Share this post:
Natural wines have finally arrived to Mexico! If you found this page, you either: 1) have seen them around and are curious about them; or 2) are familiar with natural wines and want to get your hands on some cool natural labels in Mexico.
If you already know the wines you want, go directly to our natural wine shop to check out the labels we have for you. If now, keep on reading!
We don’t know how familiar you are with the topic. In order to make things easier, here’s the summary of what we talk about in this post. Feel free to jump to what you’re most interested in reading about:
- What on earth is natural wine?
- How to know if a wine is natural
- Styles of natural wines
- Can natural wines be aged?
- Best natural wines in Mexico
What on earth is natural wine?
Some terms also used to refer to natural wines are “low intervention wines,” “minimal intervention wines,” “raw wines,” “living wines” or “naked wines.” This is the basic technical definition:
“the wine is farmed organically and made (or rather transformed) without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor (tight) filtration is used.” Isabelle Legeron, founder of the Raw Natural Wine Fairs
Sounds easy? Then you’ll be surprised to learn that only about 1% of the wines in the world are produced naturally.
Natural versus conventional winemaking
By now we’re all familiar with organic versus conventional farming. However, the vinification process (which happens in the cellar after the grapes are picked) is a mystery for most people. And that is where a lot of the chemical manipulation of wine happens.
Dozens of additives and different manufacturing processes have become extremely common in winemaking since the 1970s.
Today, winemakers are legally allowed to add 70+ different corrective or processing additives to wine without any obligation to disclose it in the label. Sulfur dioxide, ammonium salts, oak chips, pectic enzymes, gum, polysaccharides, velcorin, etc. Winemakers can even custom order yeast that will produce wine with certain flavors or characteristics (so much for terroir).
Each country has different regulations, but for reference, here’s the official list of additives and processes for treatment of wine allowed in the US.
Why are we telling you about the additives in conventional wine in a natural wine article? Because it gives context to why the natural winemaking philosophy is so relevant.
Natural wines sometimes get dismissed as a “new fad,” when the manufacturing of wine is the actual new thing in winemaking. Wine manufacturing just started in the 1970s and it has become the norm for most wineries. Natural winemaking dates back to century old traditions that have been replaced in the last five decades by technological innovations in the farming and vinification processes.
How to know if a wine is natural
Natural winemaking isn’t regulated. What does that mean? Any winemaker can use the term “natural” to describe and market his/her wine, regardless of whether s/he follows all the natural winemaking protocols.
There are a few organic wine and/or biodynamic wine certificates you can look for. These labels (in the image above) are a good sign, but they are a limited indicator of a natural/low-intervention wine as they refer to the farming process and might exclude the vinification techniques.
In addition, and maybe more importantly, many natural producers have chosen not (or cannot afford) to obtain organic government certifications.
The only natural wine certificate
Of all certificates out there, the only one that refers specifically to “natural wine” is the “Vin Méthode Nature“ which was launched in France in 2019.
The label is an official though voluntary certification. The label guarantee is: “each brand sporting the label has to be produced from hand-picked grapes from certified organic vines and made exclusively with indigenous yeast. The category’s production specifications prohibit the use of inputs and winemaking techniques qualified as “brutal,” such as cross-flow filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification and reverse osmosis. When it comes to the presence of sulfites, up to 30 mg/l of total H2SO4 is allowed in all types of wine.” want.
The controversy surrounding a natural wine certification
The release of the Vin Méthode Nature label caused a lot of controversy. In general, a “Natural Wine Certificate” is a difficult topic amongst natural winemakers. Some push for regulation to uphold the standards and deter wineries that cheat on the process from selling their wines as natural.
However, many natural winemakers strongly oppose a certification process as they see it as an unfair added cost, especially as traditional winemakers can continue business as usual. They argue that rather than regulate natural wines, the wine industry in general should push for transparency regarding ingredients and processes used to produce wines.
If dozens of additives are legally allowed in wines, all winemakers should be required to disclose in the label any additives they use to make the wines, which would allow the customers to make an informed decision on what kind of wine they want.
