What Is Pure Wine? We Requested an Professional

Straight to the Level

Though “pure wine” is just not an industry-regulated time period, it’s typically agreed that it’s made with spontaneous fermentation and pure yeasts—that’s why it’s additionally known as low-intervention wine. The winery, bottling, and transport practices issue into the equation, too. For those who’re in search of an approachable pure wine membership, we advocate MYSA’s Combined Pure Wine Membership.

Pure wine or “natty wine,” as the children are calling it as of late, could also be trending, however it’s not a flash within the pan. The time period pure wine refers to a group of winemaking practices and methods. In quest of what actually defines this style, we spoke with Holly Berrigan, a sommelier and the founding father of MYSA Pure Wine, about methods to outline (and store for) pure wine. Whereas shoppers might battle to know what makes a bottle pure or not—the wine {industry} is just not recognized for readability in labeling and branding—there are a handful of key indicators to search for when shopping for and ingesting nice pure wine. And shock: None of them embody the phrase “funky.”

What Is Pure Wine?

There are many {industry} phrases used to explain pure wine. For those who’ve just lately bought eggs in a grocery retailer, you’ll perceive this idea: Some cartons are labeled natural, some free-range, and others, merely, “all pure.” The pure wine {industry} operates equally. Right here’s a breakdown of three frequent phrases:

Natural Wine

This is a definitive label. A winemaker have to be licensed as natural to make use of the terminology to market their wine. However organically grown wine grapes are solely part of the winemaking equation: “Natural” refers to what occurs within the winery and nothing extra. Spraying for pests is regulated and restricted, though some preventative therapies are nonetheless allowed beneath the natural label. “Round 10% of vineyards,” Berrigan says, “are licensed natural.”

Biodynamic Wine

One other vineyard-specific label, biodynamic agriculture entails a posh set of agricultural practices, timetables, and rituals based mostly round an idea of common connectedness. Sounds a bit woo-woo? That’s truthful. However biodynamic grape-growing is extra than simply farming by vibes. Biodynamic farmers usually meet and exceed natural requirements, working with the understanding that each alternative made has a ripple impact on the well being of soil, crops, and, lastly, private well being. 

Pure Wine

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

Simply because a wine is natural or biodynamic doesn’t imply it’s pure. “For pure wine, or low-intervention wine, we’re speaking about what occurs contained in the vineyard itself,” Berrigan says. She notes spontaneous fermentation and pure yeast as two massively vital parts required for pure wine. “In typical winemaking, the fermentation course of is compelled utilizing a selective yeast. In pure wine, native yeast is used—that’s the yeast that’s ambient within the air round us.” 

Why would a winemaker select pure yeast over a extra steady, predictable product? “It’s extra attention-grabbing,” Berrigan explains. She offers grapes grown in Martha’s Winery, Massachusetts, as a major instance: The ensuing wines are likely to have a minty, menthol-forward character, which is reflective of the eucalyptus bushes surrounding many vineyards. There’s additionally higher variation from yr to yr in pure winemaking, which some shoppers desire. After all, the parallel is true. Says Berrigan, “A standard wine will style the identical each single time you drink it as a result of they’re making it style like that.” Wine drinkers preferring predictability are likely to gravitate towards typical wines. Now that we’ve outlined a few of the key terminology, it’s time to speak about probably the most misunderstood—and controversial—substances in winemaking.

Are Sulfites In Wine Dangerous?

Point out the phrase “sulfites” inside a 50-mile radius of a pure winemaker or {industry} skilled, and also you’ll hear their groans…however most likely not for the rationale you anticipate. Many drinkers select pure wines due to the parable that they don’t comprise headache- and hangover-inducing sulfites. “Is it the sulfites in your wine making you are feeling bizarre, or is the meals dye?” asks a bemused Berrigan. Extra on the dye scenario within the subsequent part, however for now, let’s speak about what sulfites do—and why they’re often obligatory in wine. 

First: All wine incorporates sulfites. Some happen naturally. It’s legally permissible to to market a wine as having no added sulfites, however added sulfites aren’t at all times a foul factor! There are two locations within the winemaking course of the place sulfur will be launched. First, grapes could also be sprayed with sulfur—a permissible observe, even inside the natural {industry}. Second, and maybe extra controversially, sulfur will be added through the winemaking course of. “A bit of little bit of sulfur is admittedly helpful to make sure that the wine doesn’t flip and go dangerous throughout fermentation,” says Berrigan. In the US, 350 components per million of sulfur are allowed, however that focus is often solely seen in typical wines. Many of the pure wines MYSA provides clock in at a modest 50-and-under ppm. The tradeoff for a contact of stabilizing sulfites, Berrigan says, is price it. “I might slightly have 35 components per million sulfur in my wine than have a bottle that’s mousy [tasting] and unhappy.”

