Natural Wine Lingo

A shortlist of terms & slang to help you navigate the world of natural wine.


Natural Wine: 

In short, natural wine is the antithesis to conventional wine. It begins in the soil and follows an organic, regenerative and/or minimal intervention approach from vine to bottle to glass. For a wine to be considered natural, grapes must be organically or biodynamically-grown, treated without the use of any herbicides, fungicides or pesticides and harvested by hand. In the cellar, grapes must go through spontaneous fermentation with native (aka indigenous or ambient) yeasts that populate on the grapes and vines as well as in the cellar. Wines must be bottled un-fined and unfiltered (or with very light filtration) and only a minimal amount of sulphur is allowed; 30-50 mg/l is the acceptable range.

Skin Contact:

When referring to 'skin contact' wines, this typically means white grapes that spend time on their skins. Depending on the length of maceration, the skins can impart a broad spectrum of hues from cloudy straw to deep amber. 


Short for 'pétillant natural', this refers to the ancestral method of making sparkling wine. Wines are bottled part way through their fermentation period, thus allowing the wine to finish fermenting in the bottle and gain its signature fizz.


Natural wines with no sulphur added.

On the lees:

When a wine ages for a considerable time on its lees (dead yeast cells), it develops a textural element and nutty or yeasty flavors, like toast or warm brioche, in the finished wine. The French refer to this process as "sur lie". Commonly found in Muscadets (made with the Melon de Bourgogne grape).
When a wine has a vibrant, snappy element to it that often comes from a wine's lively acidity.