Exploring the vast realm of natural wines reveals a diverse spectrum, ranging from orange to glou-glou, piquette to pét nat, and encompassing terms such as organic, biodynamic, unfiltered, and zero-zero. Many have learned an entirely new language of jargon just for the purpose of getting a few health benefits out of “natural” wine… but is it actually any healthier for you than regular wine?
Contrary to recent trends suggesting that natural wine is a novel phenomenon or a passing buzzword, the practice of fermenting grapes without additives is an age-old human tradition spanning millennia. It is a testament to our enduring connection with the art of winemaking.
Like their more conventional counterparts, natural wines thrive in regions where environmental conditions are conducive to grape cultivation. Whether nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean or in similar hospitable microclimates worldwide, natural wine vineyards produce a product that is uniquely influenced by the terroir, the specific soil in which the grapevines take root and bear fruit.
What distinguishes natural wine is its cultivation using minimal to no additives, such as sulfites, and abstaining from pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. This low-intervention approach aligns with traditional winemaking practices, emphasizing a return to the fundamentals of viticulture. It’s also aligned more generally with holistic, natural food trends in general.
As the popularity of natural wine grows, enthusiasts often tout its perceived health benefits. However, those interested in healthier eating and drinking should be wary of the many unsubstantiated health claims. In fact, the natural wine movement’s alleged healthiness lacks significant scientific evidence. Despite this, the movement gains momentum, attracting skeptics, proponents, and the merely curious, however, the marketing likely has a lot to do with why it’s gaining popularity among the health-conscious.
Compared to the large-scale manufacturing processes of conventional wines, natural wines are often produced in smaller, sustainable vineyards, fostering the protection of local grape varieties. The natural winemaking process involves minimal intervention, with nothing added or removed, setting it apart from conventional wines that may incorporate dozens of additives to cater to broader consumer tastes.
This is all great for the health of the planet and that might be enough for you to want to spend your dollars on this burgeoning industry. Still, it says nothing about whether or not the wine is better for your health.
Most of this comes down to whether or not you believe in the purported health benefits of natural and organic food generally. If you do, then it stands to reason that natural wine is going to be more healthy than the regular thing. If not, then probably not. There is also the small matter of whether or not you believe in the purported health benefits of wine in general.
For the time being, the health benefits of natural wine are largely anecdotal and lacking any significant evidence. Still, many individuals report being sensitive to additives like sulfites. This can make natural wines an absolute no-brainer. In, fact this is true of most additives that you might be experiencing sensitivity to. Natural wines prohibit additives, with very minimal exceptions. Compare this with their conventional counterparts which can contain as many as 49 additives.
Still, all wines contain some amount of sugar, and excessive consumption can contribute to chronic conditions, emphasizing the importance of responsible drinking.
As the World Health Organization underscores the potential health risks associated with alcohol consumption, individuals choosing to enjoy wine are encouraged to adhere to recommended guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption. Whether seen as a historical elixir or a contemporary indulgence, the nuanced world of natural wines beckons exploration, inviting enthusiasts to savor the flavors, traditions, and practices that define this ever-evolving landscape.