Wine terminology

Anglophone wine critics tend to be hostile to the term 'natural wine', more so than to the wine itself. This is one of the main reasons it has yet to find a market in the UK.


The argument goes like this :

There is no such thing as completely natural wine since without someone to make it there would be no wine. Grapes are natural, wine is not.

Given that there must be some sort of human intervention, any definition of natural wine is just a line in the sand. The most natural possible wine would be vinegar.

We can dismiss it then, with a few smug swipes at the French, as marketer's jargon.


But the word natural does not only mean produced by nature without human assistance.

Natural history, for example, is not history that grows on trees. Natural wine is natural in the sense that it aims at naturalness, and in the sense that it is more natural than other types of wine.

We call white wine white not because it is actually white, but because it is whiter than red wine or rosé.


The term natural wine is useful for three reasons.

  • The term organic wine is inadequate.
  • It's a direct translation of a French term already in use.
  • It draws attention to the way wine is made.

If using it provokes a debate about naturalness in wine, all the better.