Natural. Organic. Sustainable.

In a world where environmentally impactful concepts have become buzzwords, it’s hard to determine what earth-minded choices are best!

Vintegrity recently had the honor of interviewing Brian Jewell, Regional Sales Manager for Vine Street Imports. With over five years of experience with Vine Street Imports, Jewell had many fascinating insights into the world of natural wine.

What is the Difference Between Natural and Organic Wine?

“Organic is all about what is done in the vineyard whereas ‘natural’ wines are really more about a movement that is becoming popular by producers and sought after by consumers,” Jewell remarked.

“There is no set definition of a ‘natural’ wine per se, just some loosely agreed upon standards among people in the industry which include using organic or biodynamic farming practices, hard harvesting the fruit, native yeast fermentations, no additions during ferments, and typically … unfiltered,” Jewell continued.

Essentially for a wine to be truly organic it must be both organically grown and organically processed; natural wines follow similar principles but may use organically grown grapes and experiment with the process a bit.

Benefits of Natural and Organic Wines

The old saying “you are what you eat” is becoming a more frequent – almost subconscious – dictum to the many wine consumers who now routinely choose environmentally friendly brands. “Many wine lovers want to know where their wines are coming from now – much as they have with their food for quite some time. It’s a natural evolution.” Jewell commented.

According to an often-spread theory, sugars and sulfites are at the root of hangovers and their companion headaches. With their reduced sugar and sulfites, organic and natural wines present an attractive alternative. Also, pesticide free, organically grown grapes offer additional benefits to the consumer’s personal health.

Sustainable practices of organically grown grapes often require less water usage since the natural, local compost protects the vines and helps to absorb and retain more water. These techniques also work to make the vines more resilient in times of drought all while protecting the ecosystem of the vineyard.

What does this mean to the consumer? Sipping organic or natural wines is an intentional choice that can make you feel a little better about your health and your decision to make more “earth-minded” choices.

Consumer Choices in the Wine Industry

“There will always be the massive commercial wineries out there that put up billboards, have TV spots, and massive displays in grocery and big box stores,” Jewell remarked. “But I really feel the younger generation is changing that narrative pretty quickly.”

“Things are only going to grow more and more in that direction and a lot of it is fueled by the restaurateurs and sommeliers across the country. In the past it wasn’t uncommon to find a pioneering restaurant that focused on local and organic in food – making beautiful dishes, but then featuring a ‘cookie cutter’ wine list with a lot of the usual suspects and paying no attention to farming or production practices. That is becoming much less the case now,” Jewell continued.

This encouraging growth in environment-conscious wine consumption shouldn’t drive natural wine consumers guiltily into buying only certified organic wine, however.

“There are many changes in how wines are being produced like the increased use of skin contact on white wines…tossing in the stems and all…and fermenting in vessels like concrete and amphora are really altering the styles of wines. Just as we love a very complex dish at a chef-crafted restaurant, we are becoming more fascinated with complex and unique techniques in winemaking,” Jewell explained.

“All I suggest is that people branch out a little bit and don’t be afraid to try something new and different. If someone likes their wines to be fresh and vibrant, it may actually be in their best interest to seek out something more in the ‘natural’ style.”

Vine Street Imports: Naturally Succulent Wines

“I feel very fortunate to honestly love and appreciate all of our producers working towards the ‘natural’ side of things,” said Jewell. “We do pride ourselves on working with honest winemakers and really paying attention to farming and labor practices as an important factor in our producers.”

Vine Street Imports has partnered with Vintegrity since our beginning, just over 12 years ago. “After I came on board in 2015, being from Kansas City, I wanted to work hard with Vintegrity to grow our business together and show that Missouri – like my other Midwest states – are not ‘flyover’ markets and that are just as many exciting things happening here as on the coasts,” Jewell remarked.

Vine Street Imports has a few newer additions you just might want to add to your wine list! Selections such as Yetti & The Kokonut, The Juice Asylum, and Wildman Wines are drawing a lot of attention, but original classics like Blackwater, Bindi and Ellena Giuseppe are still Jewell’s favorites.

Contact Vintegrity online today to discuss adding one or more new natural wines to restaurant or store’s wine list!

** photos 1,2, and 4 courtesy of Vine Street Imports @vsiwine