-to-the-public after-party at Vino Carta in Little Italy.
Join the movement: find Nat Diego tickets and more details at natdiego.com.