France Finally Recognizes Natural Wine with Official Designation

Producers have spent a decade seeking approval for the new "vin methode nature" designation.

Few, if any, countries are as diligent about their wine labeling as the French. The country has over 300 AOCs designating the origin of wines down to the tiniest of towns. So though the idea of being able to label a wine as “natural” might sound pretty straightforward to Americans, getting France to officially recognize that distinction was actually a decade-long effort: But it’s one that’s finally panned out… Say hello to French “vin methode nature.”

For the recently announced agreement, the French Ministry for Agriculture, the French National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), and the French Fraud Control Office will work with the Natural Wines Union to oversee the criteria wines must meet for the new designation and to screen bottles to make sure they follow the rules, according to the site Wine Business.

Two glasses of red wine in the vineyard
Rostislav_Sedlacek/Getty Images.

To bear the official “vin methode nature” logo on its label, a wine must be made with grapes hand-picked from certified organic vines and the product must be fermented with indigenous yeast. Wine Business also says that the production is not allowed to use winemaking techniques referred to as “brutal”—including things like cross-flow filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification, and reverse osmosis. And as far as sulfites are concerned, they are allowed up to 30 milligrams per liter, but a label with different wording can be used to distinguish wines without them: “vin methode nature sans sulfites ajoutes” (or “without added sulfites”). The entire charter, in French, can be found here.

For now, the label will launch with a three-year trial period and will only apply to wines from Europe. However, these officially natural wines will be arriving soon. “The first wines bearing the designation were made last year by vintners who agreed before the harvest to fulfill its requirements,” Sebastien David, a founding member of the Natural Wines Union, was quoted as saying. Over 100 French producers are expected to start using the new label this year, and a handful of Spanish and Italian producers are also currently part of the trade body. More foreign winemakers from other European countries have also apparently shown interested in joining as well.

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