Styles of natural wine
Natural wines are produced in the traditional styles (reds, rosés, whites), but you’ll also stumbled upon these two different styles that are very popular in natural wine bars and shops:
Orange Wines (aka Amber Wines, or Skin-contact Wines)
What is an orange wine? Orange wines are produced with white wine grapes , where the cuvée (grape juice) is left in contact with the skins and seeds (skin maceration). Basically, you take white grapes, put them in a large vessel (often cement or ceramic) and leave them there fermenting (converting sugar into alcohol).
This skin-contact fermentation period can be anywhere from a few days to over a year. This is a natural process that uses little to no additives, sometimes not even yeast.
In terms of the final product, orange wines are visually darker in color than white wines, and have more texture and depth of flavor than most white and rosé wines. Some common tasting notes used to describe orange wines are bruised fruit, jackfruit, kombucha and orange blossom.
Different styles of orange wines
It’s important to note that orange wines are a style, and the flavor profile varies enormously within that style. So, in the same way that if you try one red wine you haven’t tried all red wines, if you try one orange wine it doesn’t mean you have seen the full spectrum of flavors within that style.
So don’t go around saying “I like” or “I don’t like orange wines” before you’ve tried a few different takes on it.
A good way to start with orange wines is to look for a lighter wine with short skin-contact time – those will be a good transition from white to orange wines. A good example is the Bianco di Ampeleia, an almost tea-like Trebbiano based orange wine from Tuscany.
Pet-Nat Wines (aka Pétillant Naturel, Méthode Ancestrale Sparkling)
Pét-Nat wines are very odd looking: the wine is cloudy, fizzy, usually comes in unusual colors, it has sediments at the bottom of the bottle, and it’s closed with a beer cap. Should you give them a try?
The term Pet-Nat (short for the French term Pétillant Naturel) refers to wines produced in the méthode ancestrale, an ancient and natural way of making sparkling wines, predating the méthode champenoise used in Champagne.
All sorts of old world traditions are employed to create them, but the gist of it is that these wines are bottled before primary fermentation and are finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. The end product is simpler and more rustic wine than traditional sparkling wines, but also exciting and unpredictable.
Opening each bottle is a surprise, suggestive of the time and location where it was bottled.
Pét-nats are produced in white, rosé or red colors, and the carbonation varies enormously – from almost still, to tiny-prickly bubbles, to effusive effervescence. Thanks to all the natural yeasts and sugars, they are usually slightly funky on the nose and to taste. They are zingy and bouncy with an appealing array of flavors.
Funky natural wines
This is not a style, but it’s a buzz word for sure in natural wine circles. Also, it’s fair to say that funky natural wines are the most divisive wines and usually the reason people object to natural wines altogether.
If you’re just starting to explore the natural wine world, we don’t recommend that you select a wine that fits the “funky” category. In our experience, the funky notes are an acquired taste.
So, what’s the deal? Funky is the term used used to describe wines that have characteristics that many wine drinkers see as flaws: barnyard smell, vinegary taste and volatile acidity.
Objectively, these are results of flaws during the wine production, but of course when it comes to taste, “flaws” become subjective.
Can natural wines be aged?
The resounding answer is YES.
And the image we choose for this section is one of the biggest arguments for it: Romanée Conti, one of the most important wineries in the world, has been committed to minimal intervention winemaking for decades. Can anyone argue that Romanée Conti wines don’t age well?
Alice Feiring, one of the most outspoken wine critics when it comes to natural wines, traced the myth back to its roots and debunked it in one of her publications of The Feiring Line back in 2018:
“… the roots of the “natural wines don’t age” myth took hold back in 1999. That’s when new naturals—mostly zero SO2 additions—started to ship out of France. Many were unstable to begin with. Adding insult upon injury, they ended up on warm sunny shelves which is death to most wines, natural or not. But in this case, corks soon went popping. By 2003, transport and winemaking had gotten better, but the reputation of wines that went bacterial and met early deaths stuck like Velcro on wool”
What winemakers say about it
This is a hot topic when it comes to natural wines (and one that should have been put to rest by now). So, for this publication we decided to talk directly to Marco Tait, one of the founders and winemakers of Ampeleia in Tuscany to get his take on the subject.
