What is Real?
Natural, biodynamic, organic, low intervention, low sulfite, and vegan…
We will break it down so you know what you need to choose the right wine for you.
WHAT IS NATURAL WINE?
This classification includes terroir driven wines and these wines are usually made without adding or taking anything away. Winemakers introduce minimal to zero levels of sulfur outside of what naturally occurs during fermentation, the wines are not fined, and any filtration is very light. This style of winemaking does not support the use of pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides that deplete the land of its natural minerals or that leave residue or traces in wine. For pest control, copper and sulfur may be used in the vineyards. It is commonly said that natural wines are nothing but juice, and even if it means a fault or two is present, it is usually seen as something that adds to the character of the wine. The natural wine movement is more based in concept than as a category with specific definitions, and our producers are representative of the complicated spectrum that defines “natural”.
WHAT IS LOW INTERVENTION WINE?
Not an official term, low-intervention is used to describe producers who might not be certified organic or biodynamic, but are working within the context of these practices. It is also a catch-all term that covers the embrace of any/all of the other classifications on this page, and is reflective of how there are many different perspectives in the world of natural wine. Low-intervention winemakers are usually not fans of regulation or bureaucracy. These producers work with the land to let the vines thrive on their own, usually utilize all natural yeasts and spontaneous fermentation and avoid additives. On occasion they might use non-organic vineyard management if a threat to the crop is predicted. With the producers that we work with, this is considered to be an extreme measure.
WHAT IS LOW SULFITE WINE?
Sulfur naturally occurs in the fermentation process, and when people talk about “low sulfur” of “low sulfite” wines, they usually mean added sulfur, and not the sulfur that occurs naturally. Without serious and damaging manipulation to remove natural sulfur, there really is no such thing as a sulfite free wine. In winemaking, sulfur is used as an anti-oxidant and preservative. A long time ago, sulfur in the several hundreds of milligrams per liter was common. These days, limits for added sulfur, even in conventional wines, have been reduced to much lower amounts. The question is: what level of added sulfur is acceptable to be considered low intervention or natural wine? This answer depends on who is answering; generally, added sulfur in the range of 50-60mg/liter or lower is considered an acceptable amount. Of course there are those who feel that anything over 20mg/liter or even zero milligrams (!) is unacceptable manipulation. Our best advice is to taste a lot and make your own decisions. But do understand, sulfur is a natural part of winemaking, and not an evil poison always to be regarded with disdain! Sometimes, sulfur isn’t the culprit, but the histamines that come from tannins that are the result of skin contact and barrel aging processes.
WHAT IS ORGANIC WINE?
When a producer is referred to as organic, it means that the viticulture, or wine growing and harvesting practices, do not rely on industrial synthesized products, such as fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and anything GMO. Producers that work this way often use compost and cover crops to help keep the vines and soil healthy and prevent them from becoming diseased. The “Bordeaux mixture” of sulfur and copper sulfate spray is used against disease, and is an approved organic practice, and manual labor is usually used instead of machines to harvest. Organic agriculture is overseen in Europe by the European Union, and their distinctive leaf-shaped seal is its proof that the product within adheres to EU organic rules. Some of our producers work with organic practices but have not sought official certification.
WHAT IS BIODYNAMIC WINE?
A biodynamic vineyard is one that uses a form of alternative farming that is very similar to organic practices and is based on theories by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. First developed in 1924, it was the first organic agriculture movement. Growers who practice biodynamic farming believe that the vineyard should be a self-sustaining organism treated with various herb and mineral based preparations, and that vineyard tasks such as planting, pruning, and picking should be done during earthly and celestial rhythms such as the cycles of the moon. Typically, biodynamic vineyards have greater microbial life and deeper vine roots than conventionally farmed vineyards. The use of livestock in vineyards is common. Stricter winemaking guidelines are followed than with organic farming and a reduced use of energy intensive practices is encouraged. Biodynamic certification is offered through the Demeter organization, though many practicing producers have chosen not to pursue the official seal.
WHAT IS VEGAN WINE?
