So What Exactly is the Enfant Terrible 'Unconventional' Wine Production Way and What is a 'Natural' Wine?
We're glad you asked! At Enfant Terrible, our range of wines and wine production is based on sound science. This doesn’t mean we are frightened to experiment though. Our aim is to produce sustainable, clean wines using minimal intervention. As we develop and mature as a brand, we’re working towards producing “vegan friendly wines” which will mean no egg whites and no milk to fine the wines prior to bottling. As our business grows and we wield greater influence over our own land, vineyard and cellar door, we are granted the opportunity to explore how the company can be sustainable (and not just talking about the wine we make). What an exciting opportunity!
So, what does "natural" wine really mean and why/how would you produce one? Well, natural wines are those made without “chemicals”, like pesticides and other additives. Natural ferments are simply utilising the indigenous yeast found inside a winery and on the fruit to ferment the grapes rather adding dried yeast to produce a controlled and successful ferment.
So called “normal” wines are natural too, as are most of the things we smell, taste and see. You guessed it… most wines are simply carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms - all “natural”. A ‘lack of chemicals’ in wine has been translated by some consumers into a perceived ‘lack of a hangover’. You’d think this was a win for producers of “natural” wines and their consumers, right? However, this is not always the case.
The natural wine movement can be traced back to the German Lebennsrefeform movement which gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century and there are a few types of natural wines to be aware of.
Orange wines are simply those whites made like a red, with extended contact time between skins and juice as it ferments. This idea started way back in Fruili, in Italy; then it moved to neighbouring Slovenia where its popularity increased. So, the idea is not new, it’s ancient. Other natural wines are made in the Petillant Naturel way. Nicknamed Pet Nat, it’s the oldest new winemaking method which was originally called “Methode Ancestrale”. Terms used to describe them include ‘natural’, and ‘rustic’. More recently, a lot of winemakers have been experimenting with this method. Some are fermented in clay vessels called “amphora” or “eggs” and can be quite attractive.
These wines are made deliberately to finish fermenting 'in bottle' without adding yeast, acid, Sulphur dioxide, or any other chemicals. Some are bottled with some unfermented sugar. This introduces the problem of an unknown volume of CO2 building up in the bottle. Look for Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley for a good example of this.
An unusual method of producing natural wines is Con Fondo Prosecco… an unfiltered and highly variable version of Prosecco. They’re low in alcohol, low in acid, unfiltered and variable. Wild (natural) yeasts tend to increase the volume of biogenic enzymes (like Tyramine) in the wines. Tyramine has been shown in studies to cause headaches and migraines (sounding a bit like a hangover yet?).
Natural wines generally have lower acid than conventional drops. Conventional wines end up bottled at a ph of around 3.3 or preferably down towards 3.0. When we talk ph, a lower number indicates higher acidity. This can have the effect of making natural wines more (chemically) unstable which means they need to be drunk in the first 12 months. Right now, natural wines make up less than 1% of the world’s production, but that figure is growing and fast. The great thing about winemaking is the diversity of styles, producers, and philosophies. There is a wine out there for everyone!
Happy drinking! - JP