What is natural wine?One of the challenges for natural wine has been the lack of a universally accepted definition. There are lots of opinions on the subject but most would agree that natural wine starts with sustainable viticulture – usually based on organic or biodynamic principles, with a focus on biodiversity – and minimal intervention in the winery. Most avoid the rectification of sugars or acidity, eschew cultivated yeasts and use little to no sulphur dioxide.
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Articles about the juice of fruit, fermented and sometimes aged. Paired with food or on it’s own it tends to make one think.
This miserable being in my glass was barely three years old yet the color was already a dull bronze. It smelled like camphor, wet dog and naphthalene (moth balls), yet each time I thought “This wine is unsound” I heard some young wine lover admonish me to stop being such a techno-dweeb, and that these were “terroir” aromas (they are not) and “soulful” aromas (only if your soul is a badly damaged place) and “natural” aromas (yes, just like the mildew smell of a shower curtain that needs to be cleaned), and when thought and language are thus corrupted it makes me feel a kind of grief. I like natural wines and the people who make them, and the “movement” deserves better than the wine I was drinking. It needs a few wise elders to police around the perimeter and remind people that flawed wine isn’t some noble-savage form of atavism – it’s just flawed wine, no more virtuous than body odor.
via Musings On A Dubious Wine.- Terry Theise
I am still amazed everyday by the amount of wine experts and wine makers who think there is one answer to what we should like and what we should look for in wine or any beverage for that matter. There are still people who say things like “red wine should x, y , z”. Natural wine is for those people who are uneducated and don’t know what a fault is. Really? In my view an ecosystem of diverse flavor preferences is the only way to a healthy wine market. More over what you consider a fault is not always what I do, who cares. Much like a forest which when it is polluted for too long dies back to a monoculture of flora, sick and not able to heal itself, the wine world is so often wrapped up in a monoculture of “correct” tastes. We tell people how to enjoy wine and what is the right way to enjoy it. That they, the consumer, need to do x, y or z to make sure they get the most of their experience. That they can’t like certain characteristics if they hope to enjoy wine. In what world does this make sense?
An example, freshness seems to be in vogue right now, lighter wines with fresh acidity and lean fruit. I love it! Great stuff, but the ones who pride themselves on this style in the same breath deride wines that are richer and deeper, darker and heavier. “I’m looking for wines that don’t weigh down the palate” is what they say, failing to clarify that they mean is their palate not the royal palate. Isn’t there a place for both. Wine since day one has morphed and changed with the politics, tastes and moods of the moment. A trend that is not going to change anytime soon. Diversity is key. A few hundred years ago a wine that wasn’t sweet was left for the servants, today that same sweet wine is often regulated to the uneducated wine drinker.
Another example and not to beat a throughly beaten horse but I think this also fits very nicely into the insanity around natural wines. Why are established wine professionals so afraid of these wines? I’m stunned. There seems to be a visceral fear of people who enjoy these wines. That this is somehow a crime. That liking brett, a yeast that is praised in other circles as complex and interesting, is tantamount to murder. The statement that “once you are better at identifying brett the sooner you will learn to avoid it” amazes me. What has brett ever done to you? Personally I’ve had many wines with brett that were lovely. Guess what I’ve also had ones that tasted like shit. But what is even more amazing? I also had wines without brett that taste like shit and are 100% clean “correct” wines. I’ve also had 100pt wines from Parker that I dumped down the drain because they didn’t make me happy.. Am I an uneducated wine drinker? Maybe, maybe I don’t “get it”. I still have lots to learn. Having just tasted through a ton of natural wines at Simplesmente Vinho, I will say there were wines I didn’t get. Wines I didn’t like. Wines I thought were off. But what was super cool and what made me happy is that even though I didn’t like them, there were other people digging on them. Loving them. Praising them. Good on them. What harm does it do to me? None. They were happy, we danced, life moved on.
I was thinking about this the other day, when I realized what was missing and what I really wanted for a reality in the world of wine education. I want to see a wine course that talks about figuring out who you are before telling you how to taste and enjoy wine. Why don’t wine classes start with a question period before getting to the lecture? In my mind it’s like a doctor prescreening to diagnose your problem before prescribing a treatment, wine educators should learn who their students are, what they like and what they prefer. Flip the class on their head and make the students the educators for the first day, helping to teach the professor who they are. Only then will you have the tools to convert every person in the room to a wine lover, and not just the ones who while listening to the party line and willing to fall into step and begin a path to getting “it”. What ever the current “it” is.
As someone who has taught classes about wine, I have fallen victim to this top down approach, failing to listen to what my students or customers really wanted, rather forcing them to see things my way. Anyone with a Wine Bible’s worth of wine education probably has tried to explain to the uneducated what they should really be enjoying from the wine list, failing to actually listen to the person staring back at them. Allowing the answer you give to roam to any corner of the wine menu, even the edges that scare you personally.
Competitions might be ground zero for this phenomenon. Stating for the world what is ok to drink and ok to enjoy. I wonder why we are talking about wine on a linear scale from good to bad? I don’t get it. I’ll be tasting wines this year in multiple competitions where I will need to put 2 wines of different styles on the same linear scale and claim one is better than another. Even if you judge within one style, say dry reds, can you honestly say that all dry reds can be placed on a linear scale for quality? Even being more specific, why not in one region/subzone; are all CDP’s made the same? Are all Rioja’s equal? I for one hope not. There are styles that are more extracted, others that are lean and fresh and yet others that are full of funk and craziness. Put all three in one flight and not even the best trained palate will be able to resist the urge to place these wines above and below each other in terms of quality even when quality is not the differentiating factor.
When can we start looking at wine in a more realistic if not holistic flavor gradient? Why are we not evolving past the idea of what to look for in a wine and onto an idea of what to do when you encounter this or that style. My answer will always be that there are styles you will love naturally and ones you grow to love, but just because you do or don’t like one over the other, doesn’t make your answer right or wrong.
Flavor is subjective in so much as how we perceive it. Tim Hanni has pretty much closed the case on that. Why can’t the wine industry and more importantly the old guard of wine dictators get over it and move on. No one has the right answer anymore. If there ever was a right answer in the first place.
An ancient Greek drinking game enjoyed more than 2,000 years ago at social drinking parties has been replicated by researchers.
The game, known as kottabos, involved men gathered in a circle flinging dregs of wine at a target in the centre of the room from a special cup known as a kylix.
7. Avoid the second cheapest bottle on a wine list as, in most restaurants, this is the one the restaurateur pays the least for. Safe in the knowledge that customers don’t want to appear tight, owners tend to put the cheapest wine at a price slightly higher than the house wine – thus making the most profit. In most cases, the house wine will be better and cheaper.
There you have it: Winemakers today are acting like brewers.
I mean that in the best possible way. The small-craft-beer industry is amazing right now. Craft beer has evolved from the hop wars of the last decade into an explosion of styles and expressions, largely thanks to garagistes and virtual tinkerers like Mikkeller. You don’t need to devise a beer for the ages. Devise one for next month.
No surprise that wine executives are quietly nervous about craft beer. And wine types, take note of how Big Beer has elbowed its way into the craft world.
Every wine lover seems to have an “Ah ha!” moment. Was was yours?Learning how, from one of my friend’s parents, to take a jug of Carlo Rossi, sling it over your shoulder, and drink straight from the bottle. The wine sucked but at that moment I truly learned and understood that wine was meant to be consumed and enjoyed. Pure and simple enjoyment. It was Hearty Burgundy and will always have a fond little spot in my heart.