Yeah! More posts about the Natural Wine Movement
- Mike Willison
"He does it with a better grace, but I do it more natural"
Proponents of the so-called Natural Wine Movement might object to the sentiment that Shakespeare tossed around, taking umbrage with the words, "better", "grace" and, likely, "he." Natural wine supporters argue that there is basically a right and a wrong way to make wine, although the line that separates the two is often as gray and akimbo as the Maginot. The general gist is to limit human and chemical intervention during the winemaking process to almost nothing in an effort to produce wines that showcase not only true varietal character, but also allow the expression of the vineyard site to be exposed. The principle issues are usually about allowing native yeast fermentation rather than inoculating with cultivated yeast strains and using no added sulfites to artificially preserve the wine and prevent microbiological beasties from causing the stuff to get real weird, real fast. There are, of course, other factors: using pigeage (your feet and legs, etc.) to punch down ferments rather more modern methods, small fermentation vats and aging vessels, organic, biodynamic or "do-nothing" farming as advocated by the late Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer-philosopher, and, maybe most importantly, not really doing it for the money.
It should be said, of course, that none of this is really written down, specifically agreed to, or even 100% adhered to by a collective or any governing body. So there are fudge-able allowances for a vintage that needs a pinch of sulfur here or a splash of something-something there. I should also say that I, by and large, agree with this ideal. I love the idea of hands-off winemaking and less crud being put in my body because a winemaker had to sit around all year waiting for harvest so that she could fiddle with everything for the sake of fiddling when harvest comes around. I mean, that’s what all of this stuff in this winery is for, right? Where I have problems is with the attitude of most of the people yelling the loudest, drawing needless lines in the sand, and ascribing demi-god like status to but a lone few untouchable icons of the epoch. The most seriously ridiculous implication of the natural wine movement is that it cannot, or should not be, done by medium or large wineries (Sinskey gets chastised for even trying). What better way to have the natural wine movement actually make a difference (to the land, to the people, to the industry) than for it to be introduced to a wider audience?
Making wine can be done better, and more gracefully than many of the giant, mega-wineries currently do. I long for the day when "organic" isn't a buzz word, but is rather the standard for all industry. For some, it's a matter of old habits dying hard; there are just too many people doing what they’ve done for years that aren't about to change in positions of power and influence. I dare Bronco to go natural, organic, or even some kind of sustainable. At least they aren't dogmatic and precious about it, though. Sheesh.
- Carrie Kalscheuer
I, too, have been reading about all of these tiny, French producers who have been telling everyone who will listen that they make better wine because they do it 'naturally.' But as you point out, what does naturally mean?? Without any parameters, it seems like yet another marketing ploy. For example, native yeast strains are used quite often, yet how native are they really when we propagate that same species by plowing pomace back into our fields? Is that considered toying with nature?
Can wineries afford to thumb their noses at modern technology and actually make wine from just the set of circumstances that nature gives them in any particular year? I say no way. The American wine drinker demands clean, fruity, (and sadly in many cases sugar-y) wines. French wines are misunderstood by many palates, and in fact elicited an emphatic, "EW," from a winemaker friend just last week. I think you nailed it with your comment, "…not really in it for the money." Sure, it sounds romantic and could work in France, but that poop isn’t going to fly here.
Hey, I'm all for making wine in the most natural way possible – after all, this is a food product we are talking about. But it should just be DONE, not preached.