Our question to him was simple: Can natural wines be aged? Here’s what he told us:
YES natural wines can age incredibly well. If conventional wines can age, why can not natural wines age well? Also natural wines, because they are low intervention wines, could potentially age better if made in a good and a considerate way.
We saw that evolution and aging with our wines, for example our Alicante, which is a light, easy-drinking wine and also with the lowest SO2 amongst our wines and it is aging incredibly well. We believe that the aging potential of natural wines is limitless but more importantly it is important to consider the aging potential of natural wines as the same for any other “conventional” wines.
We discover through experience that natural wines can unveil many more exciting emotions with aging than conventional wines
Best natural wines in Mexico
The natural wine scene in Mexico has come a long way. Even just two years ago this was a dreary place for natural wine drinkers, as the options were extremely limited. That has changed and now most wine shops, restaurants and bars in major cities carry natural wine options.
Mexican Natural Wines
The wine culture in Mexico is fairly young, the boom of Mexican winemaking didn’t start until the late 90s.
Even though there are some natural producers in Mexico, natural winemaking is still really fringe in the region. Most of the wine market in Mexico is still looking for conventional wines, bigger red wines, with strong influence from regions such as California and Rioja.
Valle de Guadalupe, in the state of Baja California Norte, is the main wine producing region in Mexico. About 80% of all Mexican wine is produced in that area. Some Valle de Guadalupe wineries such as Duoma Vinos, Vinos Pijoan, Vena Cava, and Aborigen (amongst others) produce a line of low intervention wines aside from their conventional wines.
Although Valle de Guadalupe produces a larger quantity of wines (both natural and conventional), you can also find interesting natural winemaking projects in other areas of Mexico such as Tecate, Guanajuato and Querétaro.
These are some Mexican natural producers that are producing incredible wines:
Octagono – Vino Ancestral
Octagono is a more experimental project located in Vergel de la Sierra, Guanajuato. All their wines are produced with minimal intervention, and they use absolutely no oak barrels. Their wines are vinified using clay vessels, following ancestral techniques developed centuries ago in Georgia (the country).
They produce red, white and rosé wines, and also some more experimental wines with an orange, a pet-nat and a really fun hidromiel (alcoholic beverage produced by the fermentation of honey and sugar).
Octagono has also taken on the project of reviving and helping maintain vineyards around the region planted with exotic grapes such as Rosa de Perú and Salvador, which were brought to Mexico in the 1600’s and forgotten for centuries.
Check Octagono’s instagram for more info about their guided tours with wine tastings, which can be booked through their sister company El Nidal.
Brothers Noel & Jair Tellez, with the help of Chilean (by way of Burgundy) winemaker Louis-Antoine Luyt, are producing amazingly fresh and energetic wines from very old, recently recovered vineyards of Misión (aka Listán Prieto), Rosa del Peru (aka Moscatel Negro), Tempranillo and Carinena, among other varieties.
Bichi means “naked” in some parts of northern Mexico, and for Téllez and Luyt, it thus seemed like an appropriate name to give their new natural wine project.
Based at the Téllez family ranch in Tecate, just over the border from California, Bichi farms 10 hectares of their own Tecate vineyards biodynamically and collaborates with a growing family of organic farmers working vineyard land in Tecate and around Valle de Guadalupe.
The majority of the vines are head-trained and all are dry-farmed, hand harvested, fermented with native yeast, and aged in neutral barrel or vat so that the emphasis is on each wine’s Mexican terruño.
Cava Garambullo is located right outside of San Miguel de Allende, in the heart of Mexican highlands.
The owners and winemakers Branko Pjanic and Natalia Lopez Mota started the project in 2012 and currently have a production of approximately 4,500 bottles a year. They produce a range of red wines, and also small batches of orange and pet-nat wines.
100% of Garambullo’s wines are produced with organic or biodynamic grapes and minimal intervention. In Natalia Lopez’s own words: “Organic grape growing goes hand in hand with low yields and good viticulture practices, facts that generally, give you better wines…but of course you must have a good know-how of the winemaking process”
She adds: “Romanée-Conti make the most expensive wines in the world and are fully committed to the organic movement, you will never see a tractor in their fields. They use only horses.”
