The bottle of wine on your dining table begins its life, of course, as the not-so-humble grape on the vine. Once the grapes are picked, they’re either pressed before fermentation to make a white wine, or macerated in a vat for a specified amount of time before being pressed to make a red.
Fermentation is a key part of the process, with the fruit breaking down and releasing their delicious juices in an oxygen-free environment that spurs the fermenting on even more, with sugar being converted into alcohol by yeasts, enzymes and bacteria.
The end result? Scrumptious wine!
This wine isn’t quite ready for drinking, however, and before it can be bottled up it needs to age until the winemaker considers it to be time. It might all sound simple when you say it like that, but in reality winemaking is quite unstable and there are all sorts of processes at play all at once, microscopic processes that the winemaker has no real insight into.
The only way to tell if the resulting wine will be successful or not is to wait until it’s ready and then give it a taste, which can be something of a gamble to take if your livelihood depends upon it being a winner each and every time.
Enter corrective winemaking! Because wine production is so nuanced and sensitive, the majority of modern industrial winemakers now make use of corrective procedures and bring in a variety of different additives throughout the process to ensure that the end product is what they’re looking for.
Additives include the likes of beet sugar, tannins, enzymes, aromatic yeasts, tartaric acid, sulphites, fining agents, stabilisers, mega purple, copper sulphate and so on, all included with the aim of guaranteeing a stable result, enabling winemakers to adjust everything from the colour and clarity to the flavour, mouthfeel, alcohol level and more.
While this is undoubtedly good for business and ensures winemakers are able to remain competitive in a very crowded marketplace, giving wine drinkers what they want (or what they think they want!), the problem is that the resulting wines are no longer a reflection of their natural terroir, which arguably is what makes wine such an incredibly interesting drink to enjoy.
Sadly, thanks to all these corrective techniques, the majority of modern wines now end up tasting rather similar to each other, no longer a true expression of their specific natural terroir.
This is perhaps why natural wine is really starting to curry favour among wine connoisseurs the world over, with drinkers keen to go back to the traditional roots of winemaking so they can enjoy a range of different drinks from different regions and exclaim over the intricacies of each, rather than stocking the wine cellar with tipples that are all broadly the same.
If you’re new to natural wine, why not invest in a bottle or two the next time you plan to imbibe, so you can contrast and compare to what you’ve had in the past. We promise you won’t be disappointed!