Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Natural Wine is a Gimmick
Yet another conversation from twitter that proves to be good fodder for a blog post. I’m going to start out with the caveat that YES, there are boatloads of unethical or borderline unethical marketers out there who are greenwashing in every sector. Wine is certainly not excluded. The example I’ve seen in wine that totally takes the cake is an extra paper hangtag on the neck of the bottle explaining how “green” the winery is. Really? LOVE the extra packaging and ink. (shakes head, rolls eyes.) Nobody likes a fake, much less a “natural” fake---the worst kind of hypocrisy in my book. Jumping on the “green” bandwagon in an attempt to capture some market share… shame on you!
That being said, I have to throw in my 2 cents (maybe more) on the subject of natural wine. Is there a bona fide definition that has been laid down by any governing agency? Not that I’ve been able to find. If you know of one, please post it here. I posted a link to this yesterday and I’ll repost the full text here from Williams Corner Wine’s website because I like their definition:
Although no specific definition exists for a natural wine, it is commonly understood that a natural wine is produced with the minimum amount of intervention and manipulation possible. A natural wine producer seeks to produce the perfect vehicle to transmit the terroir of a place to you, the consumer. As such, a natural wine tends to be one that is produced from high quality, hand harvested grapes grown in low-yielding vineyards, typically organically or biodynamically farmed. Fermentation begins naturally, using yeasts present in the vineyard and the cellar, and the unfermented grape must is not sulfured. The winery producing the wine must aim to produce a transparent wine that respects its terroir; manipulating the wine through the addition of tannins, sugar, acid, oak chips, prominent new oak aging or through use of any number of other additives could dull or completely erase the wine's terroir. The wine is bottled with no added sulfur if possible, and if not, only as much as is absolutely necessary.
And also the following criteria:
Use Natural Yeasts to Initiate Fermentation
Recognize That Living Soil and a Biodiverse Ecosystem Benefit the Vine
Realize Only High Quality Grapes can make High Quality Wine
Use Sulfur Appropriately and Only When Necessary
Do Not Filter or Limit Filtering
Respect Their Terroir, but Aren't Afraid to Experiment
Produce Dynamic, Drinkable, and Food-Friendly Wines
Obviously this would be open to wide interpretation of meaning and some attorney somewhere would have a complete field day with it… but that isn’t the point of this post.
The point I hope to make is that there are MANY exceptionally hardworking, ethical winemakers out there whose only aim is to bring to life a wine of “place” that speaks to its region, its grape variety, the weather that year, and ultimately to the person blessed to have to privilege to drink it. I truly hate to see people furrowing their brows when they hear the words “natural wine” and skeptically thinking to themselves, “bullshit.” The winemakers who DO work very hard to create these natural wines, REALLY natural wines deserve credit for what they are doing. Organic and biodynamic farming aren’t easy. Then, to bottle something that doesn’t require a chemistry set or “chipping program” (yes, a winemaker once used that term on me!) to “fix” it and have it turn out mind-alteringly delicious is even more of an accomplishment in my book and certainly not a gimmick. In fact the winemakers who DO farm and vinify this way normally don’t even talk about it too much unless you ask them. It’s about the wine, not so much the process itself. It’s why many never bother to get certified. They just ARE organic and BioD and they don’t care if they are certified. It’s beside the point for them, the point being the wine and not the “natural” bandwagon.
I really would love to hear your comments about the subject. So please share your thoughts.
There are too many winemakers, wine bars, importers, distributors, shops, etc. to give a comprehensive list, but here is a handful of people who I know “GET IT.”
Share the unspoofulated goodness:
Louis/Dressner Selections NO spoof all day long
Williams Corner Wine Natural Wine Specialists
Monika Caha Selections - Austria
The Ten Bells Natural Wine Bar NYC
Forlorn Hope Wine - Rare Creatures from an awesome guy
Coturri Winery - Long family tradition of natural wine
Thierry Puzelat's wine gives me the shivers it’s so freaking good
Arianna Occhipinti Sicily baby. OH YEAH.
Saignée I LOVE Cory!
Alice Feiring needs no introduction
Amy Atwood totally gets it.
Links and blogroll coming soon…