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Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Quick Quote on Natural Wine...

I was recently asked for a quote for a local newspaper on my definition of a 'natural wine.'  I quickly started typing thinking I could make it short and sweet, and get to my next email quickly... I was wrong.  I started typing and couldn't stop myself... My usual passion on the subject boiled over, and so I thought I'd share it here with you as well.

The article is on natural, sustainable & biodynamic wines. The topic being such a controversial one not only here in Europe, but also in the small geeky wine circles of NYC, SF, LA and beyond... I thought I'd throw some coal on the fire...

"The definition of a 'Natural Wine' has been for a while, and continues to be a very hot topic.  In general, especially in America, we tend to want things put into neat little boxes; an organic wine has x, y and z, and is different from a biodynamic wine because of a, b and c.  Clean, concise 'rules' that define the category.  The reality of the situation is that wine is art, obviously here I am not talking about the industrial sized producers that make 'beverages' and get to call them wine, but the small artisanal producers. Wine is subjective... and hence we cannot attach these strict parameters that everyone continues to try and define.  What organic and biodynamic wine means to me and alike minds is often very different to what it means to many of the various certifying bodies in Italy and Europe.  The new EU standards for organic certified wines are a very far cry from what every single one of the organic producers I work with and know, have as their own parameters for sulfur used, and treatments allowed in the vineyard.  These laws were made by, and for, the large industrial estates who want to jump on the organic marketing band wagon.  What I love about natural wine is that we can't, nor (I hope) will we ever be able to put it in a nice neat box allowing someone with a clipboard and a fanny pack to come to our estates and decide if we are indeed making 'natural' wine or not.  It is and was a movement born from producers wanting to experiment with making wine in just that manner, as naturally as possible.  For most people, as well as producers, this means absolutely minuscule to zero sulfites ADDED to the wine (important differentiation as this does not apply to the already naturally occurring sulfites in the wine).  This being said, the natural wine movement is a philosophy and a way of thinking and a way of farming... so we can say, for these producers, a way of life.  Unfortunately the natural wine argument normally just talks about the sulfites, but for me the even more important fact is that I know that these producers that are making 'natural wines,' are not only farming organically and often biodynamically... they don't even need to be certified, or care to be, because the idea of poisoning their land with herbicides and pesticides, or over use of copper is a given, it doesn't need to be proven by a sticker or a emblem that just costs more money and causes more headaches.  I am not against certification of course, but for me just seeing the certification is not enough, I'll need to see the vineyards, taste the wine, and above all, get to know the artist making the wine.  Instead, if someone pours me a 'natural' wine, I can for the most part, rest assured that this producer is natural from the vines to the cellar.  Final clarification on natural wines... not all natural wines are good wines.  As always, the wine needs to make you want a second glass... it needs to be drinkable, and enjoyable, as well as be made with respect to the land and hence ourselves."