Natural Wines - organic, biodynamic & sulphite free
Natural wines are our speciality whether they be sulphite free, certified organic or certified biodynamic. Or in some cases with no certification at all, just good wines made naturally free from nasty additives.
Sulphite free wines are as natural as you can get. If the winemaker doesn't add sulphites, which are a vital ingredient in inferior quality wines, it's a very safe bet that he won't be adding any significant quantity of the other 80+ additives permitted in mainstream wines. Sulphites are used for various purposes in wine including killing off unwanted bacteria, but their main purpose is as an anti oxidant. Unless you are starting with top quality fruit and then vinifying with great care, knowledge, skill and patience, sulphites will be needed in your wine.
It takes real dedication to make wine with no sulphites, and is high risk, fraught with potential danger. Most winemakers simply don't have the skill or the confidence to do it. So anybody making wine without sulphites won't be spoiling them by adding other unneccessary chemicals.
"Natural wine" has no legal definition and this is where everything gets confusing. People automatically think that certified organic wine is natural and healthy - but that is not always the case. It is a paradox that you can have an EU certified organic wine which contains over 40 additives and has been heavily manipulated including the addition of tartaric acid and very heavy filtering (reverse osmosis). At the same time you can have a bottle of wine that has no legal organic status but has been made strictly with no chemical additives whatsoever but is not permitted to describe itself as organic, such as those from Domaine Viret for example. Philippe Viret's wines are simply fermented grape juice, as natural as you can get.
These wines are where the "natural wine" category comes in. This category is supposed to be for wines made with little or no additives or manipulation. Unfortunately the term has already been hijacked by producers and retailers who don't understand the subject and use the term to market their organic wines (which may or may not be natural).
Isabel Legeron did introduce a set of rules for wines wanting to display at her RAW Natural Wine Fair. Sadly we disagreed on a couple of points. Namely she permitted sulphites to be added which I didn't think was right, but she also insisted on the grapes being fermented solely with their own yeast. Johnathan Frey who has been producing completely sulphite free, USA Organically certified wines with no chemical additives whatsoever for over 30 years, was not allowed to display his wines at RAW because he used an introduced organic yeast. His wines are as pure as you can get, yet Isabel didn't allow them, but was permitting virtually all the wines in the show to add sulphites!
So as you can see, even the purists disagree on this term.
The truth is there are genuine organic wines and genuine biodynamic wines with only tiny amounts of additives. But all organic and biodynamic wines are permitted under current regulations to add more than enough sulphites to give a sulphite allergic person a potentially fatal reaction.These are the quantities of sulphites permitted under current regulations:
EU Certified Organic dry red wine: 100 mg/l
EU Certified Organic dry white wine: 150 mg/l
EU Certified Organic dry rose wine: 150 mg/l
EU Certified "Quality" sparkling wine: 155 mg/l
However, there is also permission to exceed these amounts by 50 to 70 mg/l dependent on the residual sugar content in the wine!
And then none "Quality" sparkling wines are permited to contain 205 mg/l and dessert wines up to 370 mg/l.Non EU Certificatons:
Biodynamic wine : 90 mg/l
USA Certified Organic wines are not permitted to add any sulphites.
So how do you distinguish the genuine low sulphite EU Certified Organic wines from the ones at the top of the limits? There is no way from looking at the bottle. Winemakers won't state the contents of their wines on their labels - if the mainstream brands did this you would be horrified and never touch one again! This is big money with global brands, and the situation is never realistically going to change as it is driven by money not what is good for the consumer.
However, we have done our research and we source sulphite free wines and the genuine organic wines, and we publish the all important free SO2 levels on these wines so you know they are safe to drink even if you have a sulphite allergy. Be guided by them. We believe Jane's threshold is around 30ppm free SO2 (Jane has a severe sulphite allergy) but we advise anybody with an allergy to go for wines under 20ppm to be on the safe side.
We aim to take the guesswork out of buying natural wine for you. All our sulphite free wines, organic or biodynamic wines are the genuine article, all natural, healthy and actively good for you.
You can read about and buy our sulphite free wines here.
And our genuine organic wines with tiny amount of sulphites here.Here is a list of permitted additives in EU Certified Organic wines:
dimethyl dicarbonate (DMDC)
yeast cell walls
yeasts for wine production
concentrated grape must
rectified concentrated grape must
neutral potassium tartrate
acacia (gum arabic)
proteins of plant origin
ovalbumin (egg white)