Is Natural Wine Healthier Than Regular Wine? Experts Weigh In

Is Natural Wine Healthier Than Regular Wine? Experts Weigh In
  • The natural wine movement has many proponents touting various health claims of the low-sulfite alternative to regular wine.
  • Natural winemaking benefits small producers and the surrounding environment, but experts say most health benefits lack sufficient evidence.
  • Some research shows that people with sulfite sensitivity react to certain wines, but more studies are needed.
  • Whether you choose natural or regular wine, moderation is recommended for overall health.

From orange to glou-glou, piquette to pét nat, organic, biodynamic, unfiltered, and zero-zero, natural wines are much more than a low-sulfite alternative to conventional wine.

Natural wine is not a new trend or buzzword despite its recent rise in popularity. Humans have been fermenting grapes without additives for millennia.

Like regular wine, natural wine is grown wherever conditions are ripe: in the heart of the Mediterranean and around the world in similar hospitable microclimates.

The funk, flavor, and juiciness factor of natural wine is unique to the terroir (soil) in which its grapevines were grown and harvested.

The crisp whites of Slovenia’s Vipava Valley take on the minerality of surrounding limestone mountains. Just south of Barcelona in Priorat, Spain, there are bold, intense reds that are infused with slate absorbed by roots that grow through layers of rock in this arid, mountainous region.

Juicy reds from France’s famously picturesque Loire Valley or the rolling hills of Tuscany, meanwhile, might be more fruit-forward and hit the nose with herbs and spice.

Natural wine is grown using little to no additives, such as sulfites, and without pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. This low-intervention approach is usually rooted in traditional winemaking styles.

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Is natural wine actually healthier for you? It depends on who you ask.

Many natural wine enthusiasts believe this to be true, but experts say most purported health claims are unsubstantiated by research.

“The alcohol industry has been implicated in the propagation of deceptive narratives asserting the health benefits of alcohol consumption,” said Kesley Costa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant for the National Coalition on Healthcare.

“The natural wine movement has gained popularity in recent years as a perceived healthier and more wholesome alternative to conventional wines. However, this perception is not supported by scientific evidence,” she told Healthline.

Whether you’re a skeptic, proponent, or natural wine curious, here’s what you should know.

Natural wine vs. regular wine: What’s the difference? 

Compared to large-scale conventional wine manufacturing, natural wine is produced on smaller-scale, sustainable vineyards to protect local grapes.

Natural wine can be organic or biodynamic and many small wine producers are natural wine producers by default.

During the natural winemaking process, nothing is added or removed. Conventional wines, on the other hand, use dozens of additives to make them more appealing to the broader population.

Winemaker Georges Kalligeros of the natural wine importer D-I Wine said natural wine offers a healthier alternative to conventional wine because it uses organically and sustainably farmed grapes. Kalligeros noted the benefits to winemakers and the surrounding environment, specifically.

“While common principles of organic viticulture forbid synthetic phytosanitary products, conventional viticulture allows hundreds of plant production products (PPPs), including pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides,” he told Healthline.

“The PPPs used in conventional viticulture are harmful to winemakers, viticulture workers, and populations living in the vicinity of vineyards,” he added.

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Kalligeros notes that heavy pesticide use in viticulture is linked to higher rates of health conditions among vineyard workers, including:

  • brain cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • lung cancer

Is natural wine good for health?

Experts say many health claims about natural wine are anecdotal and lack sufficient evidence.

Still, some people may benefit from choosing natural over conventional, such as those sensitive to additives like sulfites.

“Natural winemaking is not only about avoiding pesticides in the farming of the vines but also about eschewing additives during the winemaking process itself,” Kalligeros said.

“Conventional wine can contain up to 49 additives, as permitted by the [European Union], and 70 or more in the USA. Organic wines in the EU (which do not use pesticides in farming) also allow the use of 35 additives during vinification. This is what ultimately distinguishes natural wine: no additives are allowed, with the exception, in some cases, of a minimal dose of sulfur dioxide (SO2),” he noted.

Wine writer Alice Fiering of The Fiering Line newsletter said wines made from organic viticulture, 100% grapes, and, ideally, 20 parts per million (p)pm of added sulfites (as opposed to 100 ppm or more) are “healthier by default for the farmer and the drinker.”

“Many conventional wines have unstudied allergens, though they are known,” Fiering told Healthline.

“Some of these are enzymes derived from eggs (lysozine), tannins, and so forth. But then, there is velcorin (Dimethyl dicarbonate), which in conventional winemaking is widely used as a yeast inhibitor to prevent brettanomyces [which may cause spoilage], that ‘sheepy taste’ that some wines can have,” she explained.

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However, all wine contains some amount of sugar, and drinking too much could lead to chronic conditions like heart disease as well as alcohol misuse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared in January 2023 that no amount of alcohol is considered safe.

If you choose to enjoy wine responsibly, aim to follow current recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption: 1 drink per day or less for females and 2 drinks a day or less for males.

“Wine and alcohol were certainly one of the earliest medicines, though, like any medicine, they will harm you if you abuse [them],” Fiering said.


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