When planning a dinner party or big celebration, choosing the right wine is always an exciting and challenging task. In recent years, natural wines have become increasingly popular. We contacted Ania Smelskaya, a natural wine expert and head sommelier of zero-waste restaurant Silo London, to tell us about natural winemaking and recommend the best wines to start your natural wine explorations.
What is natural wine?
Natural Wine is farmed organically or bio-dynamically, using permaculture, and produced without adding or removing anything. No additives or processing aids are used, and intervention in the naturally occurring fermentation process is minimised.

This means neither fining agents nor tight filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology. Our expert Ania is a huge supporter of natural winemaking; she believes in sustainability in viticulture and agriculture and advocates a sustainable approach to the wine industry.
How natural wines are produced
To understand natural wines, we need to look at the winemaking process. It has two major parts: growing and picking grapes, and then turning them into wine through fermentation.

Natural wine is made from grapes not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Grape growing is allowed to take its own course – and unfortunately, that may mean losses due to diseases or pests.

When the grapes are ready, natural winemakers handpick their grapes instead of using machines to harvest them.

When we talk about the process of developing natural wines in the cellar, any intervention is also minimal. Natural winemakers rely on native yeast; the stuff that's whizzing around in the air. No preservatives, no "designer" yeasts, no yeast nutrients, no acid and no bacteria should be added to a natural wine. Ania surprised us by revealing that most conventional wines have all of these additions!

Also, there is no fining for natural wines. If the wine is not fined, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans; there will be no trace of fish, eggs or milk, all of which are commonly used for fining.
Organic VS Biodynamic wines
There are two major ways to cultivate wine and two major types of natural wine. The first grouping is organic wines. These are the wines made from grapes grown following the principles of organic farming. It typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

Another type of natural wine is produced bio-dynamically. These wines are made employing biodynamic methods both to grow the fruit and during the post-harvest processing. Biodynamic wine production employs soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner's formulas. The farmers also follow a planting calendar that depends upon astronomical configurations and treat the earth as "a living and receptive organism". Biodynamic agriculture aims for the ecological self-sufficiency of farms as cohesive and interconnected living systems. It focuses on ecological principles, emphasising spiritual and mystical perspectives.
Why natural wines are so exciting
Ania explains that many conventional winemakers try to ensure that their wine looks, feels, smells and tastes similar, vintage to vintage, because this helps commercial wines to sell. The judgement of these winemakers is based on their formula of what works for the mass market. Any change is shunned because it could negatively affect sales. There's no experimenting. Costs are tightly controlled.

With natural winemaking however, it's all about experimentation and variation – true expressions of terroir: that unique combination of soil, climate and other geographical conditions that influenced the grapes. The wines are 100% handcrafted – allowing us to enjoy a unique taste.
Best wines to start with
If you decide to give natural wines a go, here are Ania's recommendations to make your first steps easier. We knew you will enjoy her favourite natural wines:
White wines
Westwell Chardonnay, Kent, England
Adrian Pike turned into a winemaker after building a career in music industry. In 2016 an opportunity came up to buy Westwell Wine Estate, a south facing slope on chalk soil in the Kent Downs planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Ortega and was joined by viticulturist Marcus Goodwin with over 20 years of winemaking experience. Together, they set on a life of experiments with natural winemaking and try to always opt for the most sustainable option.

Little Bastard, Staffelter Hof, Mosel, Germany
The Staffelter Hof estate is one of the oldest in the world and has been in the current family since 1805 when they bought it from Napoleon's government. Jan Mattias Klein took over from his father in 2005 as a winemaker and started to change his thinking towards the future of the winery, and generally the future of the planet.

He converted all of the vineyards to organic and moves towards more minimal style of winemaking. The Little Bastard was one of the first naturals Jan made and it is a bastard in a region which is so focused on Riesling. It is a very wild, but easy drinking white wine with aromas of peach and lime.

Red wines
Piroska, Joiseph, Austria
Joiseph is a small natural wine workshop, founded by Richard Artner, Alex Kagl, and Luka Zeichmann in January 2015. They champion the philosophy and the passion: to make wine as authentic as possible, they see themselves as a tool, practice sustainability and work carefully with what nature provides. Each their wine has its individual character.

Piroshka is a delicious and juicy blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and Pinot Noir. This wine is as moreish as ever, medium/light in body, with a spicy backbone to complement the vibrant red and black fruits in this blend.

Serpent à Plumes , Domaine la Calmette, Cahors, France
Domaine La Calmette was started in 2015 by Maya & Nicolas, a talented couple who bring not only a thorough knowledge of viticulture but also a meticulously researched scientific backbone to their natural wines.

Serpent a Plumes is a blend of 50% Malbec and 50% Merlot from Kimmeridgian clay soils in France's Southwest. Undeniably mineral and perfumed, medium bodied but inky, and an absolute joy to drink. Explosive, bursting with life and vibrancy.

Orange wines
Metro Savagnin, Yetti & The Kokonut, Australia
This wine is made from 100% certified organic fruit from McLaren Vale. Made in 2 batches. 100% whole bunch, barrel fermented. Gives the spice and soft exotic characters to the wine.

The back bone off the mid pallet, structure with soft lemon freshness that keeps the wine going and going and going. Mandarin and orange, herbs, sweat, spice and brine. Savoury first, lovely powdery texture, clean acidity, freshness with earthiness, and a satisfying finish. This is a funky, textural and highly smashable style of Savagnin that will charm the pants off you.

The Hermit Ram Sauvignon Blanc Skin Fermented, New Zealand
This wine comes from Limestone Hills vineyard, which is naturally farmed Theo Coles and matured in old oak. Theo is keen to stress that every wine has its own story to tell. His are wines with personality, depth, complexity and most importantly, drinkability.

This wine is an extension of the Nattura Sauvignon Blanc process. The wine is destemmed and fermented on skins for a month. Bottled straight after malolactic with no Sulphur addition, this wine is almost in the rawest form possible. It is cloudy and this adds to the overall textural experience.

Rose wines
Rebela Rosa, Slobodne, Slovakia
Slobodne are a fascinating family-run winery going back to the early 20th century. They rebuilt their farm over the past 25 years following a 50 year long break due to the hardships of WWII and then 40 years of communism.

Now run by two sisters and their two partners, they are making some of the most exciting and distinct natural wines around today. This rosé is darker in colour, made from Blaufränkish and Cabernet, very soft, very fresh, candied fruit, creamy, lovely.

La Galoche Rosé Beaujolais, Domaine St Cyr, France
Raphael Saint Cyr is the fourth generation vigneron at the newly named Domaine Saint Cyr. Formerly Domain de Bellevue, started by Raphael's great-grandfather, they are based in Anse in the southern edge of Beaujolais.

Raphael took over in 2008 and converted the entire 23 hectares Domain to certified organic. Each cuvee is split into single vineyard parcels, with the terroir as the name for each wine. All cuvees are fermented in concrete tanks and then aged in old barrels for 12-18 months.

Vigna San Lorenzo Col Tamarie Frizzante, Italy
Marta and Alberto run a small family farm, 450m up in the San Lorenzo hills, and aptly describe their wine as 'Mountain Prosecco', on land farmed in the most incredible way. Being certified as organic doesn't really shed any light onto how their plants are looked after, with each vine being cared for and treated with homeopathy.

Col Tamarie is a blend of six grape varieties, including Bianchetta, Grapariol and the more familiar Glera. The wine spends a small amount of time on skins, never has any sulphites added and rests for a minimum of 10 months before being available.

Pet Nat Rose from Domaine Saint Cyr, France
This wine is fruity and refreshing. It is made using the methode ancestrale in which fermentation is completed inside the bottle, thus creating the bubbles. Cherries and strawberries, citrus and nectarine.
Whether you decide to enjoy your glass of wine at a dinner party or put on a wine degustation, we are always here to help you bring your ideas into life. We are proud of the numerous private parties and corporate events we've arranged successfully and will be delighted to serve as your next event planner.