Day 24: Guilhaume’s Natural Wine Dogma
Guilhaume Gerard is one third of the trio that owns Terroir Natural Wine Merchant in San Francisco. he is French and thus gets the Bastille day post. He almost didn’t post this because of the vitriol it is sure to bring his way. i don’t agree with everything he has to say, but i’m glad he chose to post it. If it makes you angry, go download the mixtape of the summer from Chocolate Bobka.
1- No herbicides, pesticides or any of that Monsanto crap, even once a year.
I always hear the same thing from a lot of different peoples in the wine world:
“If you had a bad year and need to save your crop by spraying, just once, you’ll do it”
How do i feel about that statement?
As far as “natural wine” is concernerned, it’s bullshit. If you understand and respect nature and your costumers, you’ll find a way to learn a lesson from that bad vintage and work your way “naturally” towards a more respectful way of handling difficult situations. I know how it sounds, and i know a whole lot of peoples would disagree with me, but lets just think about what Paolo BEA’s done in 02′ for example, discarded 85% of his grape and made one wine instead of five. One really good wine. Sure, it’s not safe if you need to sell all your wine every vintage to make ends meet, but then, are we talking about good (natural) wine or just any wine?
When i was in ANGER last february, i’ve met a vigneron pouring his wines at the fair. All un-sulfured sauvignon and Gamay from Touraine. Every single wine was tasting amazingly well and i asked him how he managed to attain such purity, flawless wines being tottaly natural?
“I don’t know, the wine makes itself, when it’s good i sell it, when it’s bad i throw it away”
I can only admire what that guy was saying. Too many natural wines are sold as such because they are fucked up. It’s not right. Because you are working as naturally as possible doesn’t mean you can bottle just any disgusting crap and sell it, cheap or expensive, it’s always going to be overpriced. And it gives a bad name to natural wines.
2-No enzymes, dried yeasts, sugar or any additives.
To me, the yeasts issue is simple, if you are inoculating your wines, you might as well make a non vintage. I don’t care it’s not a “flavored” or “designer” yeast. I don’t care if the yeasts in sancerre are sloppy, and it’s hard to ferment sauvignon blanc all the way. Grow pinot, even better, grow chenin blanc for god sake!
Enzymes? I dont know and i’m pretty sure i don’t even want to know what’s that about.
Sugar is definitely the least important as it’s not harmful. Still, if we are talking about natural wines i think chaptalisation should be banned. It’s overused all over burgundy under the pretense that “pinot doesn’t taste good at 12% alcohol”. Again, i’m not here to dictate anything to anyone working their asses off in vineyards and cellars, but PACALET, or DERAIN doesn’t use any sugar and they often make beautiful twelve and a half percent alcohol village or Grand cru wines. They are my favorite burgundy producers, no doubt about it. I think that the fruit is the key, if you understand it, you know when to harvest it and what to make of it. It takes time i’m sure, but it’s the only way to achieve greatness in my opinion.
3-Farming the land. Better wines are coming from peoples understanding there land/fruit.
I don’t like negociants wines much. Some are good, most are barely drinkable market driven juice. I would much rather drink a farmer’s wine. I know, in california and all around the states, there is a trend of winemakers buying whatever fruit and making wine out of it.”we can buy fruit from a 100 years old zinfandel vineyard near lodi”, “My friend just told me about a half a ton of monterey pinot noir”. I want to be a winemaker as well. But it’s not going to happen while i write my blog, run my shop, or live in a city. I cannot seriously pretend to make a wine if i am not here, myself, in the cellar, in the vineyards, everyday it’s needed, let’s say over 300 days of the year?
To me, even the word winemaker is wrong, even the concept of having a winemaker or a
consultant (i’m not talking about a little help from your friends here) is wrong. If you are not in the vineyards, what the hell are you doing in the cellar? I’m often arguing that point. A winemaker and a vineyard manager sounds like a divorced couple to me. The vineyard manager gets to raise the kid for his whole life, and then abandon him. The winemaker, who has never even met the kid, is now in charge of his life. Do this, do that, act like this, go there…… Fuck that!
4- No clones in the vineyard.
It’s kind of a “in a perfect world” kind a dogma, but the clone issue is important to me. I definitely have a lot of respect for peoples like Marc OLLIVIER to name just one ( yes, there are plenty of others) that does not have a single clone in his vineyards. I know it’s more difficult, it takes more time, more attention, it’s prone to diseases and all that. But then, if you just wanted to harvest any fruit, seedless watermelon is a good option.
5-No hybrid grapes
I don’t understand why all those crazy swiss scientists are having so much fun creating new grapes out of a lab… Criminal if you ask me!
you can be as natural as you want, you still need to respect the region your wine is coming from. I know, the commercial driven mentality in the states would make you believe that it’s fine to grow grapes in the middle of a desert. You just need a little water and a little help from your friends (wells fargo, UC Davis, Monsanto…)
You don’t like my dogma, you can argue on the comment section.
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Up next: Movia Lunar under the Full Moon; or: i was promised the best drink ever.