Denatured Wine: The Whys & Wherefores

Denatured Wine - natural wine

There’s a serious buzz about natural wine right now and it’s only getting louder by the day, as grape lovers the world over start to ask more from the tipples they’re drinking, increasingly interested in where they’re made, how they’re made and how sustainable the end product is.

Natural wine itself does exactly what it says on the bottle… it’s entirely natural! The grapes are organically farmed, before being fermented, aged and then bottled up without introducing any additives or using filtration processes and corrective techniques. 

This means that the end result is a direct and true reflection of the region in which the grapes are grown - which is not something that can easily be said for the vast majority of commercial mass market wines that you can find on shop shelves these days.

When one wine bottle tastes broadly like any other, any sane person would start to ask questions… which is, no doubt, why natural wine is currying serious favour right now.

Interest in denatured wine, in contrast, could well start to decline in the future, as drinkers start to see that all the synthetic chemicals used in its production, as well as corrective winemaking processes, have stripped it of its character and removed the telltale calling cards of its particular terroir, vineyard and growing conditions.

Originally, the term ‘denatured wine’ was used back in the days when wine fraud was prevalent, with cheap bottles marketed and sold as more expensive luxury items from famous vineyards, or where sugar was added during fermentation to increase the alcohol content. 

Colourants and distillates were also added to bottles to help pass them off as something other than what they were… all in the name of money, of course.

Now, it’s become the norm to use synthetics and chemicals in wine production, so much so that the groundwater has become contaminated with them and vineyard biomes have been disrupted in the pursuit of higher yields. 

Natural environments are also being damaged by the use of pesticides and herbicides, which can have an impact on soil quality and, in turn, mean that wine growers then have to use more synthetics to assure their output… a vicious circle indeed!

Of course, there are benefits to more conventional wine production for the growers and it’s certainly a more cost-effective way of going about it, saving both time and labour… but this comes at a price and that’s the homogenisation of the wine itself.

Given that wine is praised around the world for its ability to reflect the region in which it’s grown, it seems a real shame to us to deprive it of the opportunity to be so wonderfully expressive. If you agree, perhaps it’s time to invest in your first bottle of natural wine instead!

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