Natural wines, as we all likely know at this point are impossible to officially define because there is no certification for it (like USDA Organic), nor is there one consistent definition of what it is even amongst those of us importing and distributing it! Thus, it is tough to really know if a wine is made naturally, BUT there are a few great ways of finding out when you’re in a store or searching online to have higher confidence that a wine is made naturally. Let’s dive into how you can know!
Look for the Importer:
This is ALWAYS my go-to when I’m in a store I’m unfamiliar with. There are some larger importers and tiny ones that have a passion for natural wines and that I implicitly trust their taste and values to match those of ours here at MYSA Natural Wine. It’s always a good sign when we’re competing for the same vineyards out in the field because it shows that we are on the same page about what is a natural wine!
In no particular order, Here is my list that I look for in a store: (feel free to email us suggestions of others to look into at email@example.com)
- Jenny & Francois
- Zev Rovine
- Sylvester Rovine
- Bliss Wine Imports
- Super Glou
- Camille Riviere
- Vom Boden
- Louis/Dressner Selections
- Selections de la Viña
- Violette Imports
- Selection Massale
- Minum Selections
If these names are on the back (or ours, of course) I feel confident in knowing that the wine was made naturally, without having to do further research into the wine itself.
Look into the Store/Restaurant:
This one can be hit or miss, as there is not always information on if a store or restaurant serves natural wines and what percentage of them are in fact natural. The first place we always check is on Raisin, as they will let you know if they carry natural wines and if they meet a certain threshold of natural wines in their store or restaurant. In the US and generally outside of France, we often find that there are quite a few more places than are listed, thus we started a series of Where to Find Natural Wine across the US and you can access it here.
Another tip is that you can obviously ask the person in charge at the store! If they look at you like they have no idea what you’re talking about, chances are low that natural wines are there and you should check the importer/producers social and website to see about their production methods.
E-commerce stores, like ours, make it really easy to know if a wine is natural as there are typically filters for production style if the wine is vegan, organic, etc. as well as lots of additional facts you wouldn’t always know in the store like pairing options and producer information. If a store isn’t telling you how the wine is made or categorizing it, it’s likely safe to say it wasn’t made naturally.
Read the Label:
The label is typically hit or miss on knowing if it’s natural. Indicators that can help point you in the right direction, but aren’t a guarantee, are if they have a biodynamic logo on them or any of the natural wine organizations that you see on them like:
These along with many others have their own guidelines that the producers must abide by to be in the group and use their logo. Thus, if you agree with their definition of natural wine and see their logo on a bottle, it’s likely exactly what you are looking for!
Google the Producer:
Clearly the most time-consuming option, but it is worth it as a last resort! If you believe a wine might be natural but don’t recognize the importer there are a few ways you can find out from the producer alone.
- Try to find it on Raisin
- Raisin has a Vivino-like function where you can scan the label and find out if it’s natural. They are still developing their library currently so it can be hit or miss, but it is the quickest way to know from the bottle!
- Google the producer and see if they show up in databases
- If the producer is listed on the RAW Wine or Real Wine database you can be fairly confident that it is natural. (Some people will disagree here as they don’t believe their criteria for natural are strict enough, but I will let you do the research and decide for yourself what you believe.)
- Go to their social media and website
- Read through their site (may need to Google Translate) and see how they describe their grape growing and winemaking. This would be your last resort, as at this point we’re depending on the winery itself to tell us how natural they are. I find that most people in the natural wine world are people with character and don’t put inaccurate information out about the wine, but at this level, it’s clearly not verified.
None of these are perfect solutions, but put all-together you are far more likely to get to the bottom of the winemaking and if you would consider what you are holding a natural wine!
Natural wine is a tricky industry because of the lack of definition around it. The people in it are wonderful and many of the wines are delicious, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a bit of time initially to find your favorite importers, producers, and natural wine spots! A bit of research and tasting will go a long way! My final recommendation is to check out the natural wine events going on around you, where you can get a first-hand look at lots of producers in one place and best hone your palate!
Holly Berrigan is the Founder of MYSA Natural Wine. She has a WSET Level 3 certification with Distinction, is a member and writer for the Porto Protocol and Slow Food USA, and is a student in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge.