Natural wine refers to a generalized movement among winemakers that started in the Beaujolais region of France in the 1960's. These winemakers, namely Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Charly Thevenet and Guy Breton, sought a return to the way their grandparents made wine, before the incursion of pesticides and chemicals that had become so prevalent in agriculture after the end of World War II. They became affectionately known as The Gang of Four. They were heavily influenced by the teachings and thoughts of Jules Chauvet and Jacques Neauport, two oenologists who studied ways to make wines with fewer additives. For quite some time the town of Villié-Morgon became a place for like minded winemakers to congregate and become influenced by the Gang of Four. Gradually this movement spread to other regions of France, and since has spread across the world, gradually gaining in popularity and attracting newer younger winemakers in more and more regions of the world.
The term natural wine is somewhat ambiguous and there are disagreements between fans of the wines as to what exactly constitutes a natural wine. One popular phrase is the idea that "nothing is added and nothing is take away." Some fans insist that natural wines must have zero sulphites added, while for others some addition at bottling is allowed. In any case the total amount of sulphites present in a natural wine is significantly lower than in a non-naturally produced wine. Most agree that the grapes used must come from organically grown grapes, and that only wild or indigenous yeasts be used to ferment the juice (as opposed to a laboratory-produced cultivated yeast strain.)
The inherent ambiguity of the term has been defended by Bradford Taylor, owner of Ordinaire, a wine bar in Oakland, California that exclusively serves natural wine. According to Taylor, "there's something productive about how nebulous the term 'natural' is, how it opens itself up to debate every time it comes up."
One reason for the ambiguity of the term may come from the fact that it is a translation from the French term "Vin Nature." Nature has a slightly different connotation in French, meaning "plain" for example black coffee is café nature and a plain bagel is a bagel nature. This meaning coincides better with the "nothing added, nothing taken away," idea.
At the present time (2013) there exists no official or legal definition of natural wine; neither has any legislation been passed to date by any regional, national or supranational authority, and there are no organizations that can certify that a wine is natural.
However, there are many unofficial definitions or codes of practice published by the different associations of natural wine producers and connoisseurs of the style:
- RAW WINE (UK, Germany, USA) 
- L´Association des Vins Naturels (France) 
- Les Vins S.A.I.N.S (France) 
- La Renaissance des Appellations (France) 
- Vini Veri (Italy) 
- Vinnatur (Italy) 
- ZADRUGA SIMBIOSA EKOLOŠKO KMETIJSTVO Z.B.O. (Slovenia)
- Asociación de Productores de Vinos Naturales de España (Spain) 
- Philipp Wittmann, Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (Germany) 
- Autentisté (Czech and Slovak Republic)
- Terra Hungarica (Hungary and Carpathian Basin) 
- Porthos Racconta (Italy) 
- Jenny & François Selections, one of the first importers of Natural Wine in the United States. 
- Joe Dressner, one of the first importers of Natural Wine in the United States. 
The following basic criteria are generally accepted by most natural wine producers and organizations:
- Organically or biodynamically grown grapes, with or without certification.
- Dry-farmed, low-yielding vineyards.
- No added sugars, no cultivated (cultured) yeasts, no foreign bacteria.
- No adjustments for acidity.
- No additives for color, mouth-feel, minerality, etc.
- No external flavor additives, including those derived from new oak barrels, staves, chips, or liquid extract.
- Minimal or no fining or filtration.
- No heavy manipulation, such as micro-oxygenation, reverse osmosis, spinning cone, cryoextraction.
- Minimal or no added sulfites.
Some critics of natural wine contend that Natural Wine is a misleading term. They say that once man intervenes by planting or pruning a grape vine, the wine is no longer a product of nature. Proponents of natural wine point out that natural or not do no exist in such a binary sense, but in fact are two poles on either end of a very long continuum. On one side there are machine-harvested, pesticide-laden, mass-market wines and on the other is a small family producer picking all the grapes by hand, and never using any additives to assist the winemaking process.
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