Now, drinking wine, or any alcoholic beverage, isn’t for everyone – and if you’re a non-drinker, the benefits in wine aren’t reason enough to start. But if you ARE a wine drinker… what’s the story with all those labels? Products labeled ‘natural’ are much more than a trend. They’re an important part of their respective markets, and they’re here to stay. But is it just a marketing ploy … or really beneficial? Skeptics say everything “natural” is just a buzzword that means nothing or at worse, totally false.
One thing that falls into this area is natural wine. Wine, especially red wine, has potential health benefits. If natural wines is made from the same grapes as “regular” wine, wouldn’t it offer the same health boosts? Well in some ways, natural wine, and its cousin, organic wine, is a much different product than the wines you’ll find in most stores. And as an added note, vegans are in for a pleasant surprise!
Natural Wine: What’s The Difference?
It’s important to note that there is no single description of natural and organic wines. In fact, organic and natural wines aren’t even the same thing. Organic has specific labeling requirements. “Natural” is more of a overarching term. At the moment, there is no formal certification process for natural wines. When you visit a natural winery, or buy natural wine from a store, do your due diligence. Check to see what components are in the natural wine you’re purchasing. Also, learn what the winemaker’s process is. In general, good consumer practices will serve you well.1
As a general note, remember that an organic wine is generally natural – but not always. Similarly, not all natural wines are organic. While there’s no set standard, organic wines do have several common practices that they hold to. Grapes are prepared via organic guidelines. They’re grown and harvested without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.2 But winemaking is a complex process. Winemakers may introduce different factors, for convenience, taste, or other desired results. What makes the natural wine category goes beyond the individual grape, organic or otherwise.
The Winemaking Process
For example, many natural winemakers use a delicate hand when processing the grapes into wine. This means that natural wine grapes are often hand-harvested and foot-stomped. This may be more of a matter of philosophy than anything else. What happens to the grapes after this stage is what’s really important.3 Some people don’t think that natural wine is a huge departure from the norm. They may not know what goes into the final production of this wine. For example, egg whites, fish bladders, and activated charcoal are sometimes used as “fining agents.” They’re introduced to help remove sediment from wine. This makes many wines non-vegan, even though fining agents don’t often make it to the label.4 Natural wine, by design, skips many of these additives. This means that vegans can often enjoy them, as well.
Some common wine additives are beginning to get noticed. Sulfites are a class of sulfur compounds sometimes introduced into wine. They help preserve its freshness and halt the growth of bacteria. But sulfites can sometimes cause headaches and other allergic reactions. It’s important to note that even organic wines may still have sulfites in them. This means that if you have sensitivity to it, or don’t want them in your wine, you need to check the labels.5
With natural wine, the winemaker is committing to letting the grapes take their own direction. This may sound a bit holistic, but it is true. Without the yeasts or sulfites to ensure a uniform flavor, not every bottle is going to taste the same. Some wines may be darker or cloudier, and they might even have bits of organic matter in them.6
Can Wine Help, Though?
At this point, you may be thinking, “This sounds nice, but isn’t it a matter of preference?” To a point, that’s correct. But again, to understand the benefits of natural wine, you need to know the benefits of red wine and other wines. Having a glass of red wine for health has been a piece of anecdotal wisdom for a while.
It does have some scientific backing. Moderate alcohol consumption may help lower risks of several major illnesses or conditions.7 U.S. dietary guidelines suggest a limit of one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men…but consult with your physician before adding wine to your diet.8
The Antioxidants of Wine
Where a lot of the anecdotal wisdom falls short is how exactly this works. Why is red wine so often hailed as the drink of choice for health?
The major component of interest with red wine is resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant. This is a main reason why red wine is touted as heart healthy.9 Other studies suggest regular wine consumption can also support bone health.10 The vast majority of the studies linking wine to health use traditionally made wines. This is because some of them come before the time that natural wine had a presence in the market. Also, there haven’t been any studies done on the health benefits of natural wine versus conventional wine. Some say that natural wine may provide less of a hangover, but this is only anecdotal, at best.11
What are the real and proven health “benefits” of natural wine versus its counterparts? It comes down to the organic grapes, which provide the base for any natural wine. This means no pesticides or other additives. For those concerned about additives that might be dangerous, buying organic makes sense.
Is Natural Wine Worth It?
When it comes to figuring out what makes natural wine better, reframe the conversation. It’s less about it having health benefits and more about how it lets us enjoy the benefits of wine (if desired.) Of course, it’s not for everyone,, and one shouldn’t start drinking without consulting a physician.
For more health tips, keep reading:
1.http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/g3334/best-natural-wine/ 2.https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards 3.https://www.verywell.com/natural-wine-what-it-is-how-its-made-and-benefits-4116848 4.https://www.verywell.com/natural-wine-what-it-is-how-its-made-and-benefits-4116848 5.https://www.bonappetit.com/drinks/wine/article/sulfite-free-wine 6.https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/03/t-magazine/food/natural-wines.html 7.http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Alcohol-and-Heart-Health_UCM_305173_Article.jsp#.WcLgM8iGPIV 8.http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/21/health/wine-healthy-food-drayer/index.html 9.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19445315 10.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25832032/ 11.http://time.com/4865734/organic-wine-health-benefits/