Historically, animal-based enzymes have been used in the fining of wines, usually in the form of egg whites, milk protein, or isinglass, a protein derived from fish. A wine labeled as vegan will not make use of any of these products. Fining is the process of coagulating solid material in the wine into larger particles to make them easier to filter out, if filtration is to be used. Many low intervention and natural winemakers do not filter or fine their wines. It is very important to note that even when not certified as vegan, the use of animal based enzymes in fining is very rarely used in modern day winemaking, and you are unlikely to encounter the use of these products in any of the wines that we sell. Many producers simply don’t want to deal with the time and hassle of being certified as vegan when they are content to know that in practice, their wines already are vegan. Wherever possible, and when we are certain it is the case, we will call out wines that are certified as vegan. If you want to know if a wine is vegan, feel free to send us a message.
There are seven basic wine styles found in Portugal.
Within these seven categories, the styles run the gamut from
light, refreshing and acidic, to dark and rich with complex tannins.
And then there are the dessert wines,
which also exist on a long continuum of dry to sticky sweet.
Vinho Espumante (one of our favorite categories), is sparkling wine. The sparkling wines of Portugal are not very well known (or available) outside of the country, and that is a shame. They might be made using a traditional methode champenoise or be a pet nat, which is methode ancestrale. Either way, these wines tickle your tongue and delight the senses. Bubble aficionados, you’ve come to the right place! We are happy to teach you about one of the best-kept secrets of the wine world. Order a mixed box to take a tour.
Vinho Branco, aka white wine, is drunk by the gallon in Portugal. Portuguese whites do not have the same reputation outside of the country as their red wine counterparts, and there are literally hundreds of delicious white wines just waiting to be discovered. There are blends, single varietals, and whites with varying degrees of skin contact that dance on the edge of orange wine territory. Some white wines have zero barrel aging, and some see a little time on barrel. Tell us what you typically drink and we can make your white wine dreams come true!
Vinho Verde, also called green wine, is made in the Minho region of Northern Portugal. The most commonly available wines are white low alcohol porch pounders with a little touch of fizz, but there are also delicious rosé and red wines made in this region. Vinho Verde is one of the first types of Portuguese wines to gain popularity, due in part to the ease with which one can sit in the sun and enjoy a bottle (or two). A typical Vinho Verde is a blend of different grape varietals, but you can also find wines made just from Alvarinho or Loureiro. The traditional red grape of the region is called Vinhão, and makes an inky dark wine with lots of structure, low alcohol and a mineral edge. If you are interested in a Minho/Vinho Verde adventure, we can lead you through light and fun to more pumped up body and intensity.
Vinho Rosé, or rosado, commonly called rosé wine, is made in many parts of Portugal. Rosé has become extremely popular around the world, and the quality Portuguese rosés are not to be missed. Every region produces rosé, and these can range from light and fresh to darker, more skin contact and bbq-friendly. Rosés have become very popular for days at the beach, picnics in the park, and are a go-to pairing for the extraordinary seafood that Portugal is famed for. Imagine: Grilled Atlantic prawns drizzled with premium Portuguese olive oil and washed down with a bright, fresh, and flavorful Portuguese rosé. You too can have this pairing at home, and we have the rosé to satisfy any Portuguese-inspired gastronomic idea you can dream up.
Vinho Tinto, otherwise known as red wine is made across Portugal. Sometimes reds are a field blend of a variety of grapes or a single varietal. In many older vineyard plots, some of the vines have yet to be identified, and these mystery blends are some of our favorite wines. The most well known red wine producing regions are Dão, Douro, and Alentejo. The wines from Dão are lighter in style than Douro and Alentejo, with structure and acidity that also gives them aging potential. Order a mixed box or some to drink now and a few to put away.
VINHO PORTO & MADEIRA
Vinho Porto, or Port wine, may be what Portugal is most famous for. Made in the Douro region of Northern Portugal, port is a fortified wine with a lengthy and interesting history. Port wines can be dry, semi-sweet, or super sticky sweet. Vinho Madeira, known as Madeira, is another fortified desert wine. It comes from Madeira Island, and also have a range of styles from dry to sweet.