Organic, biodynamic, natural... these are the buzz words in the booze world right now as health-conscious tipplers demand more from their nightly glass (two) of vino.
There's even whole festivals dedicated to the not-so-hard stuff, with the RAW WINE fair and over 150 global growers arriving in London this May.
The good news, is that these drinks are kind to the planet AND your body the morning after. The bad news is that not all 'healthy' wines are created equal.
But the great GREAT news is that you no longer need to worry about not knowing your sulphites from your zero dosage champagne (admit it, this was keeping you up at night) because our bluffer's guide will have you looking and drinking like a natural wine pro in no time. Cheers to that...
THE DETOX|RETOX BLUFFER'S GUIDE TO NATURAL WINE
by Isabelle LegeroN*
*Isabelle Legeron (www.isabellelegeron.com) is an award-winning wine taster, consultant and champion of natural wine, free of additives and manipulation. Her first book, Natural Wine: An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally, published by CICO Books, was released in 2014 and was shortlisted for three major food and drink book awards.
Q: What's the difference between organic, biodynamic and natural wine please Isabelle?
A: We chose the name RAW WINE for the festival because of what ‘raw’ means - “in a natural state; not treated by manufacturing or other processes”, which is quite a good way of describing the sorts of wines that we feature at the fair. They’re all what’s known as low-intervention wines which means that are made with a lot less tweaking, processing, additives or manipulation than the vast majority of wines that are sold nowadays.
As well as being low-intervention all the wines are grown organically or biodynamically (some of the growers are also into permaculture [permanent sustainable agriculture], which is all about creating self-perpetuating agricultural systems).
Organic wines are grown without recourse to pesticides or herbicides, so if a grower has a problem in the vineyard he/she will look for a solution that does not require the intervention of synthetic chemicals.
Biodynamic growers go a step further. Being holistic in their outlook, they farm vines ‘in context’ by considering not only the individual plant but also the vineyard and farm as a whole, and even elements like the moon which affect the development and growth of the plant.
The most low-intervention of low-intervention organic and biodynamic wines - i.e. wines that are made with grapes and only grapes, and whose producers don’t add anything to them (bar the occasional dash of sulphites at bottling) - are called natural wines, and we have a large selection of those at fair as well.
Q: Will any of them stop me getting a hangover?
A: It depends on how much you drink! Wine is alcohol and drinking too much is never a great idea but natural wine definitely gives me less of a hangover because its sulphite content is so much lower than its conventional counterparts.
I did quite a bit of research into the health aspect of wine for my book Natural Wine: an introduction to organic & biodynamic wines made naturally that came out last year and it seems that sulphites mixed with alcohol is a pretty lethal concoction when it comes to the creation of splitting headaches. To give you an idea, it is for example legal for a sweet wine in the EU to have sulphites added in such huge amounts that totals can reach up to 400 mg/L. By contrast, natural wines with no sulphites added will have totals that are usually less than 10 mg/L. It makes a huge difference, not just to how you feel but also what the wine tastes like. For me, heavily sulphited conventional wines taste like they have been placed in a strait-jacket.
Q: Are organic/biodynamic wines healthier than standard wine?
A: Yes, fruit grown organically does seem to have more elevated levels of resveratrol (an antioxidant found in wine) since resveratrol is what the plant uses as its natural defence against disease. And organically grown grapes are no exception.
For the book I also spoke to a Professor from the University of Rome who had just completed a study on sulphite-free wines that seemed pretty groundbreaking since preliminary results suggested a correlation between lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and sulphite-free wine - pretty amazing if true.
ISABELLE'S NATURAL WINE RECOMMENDATIONS
BEST ON A BUDGET:
Natural wines are living wines so not really rankable in the same way as conventional ones. While you won’t find a natural wine in the sub-£5 category, I would definitely recommend checking out Humus wines by Quinta do Paço, a Portuguese natural wine grower near Lisbon, whose Humus Rosé 2014 is a lovely fresh, crunchy drink, perfect for our approaching summer, and retails in the UK for just under £10 (available through Mondino Wines and GourmetHunters.com).
BLOW THE BUDGET:
What about a Champagne? Champagne is one of the most polluted vineyard areas in Europe so growers who do things differently are really remarkable and worthy both of note and support. A great example is Champagne Franck Pascal, a tiny grower who uses bioenergetic practices to keep his vines fit & strong. Franck’s Reliance Brut Nature NV (£56.89, Amazon.com) is bone dry (unlike many Champagnes there is no ‘dosage’ - adding sugar - at the end of the process) and wonderfully elegant with great complexity, biscuity notes and a hint of pink lady apple.
**DETOX|RETOX OFFER: To celebrate the RAW wine fair Dynamic Vines in Bermondsey are offering Detox|Retox readers a discount on Reliance champagne. Head down to their shop in SE16 and quote ‘RAW WINE Detox Retox’ and you can take away a bottle for £40 (usually £53)**
Isabelle Legeron MW is the founder of RAW WINE fair. The RAW WINE fair takes place at Old Truman Brewery, 15th & 16th May. Tickets start at £30.