Are There Components In Pure Wine?

Maybe the extra telling query is: Are there components in typical wine? The reply—regardless of not current on most typical wine labels—is a powerful sure. Standard winemakers have quite a lot of components of their toolboxes. 

Fining and Filtering Components In Wine

After wine has fermented, it would look cloudy and will have sediment within the bottle. Standard winemakers filter out the bigger particles after which use components to “nice” the wine, making it crystal-clear. A few of these fining brokers, Berrigan notes, will be stunning to shoppers: She cites fish bladders, egg whites, and milk as generally used methods of the commerce. “It is a good time to notice that not all wine is vegan,” she says. The offender is often fining brokers. Against this, pure wine is commonly unfiltered, which leads to bottles with sediment and cloudiness (these qualities usually are not thought of flaws in wine, though shoppers used to filtered wine might discover them off-putting.)

Sugar In Wine

To grasp why typical winemakers would put sugar in wine—and lots of do—consider a superbly balanced wine as an X form. One line represents acidity; the opposite, sugar. The best intersection of the 2 is the precise center of the X. However loads can go incorrect through the winemaking course of, and the wine you find yourself with will virtually at all times be off the bullseye. If the wine is just too acidic, typical winemakers might decide so as to add sugar. If the wine has an excessive amount of residual sugar (and consequently, a better ABV), acidifying brokers like citric acid will be launched to the combo. It’s typically accepted that pure winemakers don’t use any sugars or acidifiers, even within the case of an imperfectly balanced wine.

Dyes In Wine

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

Meals dye is a permissible additive in typical wine, though producers are detest to confess it. It’s used to spice up the saturation of wine earlier than bottling, particularly if the grapes have been unhealthy and the ensuing coloration weak. The commonest coloring agent is known as Mega Purple which is, funnily sufficient, extremely concentrated grape juice. “For those who’re getting bizarre colours in your mouth whenever you drink, typically it’s from the grapes. However quite a lot of the time, it’s from meals dye,” says Berrigan. Pure winemakers don’t use dyes.

What Does Pure Wine Style Like?

We’ve talked loads about what pure wine isn’t. However what’s it? And what does it style like? Berrigan and lots of {industry} execs steer away from the phrase “funky,” even when it’s a helpful catchall time period for describing a wildly diversified style. (Berrigan does charge the wines bought at MYSA on a funkiness scale, as a result of it’s an environment friendly method to establish how a-typical a given wine is. She notes that an journey scale can be equally informative.) The factor is, any wine will be funky whether it is improperly made. 

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

The alarming, what IS that? retronasal expertise Berrigan describes as “mousey” is a flaw—and never a desired high quality in pure wine. “I fear that when folks say they like pure wine, they’ve truly discovered to love that taste and are in search of it,” she says. That’s a compelling argument towards utilizing “funky” or “bizarre” to explain pure wine! As an alternative, realizing the frequent qualities of pure wine offers you a greater vocabulary to explain what you want and don’t like ingesting. Listed here are some methods to explain pure wine.

Risky Acidity

Risky acidity brings a vinegary observe to wine. A bit of could make a wine zippy, brilliant, and attention-grabbing—suppose aged balsamic vinegar. But when a pure wine has ever reminded you of nail polish remover, you’ve had the unlucky expertise of uncorking a bottle with an excessive amount of VA.


Managed publicity to oxygen will introduce advanced, nuanced qualities to a wine. An excessive amount of will pummel its flavors, aroma, and hue. How will you inform if a wine is too oxidized? Berrigan provides a easy query: “Does it have a beautiful sherried observe or does it style like nasty socks?”


On the flip facet, a reductive wine has been disadvantaged of oxygen. Preserving oxygen beneath management offers the wine getting older energy and retains oxidation in verify. However too little oxygen will introduce a sulfurous, skunky, or smoky taste that may be off-putting to some. Berrigan notes that she steers away from reductive wines—however should you’re into a bit smoke, it’s a phrase you’ll need to carry to your subsequent wine-shopping mission.


Pure wine is alive—like kombucha and sauerkraut. For that motive, many have a evenly effervescent, fizzy high quality, even when they’re not marketed as glowing. Some surprising bubbles are enjoyable, however a historically nonetheless wine that knocks you over with fizz misses the mark. 


Brettanomyces, or brett, is a yeast that brings a horsey taste to the celebration. It’s generally present in beer, however isn’t shy about hanging round pure wines, too. An excessive amount of Brett smells like a barnyard, however a bit will be attention-grabbing. “It provides a layer of complexity to wine past the first aromas (major is from the fruit, secondary is from the winemaking, tertiary is from getting older),” says Berrigan.

