Day 28: Natural Wine Fail

Jon Bonne and Wolfgang Weber everyone…

Coming towards the end of the lineup here at 32 Days, it’s inevitable that some of this ground has already been covered. This post isn’t meant to be negative, per se, but it does seem that the conversation around natural grape growing and winemaking has been derailed somewhat, to the point where we’ve lost track of the most important aspect of this entire debate/movement/whatever: The wines.

The past year has witnessed a groundswell of interest in natural wine … which is great, but as anyone who remembers the early days of the Internets will attest, when the masses knock at the door of a movement, its message is going to get diluted and misinterpreted. Which is what we’ve witnessed happening to natural wine this past year. (And yes, those of us who write for a mass audience get some blame here.) While we love the wines themselves, we’re kinda done with talking about natural wine. Less talk, more drink.

Here’s a handful of ‘reasons’ why the natural wine movement, such as it is, could end up killing the idea natural wine. Think of this as a Heimlich maneuver of sorts to keep natural wine from choking on its own hype.

1. Look what happened to “organic wine.”

2. Because of this recent note we got describing how one California winemaker was “elevating the quality of the grapes through the most natural means possible.” How? “Through a constant experimentation with clones, yeasts, barrel styles, and blending of wines from various lots and barrels. For example, to create the Estate Chardonnay, he produces at least a dozen different wines from the same grapes – each with different yeast strains, each aged in different types of barrels or stainless steel.” When the wine-flack hordes go on like this, IndustriWine doesn’t have to lift a finger.

3. Because bloggers love to write about it. And we know where that leads, don’t we? Conversation about natural wine is important — no, essential — but an echo chamber is just ridiculous.

4. Because, what, 10 percent of the population knows how to pronounce “Coenobium.” And there’s not enough to go around. You should fear the consequences. Looking forward: Alas poor Jura, I knew it well.

5. Have you seen what the Gang of Five’s Beaujolais costs over here nowadays?

6. Because the number of Paris wine bars pouring Breton by the glass may have exceeded the number of wine bars in Paris.

7. Because we’re all going to end up in a Mexican standoff over sulfur.

8. Because definitions are important, and (see below)

9. Because natural wine is about to get pimped out by those who know nothing about it. Ride those coattails straight outta Modesto.

10. Natural is a crappy adjective. When Jon used to cover the beef industry, there was no term more useless than natural. See what we mean? Draw the logical conclusion. (Personally, based on that list, we’re ready to launch the Self-Basted Wine movement.)

11. Because all the blather seems to have forgotten the original point … which was not simply that the chemical farming of the post-war era was killing the beauty of wine, but that the beauty of wine needed to be revered. When you spend all your time arguing the finer points of Fukuoka, you aren’t talking about the fundamental deliciousness, let alone the terroir expression, of great wine. Which, really, is the point.

12. Did we mention bloggers? Really, natural wine can only take so much navel-gazing before it implodes. And that goes for non-bloggy writers, too.

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Up next: You can guess from the title, or; If you can’t…

~ by Cory Cartwright on July 16, 2010.

7 Responses to “Day 28: Natural Wine Fail”

  1. Thank you! I get caught up in the whole natural wine area too, and I promote natural wines whenever given the chance, but the hype has gotten a little out of hand on the internet. The very idea of hype and natural wines is incongruent.

    As to point #5, I don’t think the prices of The Gang of Four (or Five) Beaujolais have risen so much because of the natural wine phenomenon but rather because the wines are usually really, really good, made in small quantities and still generally offer good value in the overall picture.

  2. Hey! Let the self-basted wine movement begin!

    Inspired by the added value of mechanically separated meat we can make even more natural wine if we mechanically separate the juice from the lees! Just like meat is still meat with 150mg of calcium per 100g, this will still be natural wine because I won’t use yeast, sulphur or tartaric acid.

  3. Oh, Canada.

  4. H.U.S.T.L.E.R Hustler

  5. 10 percent of the population knows how to pronounce “Coenobium”? Try 0.1 percent! I think you acknowledge an important point here: while there is (too?) much conversation about natural wine, there’s very little precision about what it is. The signal-to-noise ratio is low.

  6. […] Days is a love and passion for natural wine. We think that’s awesome, so as a sort of uptick to yesterday’s post, we wanted to toss out a dozen or so reasons why natural wine will, well, succeed. Feel free to […]

  7. Nah, the best make to little of it, no worries mate….and steer clear of the natural ‘Big guys’. btw did you taste any of the gang of pour, four five lately, not worth the money, Lapierre has lost it (4 years ago) which might be a good thing.

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