In the past few years natural wines have been the big buzz word in the wine community. Discussions on the topic have been numerous and lively, yet when asked to define what a natural wine exactly is, different definitions were just as abundant.
The French INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité), a public institution in charge of certifying the origin of foods and beverages in France, is now thinking about putting a term to this. According to an article published in the French wine magazine La Revue du Vin de France (RVF) the Institution is thinking about giving clear rules to what can be named “vin naturel” or natural wine in France. Eric Rosaz, in charge of the wine, ciders and spirits department of the INAO declared, “we will have a lot of work and the topic is sensitive”.
The topic of natural wines has been taken up by the INAO on demand of the organic wine producers, who claim that the terms “vin nature” or “vin naturel” (natural wine) are being bandied around.
As of today some 50 vignerons are members of the Association des Vins Naturels (AVN) and adhere to its “Engagement Vigneron” chart of good conduct, which has been adopted in 2011.
According to the AVN natural wines must be produced from organic or biodynamic grapes, harvests have to be manual and yeast need to be indigenous, nothing at all might be added to the fermenting or finished wine. Many wine making practices such as reversed osmosis, thermos vinification, or flash pasteurization are prohibited. No sulfur or other any other product might be added at all.
The denomination “natural wine” has been criticized by conventional wine growers who feel discriminated against. They argue that calling one specific category of wine natural implied that all the other wines are not natural.
Eric Rosaz from the INAO underlines that, “the work ahead will be very long and sensitive. The INAO’S objective is to put an end to the legal vacuum surrounding the term natural wine, since the category is gaining momentum. The term is ads value and consumers expectations are high misuse and overuse of the term therefore must be avoided.”