Garambullo is located just a couple of hours from Mexico city and they offer guided visits with reservation required. You can find out more about the winery here.
French Natural Wines in Mexico
French and Italian wines make up most of the offerings in natural wine bars and restaurant wine lists in Mexico, making it easier to discover new options.
Another great way to stay in the know about new labels available is to follow on Instagram excellent importers such as Les Vins de Moliére and La Cava de Jean. They’re looking outside the usual regions to bring in new projects from up-and-coming regions such as Loire Valley, Cotes-du-Rhone and Alsace, which are hopping with natural wine producers.
Here are some top-notch French natural wine producers you can get easily in Mexico:
Domaine Ansen is located in Alsace near Strasbourg. It is a small wine estate run by Daniel Ansen who started as a winemaker in Bordeaux. After a 10-year-experience, he took over his relatives’ vineyards and launched his own label in 2012. Ansen focuses primarily on aromatic varieties from cool climate.
Jérôme Mathon is part of what’s been called “the revival of Beaujolais.” The vineyard is made up of two great Protected Designation of Origin wines, 30% of which are classified as Cru Brouilly and the rest as Beaujolais St-Etienne La Varenne.
The preferred grape variety is Gamay noir with white juice, which takes root in a soil composed mainly of granitic arena (small granite grains with a sandy appearance), on hillside plots, the surface is more composed of pebbles and pink granite scree. Vines over 50 years old on average (up to almost a century for the oldest) are cared for and shaped by hand during the crop year, respecting the soil.
Jérôme takes the sustainable winemaking philosophy even further and deliberately chooses supplies with the lowest possible carbon footprint or with the least environmental impact (lighter design bottle, selection of organic natural corks, cardboard, adhesive and recyclable aluminium cap).
Italian Natural Wines in Mexico
Same as with French wines, start with following some great importers on Instagram. Good importers to follow in Mexico for Italian wines are Vinopolis, which represents Ampeleia and Foradori in Mexico, and is also the one bringing in high-end naturally produced wines such Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscan Wines and Chianti Classicos. Another is Nuova Terra Mexico, which imports more experimental and funky stuff.
Here are some top-notch Italian natural wine producers you can get easily in Mexico:
“Ampeleia is one of the stars of the Tuscan coast…..At their best, the Ampeleia wines are among the most pure, transparent expressions of the coast readers will find. Elisabetta Foradori and her team are doing important work here. Ampeleia is a young estate. There is every reason to believe the best is yet to come.” — wine critic Antonio Galloni
Ampeleia wines are fresh, subtle and incredibly easy-drinking.
Azienda Agricola Foradori
Foradori is located in Trentino, in northern Italy, and it’s the lifelong project of star winemaker Elisabeta Foradori.
The Foradori winery was purchased by Elisabetta’s grandfather in the 1930s. Her father took over in the 1960s, but he died suddenly in 1976 when Elisabetta was only 12 years old, leaving the estate and its management to Elisabetta’s mother. At age 19, the winery became hers. She took over out of a sense of duty.
“How can one try to describe the wines of Elisabetta? It’s easy to say that, in this case, the grape does not fall far from the vine or the hand that cultivated it. Foradori – immediately striking, gracefully elegant, discerningly tasteful, soberly serious while at the same time wry and playful, and above all always generous and sincere. Wait, is that Elisabetta or her wines? In fact, it could easily be used to describe one or the other.” Louis / Dresser Wine Selections
Austrian Natural Wines in Mexico
With native grapes such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and St. Laurent, it’s no wonder that Austria wines are darlings of the natural wine scene. Luckily, we already have great options available for us in Mexico.
Here are some top-notch Austrian natural wine producers you can get easily in Mexico:
Anita and Hans Nittnaus’ philosophy is complete devotion to making wines reflecting the origin and terroir of the area. The vineyards are farmed according to biodynamic methods; hand harvest, spontaneous fermentation and a low intervention approach to winemaking take center stage.
The vineyards are situated in Burgenland, on the northern shore of lake Neusiedl: the eastern side around the town of Gols (clay/loam/gravel/sand) and the western side around the town of Jois on the Leitha mountains (slate/limestone).
