Natural or nonsense?

There is a bit of an ongoing conflict in the wonderful, wacky world of wine. The movement of “natural wines” is what I’m talking about. I still have my doubts that it will ever become mainstream, though it doesn’t seem to be going away either. There are many champions of its cause. I just have my doubts about the cause itself.

There is an overlap between various beliefs, causes and categories here. There is good old fashioned organic, which is laudable but has slightly different definitions in different countries. I think we can all support the reduction of pesticides and herbicides if it is done without impoverishing either environment, producer or consumer. Then there is Biodynamic production, which follows the principles of Rudolph Steiner and his stellar/lunar cycles of timings and treatments. It is a kind of Homeopathy blended with Zodiac signs (I’m a Leo by the way).

Then there are “Natural Wines”. At this point can I just mention that there is no legal definition of natural wines. However, they are easy to spot. They are cloudier, smellier, often more acidic (acrid?), juicier and certainly more wacky than mainstream wines. Often likened to cidery, vinegary, rotten sherry, which might not sound appealing. They are wines that are pretty much left to their own devices without a winemaker intervening. A bit like taking a bunch of grapes in your kitchen, mashing them up and leaving them in a jug to “see what happens”. Often what happens is not a pleasant sight, smell

or taste (try it!).

It has taken many, many years for humanity to understand, and to a degree control, what happens in your jug. “Natural Wine” producers are throwing out that control book. The rebellion against the machine is not a new fight for Luddites. It enables small, marginal producers to establish a huge point of difference against the mainstream. You know what? That is something that I can support, however, doesn’t mean I have to like drinking it.

I can safely say I am an avid supporter of lower vineyard chemical treatments and sustainable farming. I am also a strong supporter of lowering and strict control over the addition of Sulphur to wines. The total elimination of Sulphur in wine is impossible because it is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Added Sulphur is already controlled but better hygiene and understanding of viticulture & fermentation can reduce “added Sulphur” much further. When you visit a winery, you should judge its cleanliness as if it were a professional kitchen. It should be spotless and with as few un-recognisable ingredients as possible.

Wine is, after all, one of your five a day.

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