What is Natural Wine?
No one is quite sure as there's no legal definition or certification. Most will see it as using sustainable farming, but not necessarily organically certified, plus using minimal processing techniques in making wine.
The making of the wine after the grapes are picked seems to be the main focus of natural wines. There are lots of chemicals that can be added, some add sugar (but not in the U.S.), some add acid, "unnatural" yeasts, commercial enzymes, or water down the grapes after picking. Others even remove some of the alcohol because by the time they've finished processing the wine the alcohol levels are completely out of balance. Some wines are just plain over-processed just like a lot of other food products.
Food products list ingredients, but not the processes around making the food. So adding acids would fall into this category, but not necessarily removing alcohol. It sounds like any natural wine movement revolves around the ingredients and processes.
Is it Just Marketing?
Is this just playing on the popularity of the green craze and the organic food movements? Is it just a new way to attempt to differentiate one's wines from someone else's?
Since there is no legal definition you can call it natural if you want.
Is it Backlash to Over-Manipulation?
Some blame it on Helen Turley, others on Robert Parker, but I blame it on us for buying over-processed, high-alcohol fruit bombs that are no longer "real" wine. These types of wines have been very popular wines with a certain part of the buying public.
Wouldn't it be interesting if wineries were required to put the processing details on their labels. What if wines were labeled with "This wine dealcoholized" or "Genetically-modified yeast used?"
So What is a Natural Wine?
Good question and there's no answer at this time, but people are arguing about it for now. So will this lead to something more formal and legal? Will there be enough winemakers with integrity behind this to start a movement? Or will the marketing folks try it for awhile to see if it catches on?
More info: Additives in Wine