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Natural, Organic, Biodynamic: What’s the Difference When It Comes to Wine?

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Natural, organic, biodynamic, skin-contact, orange, minimal intervention; they’re all terms you may have heard more recently as the natural wine trend continues to grow and find its place on the palettes of sommeliers and vino lovers around Australia.

As of right now, restaurant wine lists, bottle shops, and online wine platforms will have dedicated sections for wines in this category, but as these lists and sections continue to grow — with more people discovering the joys of complex and unconventional tasting notes — so too does the terminology around it.

To help you out, we’ve created something of a natural wine glossary. Refer to this next time you navigate the wine lists at your favourite restaurants, or use it to help you choose your next natty selection at Australia’s best online wine delivery platforms.

Natural

Natural is something of a blanket term for all of those listed underneath. According to Cult Wine, it refers to “winemaking that eschews many common modern winemaking interventions.

“By and large, this means either organic or biodynamic agriculture, indigenous yeasts (preferably those from the vineyard), little (if any) oak, no additions — such as acidification, and as little sulfur as humanly possible.”

Organic

An organic wine is defined by its vineyards. For a wine to be considered organic, its grapes must be grown and maintained without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides that are not approved by NASAA (The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia).

Biodynamic

If a wine is described as biodynamic, this will likely mean it’s organic also. The difference lies in the inclusion of additional biodynamic routines, for example, in the application of natural composts for the soil beneath the grapes and by harvesting according to the lunar calendar. In biodynamic winemaking, the vineyard is treated as a living organism.

Skin-contact

Skin-contact wine is easily remembered for its fairly literal name. It’s created when white wine grapes are treated like red ones and are fermented in the same ways as red wines.

In regular white wine-making, the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes are separated prior to fermentation. When orange wines are made, the winemaker will leave these elements to ferment for a few days. In other words, the skin stays in contact with the juice. The longer the skins are left, the deeper the colour of the wine.

Orange

Great news, you don’t need to memorise this one because orange wine is the same as skin-contact wine. ‘Orange’ refers only to the colour of the wine in the glass. Typically, it will appear a blush orange or amber shade and may appear slightly cloudy.

Lo-fi

Probably the most unfamiliar of terms. According to Cult Wine, lo-fi wines means “winegrowing with integrity. It is much more than sustainability. It’s a holistic approach to growing, making and even selling wine in the most authentic way possible. Likewise, hand picking and dry farming are ideals to be celebrated.”

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