This is a very broad description to go along with my post on getting naked. I have written a similar article in Swedish for Vinbanken.
Call them “natural”, “authentic” or “naked”, there is neither a decided terminology nor a set definition for this category of wines (which contributes to the problem, for sure). In brief, it’s wine made from grapes grown without pesticides or chemicals (most are organic or biodynamic though not all are certified). They are hand harvested. In the cellar, there should be no added yeast, at least not aromatic yeast that confers specific flavors, and preferably the fermentation is allowed to be spontaneous. There is definitely no addition of sugar, acid or any of the other 50+ agents allowed for use in EU wine production The wines are generally not filtered or fined, and should not be heavily manipulated by mechanical means (such as alcohol reduction or must concentration by reverse osmosis). Most avoid the use of new barrels, which give strong oak influence on the wines. The idea is to interfere as little as possible with the development of the wine and thus obtain a wine the reflects the grapes and the terroir (site specific “sense of place”) rather than the winemaking.
The addition of sulfites is a tricky question. Sulfites have been used for thousands of years to stabilize the wines and keep unwanted bacterial growth away. Some “natural” winemakers will not use any sulfites, period. They might do well, or they might end up with wines that smell like a horse’s ass. Many will add some sulfites but keep the amount to the minimum necessary to allow the wines stability in transport and storage. Some consumers avoid sulfites because they are believed to cause migraines in sensitive individuals (though more often, the alcohol is the substance with this effect. Histamines don’t help either.)
So, with this rudimentary explanation, I’ll share my thoughts on naked wines.