Sit Down, Have a Drink

This is a story about three wines and me.

I had these wines last week at two New York wine bars. it doesn’t particularly matter the wines nor where i had them because this is me at my most subjective “i don’t really care if you agree” so i’ll leave it at that.

So.

I’m standing there, in this New York bar when a bottle appeared that had been towed along from parts unknown. It was a bottle from a very well known natural wine producer. Sans soufre, no temperature control, the whole bit. Me and the person who offered it to me smelled it, sipped it, swished it around our mouths and swallowed. Same old ritual. We discussed it, talked about the producer, the “naturalness” of his methods etc. and i danced around the most serious point about the wine. It was awful. Different reasons were thrown around as to why this was so. Bottle variation, decanting techniques etc. But the truth was i’ve had other bottles from the same producer that have been the same. Rancid, bretty, VA ridden, oxidized messes that have no business being put in anybody’s mouth. Yet there we were, defending them.

A few hours before another bottle was produced. This time from another producer who is making, again, some of the most natural wine on Earth. There was a difference however. This wine needed no apologizing for. It just was. It was vibrant and fresh and pure and quite nearly perfect. It was equal parts drinkable and thoughtful, so you would be excused no matter what pace you drank it at.

The third bottle came a few nights later when, at a different bar, i saw something that i had wanted to try due to a mention months ago. i had no idea whether it was natural or conventional or whatever. It was awful. Extracted, dull, heavy wine. Again, not something i wanted to put in my mouth. Later we discussed the wine with somebody more knowledgeable. It was a wine made with the help of a modern consultant using modern methods. We talked some generic shit about the wine, the style, consultants etc. and left it at that.

Days later something was gnawing at me. Why give a pass to one wine while condemning another so easily? Looking back i have done it before. Plenty of times. Given a bad wine a pass because it was natural, or sans soufre, or sustainable, or traditional, or honest, or whatever else label is floating around. Some wines deserve the praise, others don’t. It has nothing to do with the sensuality of the act of drinking. One wine has a philosophy and a politics attached to it and the other has another, which the winemakers most likely don’t care for one way or another.

In a way, i was putting natural before wine. Philosophy was clouding my aesthetic judgment, and the aesthetics weren’t leaving an impression on me.

i don’t believe in objectivity in aesthetic judgments, or points, or tasting notes that simplify a wine to base parts. i don’t give a shit for blind tasting or scientific evaluation of wine. This isn’t where this blog is going and i would be loathe to go that way. In fact i want it to go the other way, to go back a time when someone telling me they don’t consider Huet natural, or such and such producer innoculates on the sly doesn’t effect what i think of the wines. i don’t want to convey to you something that in the back of my mind i know is false. i also don’t want to convey something that isn’t there in the wine to begin with, some philosophy or idea i imagined.

So what does this mean for me? i’m not sure exactly except for i’d like to start really tasting wine again. i think i know what i really like, for the most part, and i’d like to get back to that kind of drinking. i want wines to hit me like lightingbolts again instead of trying to be under a lightningbolt of my own mental creation, or try to avoid potential lightingbolts because of my own preconceptions about technique, terroir, spoof, etc. i’d like to stop giving a shit about the rest right when i start drinking a bottle of wine. Sure i’ll probably fall 90% into the ‘natural” camp, but that is what it is. i still think some wines made naturally are the best wines on Earth and that fucking with wines can kill them outright. Natural wine is the wine i that got me into wine and it’s what i like, but i hope to never apologize for another bottle of shitty wine or condemn a good bottle of wine.

Do i like wines made with natural yeast?

Yes.

Do i like all wines made with natural yeast?

No

Can i safely distinguish the categories if i know all the fact?

Probably not.

Does this make me full of shit?

Somewhat.

So that is where i stand.

~ by Cory Cartwright on November 6, 2009.

11 Responses to “Sit Down, Have a Drink”

  1. Cory i think i understood this post. Neat.

  2. Bravo, Sir. We’re all a little full of shit, if we’re honest.

  3. LOVE IT! Wish we could have talked more in NY! I hope to see you again but will certainly keep an eye on your blog! Great read Corey!

  4. Years ago I made a distinction between vins philosophe and what I considered to be “real” wines. Dressner and i had a lively discussion about it, but it comes down to this, so-called “natural” wine-making, taken to extremes by someone without the skill of a Barouillet, Descombes, or Puzelat is the same a Rolland, just the other side of the coin. The Philosophy masks the terroir.

    That being said, I prefer my wines natural, but the vignerons I most admire are flexible.

    It was good seeing you. Hope to make it out to SF soon-ish.

  5. The more you learn, the more you realize you have a lot to learn. Of course we’re all full of shit.

  6. Actually Cory, it makes you smart. I too love my wines to be as natural as possible, but it still has to be good. Many of us in the wine business, often say that life is too short to drink bad wine. That applies to all wine. Personally, I think the stridency and doggedness of some natural wine lovers has been rather off-putting. Of course, I have never been a ‘joiner’ and have a natural distrust of group think, even with groups I mostly agree with.
    By the way, I just picked up the Savio Soares Selections for CA, look forward to tasting them with you and the Terroir crew very soon!
    Cheers
    Amy

  7. Nice and honest.

    I think it’s easy to forget what it is we are trying to do when we drink wine. To enjoy ourselves. Too busy analyzing, blind tasting and criticizing. We need to just enjoy the wine we have in front of us and simply drink it. Unless of course we don’t like it, then simply move on.
    For me personally, “real wine” simply goes down easier and I feel fresher the next day. It fills me with a certain energy… Not all “real wine” is good, as you mention, but when it is, it just goes down..

  8. i knew you were full of shit! you’re fired.

  9. VLM: I think this is where i’m heading. i’m just tired of myself and others defending a philosophy, rather than wines and producers. I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past.
    Amy: Just hit us up. We still have time off so…
    Raelinn: pleasure meeting you as well.
    Chris: I feel the same way.
    Guilhaume: fuck you you cant fire me i quit

  10. Cory,
    Brilliant post, though I am so curious about the wines and the bars!
    Ben

  11. Not sure I got it 100%, but it looks like VLM can sell you his remaining Donnhoffs now. Not very natural but sooo impressionist-like…
    Bien vu.
    Eric

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