Ok, folks, calm down please.
I knew that I was stirring the pot a bit with my recent commentary regarding what is often referred to as the Natural Wine Movement, but I didn’t expect quite so many personal responses.
Quite a few of you pinged me out of concern that I’d finally succumbed to my consternation and became an old fart (nope – I think that ship has sailed, maybe with the exception of the “old” part); or offering long, thoughtful treatises on why I was wrong in my conclusion that the term “natural wine” is all but meaningless and therefore more of a bane of confusion for consumers than a helpful tag upon which they could hang their hat in terms of better understanding wine in general. Still others worried that I was doing nothing more than bitching about the terminology (guilty!); and then there was the hate mail… because apparently if I have a beef with the term “natural wine,” it means that I hate all things having to do with the movement (uhm… just… NO).
Allow me to offer a more cogent explanation on my position:
I. DO. NOT. HATE. NATURAL. WINES.
I have had many wines that may or may not fit into the Natural Wine camp that I have dearly loved, and many that I thought smelled and/or tasted like rancid donkey ass. I have nothing against making wines in a minimally interventionist style.
The problem is that there is no one who can tell you, me, or anyone else whether or not a wine is “natural.” As I argued at length, the term is simply too vague, and it’s passed time for us in the wine biz to try to rectify that, for the sake of curious consumers everywhere.
Let’s look at the situation another way:
You. Don’t. Have. A. Movement. When. You. Cannot. Define. The. Movement.
Without at least a semblance of an agreed definition/aim/goal, you don’t really have a movement at all; you have vague shared hopes. I’m NOT saying that those hopes don’t have merit (they do), or that they are wrong (they’re probably not). But I am saying that we can’t have our wine cake and eat it, too. “Natural Wine” needs a new moniker, clearer leadership, and better guidelines beyond the pornography definition of “I know when I see it” (or, in this case, smell it).
4 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blah, More Natural Wine, Blah Blah Blah”
Nice job calling out “natural” Joe. Couldn’t agree more.
Natural Wine is just one more conversational bauble that gives wine weenies – we’re wonky by definition – something low-impact to obsess and pontificate about. “Minimally interventionist winemaking” is really shorthand for “didn’t dump a shitload of additives into the tank” and “too undermotivated to work at it”. Is destemming interventionist? I know several people who stubbornly opine that it is. Is picking at a certain brix and possibly picking short of the usual sugar level interventionist? Again, I’ve heard that, too.
If I were to sit and catalog all these little tempests that have either flashed by or taken roots in the collective wine consciousness during my 30 years in the wine biz (which I am waaaay too lazy to do) the list would run on for pages, single spaced and 10 point type. Apparently – and I have been, in the past, guilty of this too – we as wine lovers NEED controversy as some sort of twisted enhancement to our enjoyment of the juice. Maybe it is, as I’ve frequently suspected, just a non-confrontational way of embracing that exclusivity that wine people have become the virtual embodiment of: snobbery masquerading as erudition. I dunno. Whatever the motivation, it’s just getting REALLY old and is exactly the thing that moved me, ten years ago, to move my blog and later my website away from just wine criticism and evaluation and into more beer and whiskey commentary. Wine ceased to be FUN for me, for a long time. I’ve only recently regained my motivation but it took the simple expedient of Not Giving A Shit about the static flying around any room with more than two “wine people” in it. I heartily recommend the NGAS solution to any wine fan who’s feeling a bit over-extended.
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