The place to Purchase Pure Wine On-line

Wine retailers that function pure, low-intervention bottles are more and more frequent. Some deal completely in pure wines. For those who dwell close to one, the easiest way to strive pure wines and get to know your palate is to speak to the salespeople or service provider. Nonetheless, as a result of we dwell within the age of the web, becoming a member of a pure wine membership (or any form of meals subscription membership) is as simple as clicking a couple of buttons. 

Listed here are a couple of wine golf equipment we like, because of extremely curated collections, approachable academic supplies, and the flexibility to customise your subscription.

Mysa Wine Natural Wine Club Subscription


MYSA is Berrigan’s wine membership. It’s a reasonably priced choice that provides an awesome selection and comes with loads of intel on every bottle. “I really like how every cargo of Mysa comes with alternatives to study,” senior commerce editor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm says. “There is a card with a QR code you scan and that takes you to their web site the place you possibly can study every bottle, uncover pairing concepts, and watch video tastings alongside Holly. The wines are all so thoughtfully curated and I’ve cherished each bottle I’ve tried.”

Key Specs

  • Kind of wine included: Crimson, white, rosé, orange, and glowing
  • Variety of bottles included: 3, 6, or 12
  • Frequency of supply: Month-to-month, each 2 months, or each 3 months

Critical Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Raw Wine Club

Uncooked Wine Membership

A subscription to Uncooked Wine’s membership comes with tons of academic supplies; we truly named it the most effective information-rich pure wine membership. You may go for temperature-controlled transport (nice in the summertime months), and the membership comes with entry to Uncooked Wine’s common in-person occasions. Berrigan cites this as an outstanding choice for critical pure wine drinkers, particularly those that search for distinctive, thought-provoking wines.

Key Specs

  • Kind of wine included: Crimson, white, rosé, orange, candy, and glowing
  • Variety of bottles included: 3, 6, or 12
  • Frequency of supply: Month-to-month

Critical Eats / Jesse Raub

Dry Farm Wines Classic Membership

Dry Farm Wines

A “dry” farm doesn’t irrigate. This presents loads of challenges to grape rising, particularly in locations liable to drought. But it surely’s higher for the surroundings and will be a good way for grape growers and winemakers to indicate their expertise. Dry Farm Wines shipments include academic supplies concerning the wines, and the shipments are packaged fantastically. In addition they provide a low alcohol assortment ideally suited for drinkers who need to hold ABV in verify.

Key Specs

  • Kind of wine included: Select between a mixture of crimson/white, crimson, white, rosé, and glowing
  • Variety of bottles included: 6 or 12
  • Frequency of supply: Month-to-month or each 2 months

Critical Eats / Rochelle Bilow

Plonk Wine Club

Plonk Wine Membership

Plonk provides completely wines made out of organically- or biodynamically- grown grapes and infrequently options lesser-known varietals. Though this isn’t technically a pure wine membership, the choices favor low-intervention winemaking methods. Every cargo comes with a concise informational pamphlet that’s simple to digest, and by no means overwhelming.

Key Specs

  • Kind of wine included: Crimson, white, rosé, and bubbly
  • Variety of bottles included: 4, 6, or 12
  • Frequency of supply: Month-to-month, each 2 months, or each 3 months

Critical Eats / Grace Kelly


Is pure wine higher for you?

Owing to the absence of components and usually decrease ABV, some drinkers really feel pure wine is a more healthy choice. However like all alcoholic drinks, pure wine needs to be drunk carefully—it’s not a well being meals.

What are sulfites in wine?

Sulfites are preservatives and are naturally-occurring and added. The presence of sulfites in wine offers it extra stability and protects it towards flaws that happen within the fermentation course of. Standard wine within the U.S. permits 350 components per million sulfites in wine; though there’s no authorized restrict in pure wine, most producers attempt to hold it beneath 50 ppm.

Are you able to age pure wine?

It’s a typical false impression that all-natural wine must be consumed ASAP. Some varietals, like Beaujolais Noveau, are supposed to be loved younger (and usually promote out as quickly as they’re out there every year). However as a result of pure wine encompasses as many kinds of wine as there are grapes, loads of low-intervention bottles will be tucked away for safekeeping.

What’s orange wine?

Not all orange wine is pure, however many pure wines are orange! Orange wine is made by fermenting white grapes with their skins; that’s why it’s additionally known as “pores and skin contact” wine. This not solely offers the wine its signature coloration but in addition imparts a average quantity of tannins, which assist shield the wine towards impurities. Berrigan notes that pores and skin contact is sort of at all times by pure winemakers who make white wines. “If you may make a white wine with none components or pores and skin contact, you’re the most badass winemaker on this planet,” she says.

Why We’re the Specialists

  • Rochelle Bilow is a commerce editor at Critical Eats.
  • She is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and has labored as a meals author for over a decade.
  • She has additionally frolicked working in advertising and marketing for the Finger Lakes Wine area.
  • For this story, she interviewed a sommelier with an experience in pure wines.

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