The winery focuses on red wines and the main varieties are Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Merlot. The wines represent their unique Pannonian style, characterized by elegance, complexity, and longevity.
New Zealand Natural Wines in Mexico
Previously known only for Malborough Sauvignon Blanc, in the past decade New Zealand has reinvented its wine industry and established its reputation as a modern, sustainable and high-quality region.
Although Sauvignon Blanc is the most prominent grape in New Zealand. According to New Zealand wine, Sauv Blanc accounts for 71% of the total wine production and 88% of the total wine exports from the country. With that said, of course a natural kiwi Sauvignon Blanc should be top on your list.
Aside from that, our personal recommendation is that you also look for a Pinot Noir – we haven’t yet met a NZ Pinot Noir we didn’t love.
Here are NZ producers you can find in Mexico:
In general the fruit for Hermit Ram wines comes from tiny vineyards throughout the Canterbury region of New Zealand.
Every wine has it’s own story to tell. The vines are naturally farmed and the wines made with the minimal amount of additions. Old techniques are employed. They are wines of depth, complexity, individuality and most importantly drinkability.
Urlar is a Scottish Gaelic word that means the earth. The winery is a family-owned business. They use biodynamic farming and gardening calendar, the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars are recognized and worked where possible.
This commitment has been recognised and rewarded recently when Urlar won the Hills Harvest and Gallagher Innovation Awards.
If you’re looking to try a biodynamically produced New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this is it!
Argentinian Natural Wines in Mexico
Latin American wines are super overlooked in the natural wine world, which is a shame. If you’re interested in learning more about the natural scene in Latin America, follow Feira Naturebas on Instagram – hosted every November in Brazil, this is sort of the Raw Festival of South America.
Here in Mexico, we are lucky to a seasoned Argentinian wine importer based very close to us in Jalisco. He’s been importing a selection of exciting natural wines that should be on your radar.
Here are some top-notch Argentinian natural wine producers you can get easily in Mexico:
Escala Humana is a wine production of human scale, as the name suggests. Winemaker Germán Masera has a boutique wine production of old vine wines including rare varieties in the Uco Valley such as Bequignol and Malvasia.
He looks for lower alcohol and freshness, a world away from the big oaky styles that Argentina has become known for. He uses concrete and old oak to get refined elegance and a lot of fragrance.
All wines are fermented with natural yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered with no additives of any sort, including sulphur. The results are full of personality and very drinkable.
Altar Uco is the latest endeavor from beloved Tupungato-based winemaker Juan Pablo Michelini.
He aims to produce “quiet wines” which require as little human intervention as possible – they are made in one or two months before spending years at rest.
The ‘Edad Moderna’ (Modern Age) series are wines defined by their shorter time in the winery, aged briefly in cement pools and then bottled. Here, he’s striving for lively, textured wines meant for enjoyment in their youth.
The ‘Edad Media’ (Middle Age) series are wines matured in a mixture of French oak barrels (some new and some second-use) in addition to amphora – suited to age and evolve for years to come.
German natural wines in Mexico
Of course Riesling and Gewürztraminer are the go-tos with German wines, and widely available. However, have you tried a naturally produced Spätburgunder – the German Pinot Noir?
We’re biased because we absolutely love Pinot Noir wines, but it’s nothing short of life changing.
Here are some top-notch German natural wine producers you can get easily in Mexico:
The Jakob Kuhn state is on a magnificent south-facing slope overlooking the Rhine near Wiesbaden, west of Frankfurt. It was certified organic in 2004 and upgraded to biodynamic shortly after.
The whole family is involved and in-tune. His wife Angela, daughter Sandra and son Peter. It’s an impressive winery, totally committed and fearless. They have been experimenting with oak, ridiculously long lees contact (Schlehdorn) and have even made wine in two amphoras they bought in Spain. Watch out for the mad, haunting aromas of the wild yeasts. Exotic, oily, peppery, savory – almost salty.
We hope you were able to find good info in this article, and that we were able to put some new awesome natural wine producers in your radar.
Share this post: