That said, as the home of London (indeed the UK's) first natural wine bar and shop, I feel obliged to define what exactly that means, at least my interpretation of it, which we are entirely transparent about thoughout our wine list and website.
At artisan & vine, all of our wines are either local (English) wines or natural (only the Davenport wines are both). “Natural wines” are not yet legally defined within the EU.
HERE'S MY SINGLE SENTENCE TAKE ON THE NATURAL WINE DEFINITION:
At artisan & vine, a natural wine is one made in a biodynamically or organically farmed vineyard, with indigenous (wild) yeasts, and minimal or no added sulphites or flavour enhancers.
The principle is to make wines that demonstrate a clear Sense of Place. They taste like they come from somewhere rather than something.
Why are organic wines not enough? Organic wines are not what they seem. Within the EU, a certified “organic wine” only guarantees you organically grown grapes; the winemaker may add flavours (such as wood chips or caramel), stabilisers (such as sulphur dioxide), and preservatives during the wine making production. This is how mass produced cheaper wines can be created.
Natural wines are wines created with minimal intervention from the wine maker. Natural wine making requires the artisan to carefully attend to all steps of the growing, fermenting, and blending processes, knowing that additives cannot be used to correct the imperfections of nature. As Tim Atkin MW concluded in his May 2010 article in The Times, “Natural wines are the opposite of mass-produced wines, of “spoofulated”, personality-free beverages that could come from almost anywhere. These are hand-crafted products”. Often this makes natural wines commercially unviable on a mass, low cost scale. Vintages can vary significantly from year to year based on climate conditions, and personal attention means very low yielding vineyards. I reckon you’ll taste this difference.
Image: Pierre Breton's fantastically healthy natural vineyards in Bourgueil, Loire Valley.