Wine afficiandos have spent a lot of time researching and tasting their favorite bottles to enhance their palette. Wine tasting is a major hobby for James Feldkamp, and his experience has been unique due to his interest in natural wine. As the name suggests, natural wine is a drink made with as little human touch as possible: in an age of 10,000-gallon tanks, this may seem to be an anarchronism. Yet James Feldkamp has not just helped to advance natural wine as a consumer product, but has raised awareness of shifting taste preferences among drinkers.
Natural wine can accurately be called organic wine, as it uses no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Also called naked wine, it means that it is wine that is as close to additive-free as can be. To drink and appreciate natural wine, according to James Feldkamp, you need to know how it is a major change from the other wine you find on liquor store and supermarket shelves. “In order to understand how natural wine is different from the rest, you have to first understand the mass-winemaking process,” says James Feldkamp.
Industrial-scale winemaking is no joke. The largest wine producers in the world have a major chokehold over production and sales, with a handful of brands accounting for the majority of wine consumed across the globe. A criticism of these big winemakers, according to James Feldkamp, is their fermentation process. “Winemakers either run grape vineyards or purchase grapes from a vineyard that they cultivate into usable liquid through fermentation. It’s here that they may add in dozens of potential ingredients to bring out a particular taste or level of bitterness or sweetness.”
Even so-called organic wines may not qualify as natural wines. After all, something being organic doesn’t mean it cannot have additives, while the quality requirements for organic labeling vary widely. As such, James Feldkamp notes how a natural wine is one that doesn’t strictly follow the standards of farming practices: “Natural winemaking aims to bottle a product that has had as little technical intervention as possible.”
All this effort adds up to a difference you can taste in each glass. Natural wine is growing in popularity among wine fans, with a history that dates back nearly two centuries. Experts predict annual growth of this market of over 8% as more and more drinkers find themselves searching for more eco-friendly and additive-free choices. One stepping stone, however, is the difference in appearance. “Because natural wines aren’t as strained or filtered,” says James Feldkamp, “their liquid tends to be cloudy or opaque.” One sip, however, and the quality of the wine speaks for itself.