What’s in my wine?

What is natural wine?

Depends entirely on who you ask. While some efforts are being made to codify the term ‘natural’ when it comes to wine, many people have varying opinions of what “natural” should mean. To us, it means grapes farmed organically and winemaking that involves as little intervention as possible.

What is the difference between natural and organic and biodynamic wine?

Classifications of ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ come with rigid standards, and those standards vary between regions and governing bodies. In the meantime, ‘natural’ has become a catch-all term for wines made with little or no intervention that either do not meet those strict standards or have not been certified by a third-party certification body

Why does organic matter?

Beyond claims of increased quality and more honest approaches to winemaking, which we certainly believe in, organic farming matters because we need to protect the land we’ve been fortunate enough to use for something as decadent as wine. Given what we know about the effects of commercial agriculture on our environment, we think anything but organic farming is unconscionable. 

Are your grapes non-GMO?

Yes, any produce that is certified organic—like our grapes—is also non-GMO. The use of GMOs is prohibited in organic agriculture.

Why do you list ingredients on your labels? I’ve never seen that on a wine bottle.

One of our core beliefs is that you, as a consumer, have the right to know what goes into your body. There’s a lot of noise in the wine world about ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ wine, and these terms have no set definitions. The easiest way to cut through that noise is to simply list everything that has been added to the wine, including any processing agents.

What is native yeast fermentation and why does it matter?

Everything around us has microscopic yeast living on it. These yeast strains vary greatly, and many are unique to their specific environment. In winemaking, yeast combines with sugar to start fermentation. Many winemakers add commercial yeast and sugar from concentrated grape skins at the fermentation stage to alter a wine’s flavor profile. This is obviously not in line with a low-intervention approach (and some believe commercial yeasts may even be a culprit for next-day headaches). 

We practice native yeast fermentation, which means we do not add any yeast — commercial or otherwise — during the winemaking process. In other words, we rely only on the yeast that co-exists with the grapes in our vineyards to do the fermentation. We believe this gives a greater sense of place to our wines and highlights their unique qualities.

Does RedThumb wine contain preservatives?

As of now, all of our wines contain a small amount of additional sulfur, a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation that acts as a preservative. The use of preservatives in wine is a delicate balancing act. We want to ensure that our wines are delicious for years to come, but too much sulfur can take away some of the life in the wine that is so crucial to its unique flavor profile. Our winemakers are experts in their craft, and we will continue to push for lower and lower sulfite levels as we grow. 

Why do you add sulfites? I thought natural wine didn’t include sulfites.

Sulfites are a point of contention in the natural wine community. Many will tell you that only wines with absolutely no added sulfur should be called natural, but we disagree. We believe finding the right balance of sulfur is crucial to making a wine that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible while maintaining the quality we demand.

Aren’t all wines vegan friendly?

Most wines are vegan friendly, but some use various non-vegan additives, most often in the fining process (when a substance is added to wine in the final phase of production). The added substance binds to any solids that may be left in the wine and removes them, yielding a clearer, more stable wine. Traditionally, these fining agents have been substances such as egg albumen, gelatin and isinglass. There are also several vegan-friendly fining agents available, most notably clay and pea protein. Our wines are filtered instead of fined, using a process called tangential filtration, so we don’t use any additives.

Why do you include nutritional information on your labels?

The nutritional information we list on our labels is the same nutritional information you might find on a box of cereal or can of soup. We think people have become accustomed to seeing this information on the products they buy, and we believe our customers deserve as much information as possible as to what they are putting into their bodies.

Your labels state “no added sugars.” Why is this? Do some wines include added sugar?

This is another controversial topic in modern winemaking. The process of directly adding sugar to wine, known as chaptalization, is prohibited in many regions, including Italy, Australia, California and Spain. However, some winemakers in these regions skirt the regulations by adding concentrated grape juice instead of sugar, though the effect is the same. RedThumb wines are made with no added sugars, fruit concentrates or additives that aim to boost the sugar content of the unfermented juice.

What is “low-intervention” wine?

The term “low-intervention” is another mostly undefined term in winemaking. The general idea behind low-intervention wines is that the less the winemaker manipulates the wine, the more the grapes and terroir will shine through in the final product. In some cases, this has become a competition of “how low can you go?,” but we believe that the skill of our winemakers comes through in their ability to do just what is needed, and nothing more.

Does your wine contain gluten?

Our wines are gluten free, as nearly all wines are.

Why are all of your wines from Spain?

The easy answer is that’s where we found the best natural wines and a winemaker, Bodegas Quaderna Via, that shares our vision. In the future, we will expand to other winemakers and other regions and countries.

What is dry farming and how does it affect the taste of wine, if at all?

Most commercial agriculture is focused on yield above all else. Irrigate your crops and you get increased yields, but the more water a fruit takes in, the less concentrated the flavor it produces. Think about berries: wild berries burst with flavor, while the least expensive berries in your grocery store often taste watery and bland. The same principles apply to winemaking. Many winemakers simply look to maximize the yield of their vines, but we believe a more flavorful and honest wine is made when yields are deprioritized in favor of a natural approach.

Do you use pesticides on your grapes?

We do not use any pesticides in the vineyards. In the Navarre region, the biggest culprits are grape bunch moths and yellow spiders. For the moths, we use pheromones that discourage the moths from reproducing (the only thing we kill is the mood). For the spiders, we plant flowers that encourage the presence of natural predators.

For protection from certain molds and mildews, we do use small amounts of copper and sulfur, the most commonly used mold protection agents in organic farming (for grapes, but also for potatoes, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables). We carefully carefully manage usage based on predicted rainfall.