And On The Final Day
This is some sort of crappy wrap up post to 32 Days. It is rambling, poorly written, long, ambiguous and completely useless. i hope you enjoy it.
First off let me thank everyone who participated this year. i can’t tell you how great it is to have the range of people involved actually wanting to write for me for nothing except for their enthusiasm for the subject. My hat is off to all of you.
We were sitting in Giovanni’s home with Luigi and Tony, Elvira and Francesco the weaver, drinking Giovanni’s excellent wine. Below us in the basement was Giuseppe’s wine room, the hum of thousands of crushed grapes fermenting. Teodalinda’s wine-flushed face as she posed for a photograph with her husband and a glass of their wine, the ever ringing bells reminding one of the presence of time even in a place like Bucita. They are all gone now.
– Alfonso Cevola
Most of us want authentic wine, in the sense of wine that tastes of the grapes used to make it — of nature — and not of the methods and equipment or new oak.
– Edward Behr
Getting smashed, eating well, and laughing with good friends are key to our movement.
– Joe Dressner
Fear the Thunderbird
– Hardy Wallace
Do we really care if there is a definition for “natural wine”?
Last night i was sitting down and drinking a bottle of Domaine Gramenon Poignee de Raisin. It’s a natural wine. It’s not a traditional wine, given that is made under carbonic maceration. It’s a vin de soif, made for drinking right now.
Why is it natural?
Too often the debate on natural wines goes down a semantic rabbit hole, but instead of tea parties and disappearing cats it is just a debate on the word “natural” with one side claiming that no wine can ever be truly natural and the other side trying to push some dogmatic definition and quite few people on the sideline shaking their heads and, you know, drinking.
It’s a bit of a maddening situation, i agree, but bear with me.
When i started 31 Days of Natural Wine i sort of had the idea that people would drink a bottle of wine, talk about it, maybe say something about the producer and be done with it. A collection of fleshed out tasting notes. What i got was something different indeed. People were passionate about this thing that has no real definition, they were sending me daily updates on interviews, begging me for more time, making videos, trying to fit the natural wine movement into larger questions of globalization and tradition. i was taken aback by the quality of the posts i got. The one post (which i still enjoy) that attempted to define natural wine has been abandoned by it’s creator. Any attempt to find a dogmatic line from any group of winemakers will meet a dead end (trust me), but we bloggers have no problem defining rules for something we don’t participate in on a working level. Dogma is dead. We need to learn to listen more to people who know what they are talking about.
So we’re no closer to a definition, but we’re still drinking.
In the past year the word “natural” has gotten a lot of buzz, landing high profile articles in The New York Times and other national publications. New York, LA, and San Francisco have all had “Natural Wine Weeks” and lists nationwide have started to advertise their naturalness (i’m not taking credit for any of this, of course. This is the result of winemakers, importers, and retailers putting their money where their mouth is when it wasn’t trendy to do so, and sticking it out until others caught on).
last year Jeremy Parzen wrote a piece for me called “Nothing Natural About It” in which he talked about Produttori del Barbaresco amongst other things. Now Produttori isn’t a natural winemaker. In fact, using VLM’s graph it would be closer to “industrial” rather than “natural.” i got several e-mails about this post, as did Jeremy, for putting such a producer in a “natural” wine series. Folks said i should have edited it, or not allowed it at all. This last year i have become obsessed to a point with the wines of Produttori. i started trying them as a result of this post, as i was curious, and found i was in love. There was something pure and simple about the wines. They are yeasted, made on a large scale, from a variety of different growers using what i imagine to be a variety of different farming techniques. i still love the wines. i’ll gladly drink them alongside La Tesniere or Overnoy’s savagnins and i will gladly drink it before some flawed natural wines that, to paraphrase Joe Dressner, would make Jules Chauvet turn over in his grave. If you’re not drinking what you like, or you’re drinking out of principal rather than pleasure you’re missing the point.
This year for 32 Days folks cast a wide net and went to Slovenia, New Zealand, Lovely California, Italy, France, Spain, and Texas. We even had a cider from Norway make an appearance. Last year there was Lebanon and Canada as well. What ties them all together? Do we get a better understanding of the term natural when we take a wide view? Do we even care when there is so much wine out there to be enjoyed?
The fact that natural wines has become more and more of a marketing tool is now beyond dispute. the biggest criticism i got this year, both privately and publicly was that i let the blog become a marketing tool for retailers and importers, which got in the way of the wine. Both years i’ve done this i’ve asserted very little editorial control, nor have i denied anyone who has wanted to post the opportunity to do so. Some people defended this, some were critical of this. i’m not sure exactly how to approach this after the fact, except to say your response is definitely needed.
At the end of the day, as Eric Texier so brilliantly reminded us, there are real issues that need to be discussed by people actually doing the work. Trendy wine bars, and California bloggers, and journalists, and the such have gotten so caught up in stupid little debates over carbonic maceration or orange wine that we have no idea about some of the real pressing issues that helped to fuel the movement in the first place.
So have you learned anything about natural wine? i would hope that somebody went out during this and bought something, poured themselves a glass or two or three and enjoyed it. Or didn’t enjoy it. i hope they sat beside their husband or wife or the guy that mows their lawn and simply drank. Maybe they liked it, or wondered what the hoopla was all about.
Perhaps we’re simply talking too much about the subject, endlessly going over the same tired road and staking positions on pre-conceived notions instead of drinking for the pure act of pleasure. Eric Texier, in an interview with Edible San Francisco, says “Making natural wines is now a political act in France. And therefore the intention is more important than the result.” How boring is that? Are we doing the same thing with how we drink? Do you look at bottle of wine and wonder how natural it is, and does that effect your judgment of the wine? i know i have and i should be slapped for that. Defending bad wine of any kind as a political act won’t get anyone anywhere in the long run.
Over on winedisorder a long time poster said something that struck me regarding natural wines. It was “these terms, like many used in subjective analysis, strike me as being much like the supreme court definition of obscenity – I know it when i see it.” It’s not a definition of natural that is likely to please the critics of the term, but i believe it works. i firmly believe that arguing the point is stupid, and we should all take a step back, grab a drink and see if we actually like what we taste. i guarantee that will be much more important than reading any arguments online.