Day 29: Natural Wine Win

Jon Bonne is the wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and Wolfgang Weber is the former editor of Wine And Spirits. He currently works for Revel Wines.

The common thread here at 32 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 continue this list in the comments.

1. Because 10 percent of the population knows how to pronounce “Coenobium.” And though it’s blasphemy to invoke Rachael Ray within a 10-square-mile radius of Giampiero Bea … how cool is that?

2. Rayas.

3. Bartolo Mascarello.

4. It will make us learn to drink locally again. Out of canteens.

5. It is where innovation lies in the wine industry. R.O. is dead.

6. Because allowing vines to establish deep root systems over time, not to rush them into production, and to find ways to minimize water use is, ultimately, the only sustainable way to farm.

7. Because natural wine will never attack you.

8. Because when it’s good, really good — think Cos Frappato or Bernhard Ott or the Tournelle Savignins — it kicks the crap out of a double rainbow.

9. The mysteries of fermentation are alive and well. It wasn’t until relatively recently that we had any knowledge of the microbial activity responsible for fermentation. Given that much of the discussion surrounding natural wine involves the subject of wild ferments, it’s exciting to see so many winemakers in the Old and New Worlds embrace native yeasts over laboratory selections. In so doing, they’ve tacitly acknowledged that much of what occurs during the transformation of grapes and juice into the nectar of the gods still retains a sense of mystery. And the fact that IndustriWine — while maybe adopting large scale “sustainable” practices like integrated pest management or even organics — will never deviate from yeast formulas and steroid-like enzymes used for production, ensures that wild fermentations will be one of the true distinguishing aspects of artisan winemaking.

10. Hence natural wine always must be made on a small scale. Organics can be scaled up, even biodynamics (Bonterra, anyone?), but that level of unwavering consistency itself is rather antithetical to natural wine. (Consistency, we said. Not quality or winery sanitation.) Because you can’t scale up indigenous yeasts or foot treading to an industrial level. Even if you try and outsource it to Bangalore.

11. Natural wine kicks ass with all kinds of food! From Bernard Baudry’s savage Franc de Pied expression of Chinon paired with the thin slices of lamb cooked in steaming, spicy broth at Old Mandarin Islamic in San Francisco, to the presence of Morgons from Marcel Lapierre and Jean Foillard on lists at some of the top dining destinations in the world, the versatility, moderate alcohol levels and food-friendly character of so many of these wines is perhaps the strongest argument around for natural viticulture and winemaking. Now, get in my belly!

12. If Cristal is (okay, was ) Jay Z’s Champagne of choice, we’d like to think that Yelle is a Larmandier Bernier fan. Orange schnapps optional, of course.

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~ by Cory Cartwright on July 17, 2010.

4 Responses to “Day 29: Natural Wine Win”

  1. Points Nine and Ten!

  2. To point #9 – any honest winemaker will admit that much of this fermentation thing (or controlled spoilage, as I call it) happens in what is essentially a black box. We don’t really understand it all that well

    Good posts both day!

  3. To Point 12: Yelle seems more like a fan of “Les Cocktails Sex and the City 2” made with industrial Moet and sweet stuff:

  4. Great follow-up!
    Here’s another reason why natural wine will succeed, albeit in small quantities:
    Because it has become fashionable to “make natural wine” and that means there is tons of really crappy “natural wine” out on the market now. It is this crappy stuff that might sell to the masses, leaving the really good stuff for us.
    And…. “natural wine” as a term may fade out, but the wine won’t. It has been around for centuries, just under a different name.

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