Let me start by saying, “Holy fucking shit, I love wine!”
If you’re offended by my previous comment, this is a good time to move on to another opinion piece as I may swear from time to time to emphasize a point.
As a bit of background, I’ve worked in the restaurant and wine industry since I was 15 years old, not to date myself but that was a while ago. In my career, I’ve worked in restaurants as a Sommelier/Wine Director, wine importing, distribution and as an educator. I’ve seen a few things along my journey and I like to think that the easiest way to learn wine is to break it down into simple building blocks. For example, it’s critical to know that wine is basically 3 simple components; sugar, alcohol and acid. When these components are in harmony or balance only then can a wine be considered good or even great.
I also think learning wine should be a journey, if you want to drink the same wine or brand or grape every time be my guest.
“Who am I to judge? You do you.”
For me personally, I rarely drink the same wine twice as there is far too much to still see. In fact, the more you learn and know about wine, the more you realize how little you know. If you’re doing it right this feeling never ends and that’s the part of the mystique and allure! The only constant is change, and with that said, let’s dive in!
The Incredibly Vague Definition of Natural Wine
I thought it would be a good idea to start this piece with a series on Natural Wine as this has been a lot of heated conversation on the subject lately. What is it? Why is there so much gray area here as there seem to be several camps of dogmatic ideas as to what is considered Natural Wine. The actual definition is incredibly vague as well. Here is what that bastion of truth Wikipedia has to say,
“Natural wine is wine made with minimal chemical and technological intervention, both in growing grapes and making them into wine. The term is used to distinguish such wine from organic wine and biodynamic wine because of differences in cellar practices. All natural wines are, however, farmed organically at a minimum and many growers are biodynamic in the vineyard as well. Strictly speaking, natural wines are wines that are produced without adding or removing anything during winemaking, although some growers add tiny quantities of sulphites at bottling, so that strictly speaking their wines are not natural wines, but ‘only’ organic (and possibly biodynamic).”
Here’s the thing, grapes don’t magically jump from the vine to the bottle. Some Natural Winemakers say you should not do anything at all and let the wine make itself, this is utterly ridiculous. A good winemaker, whether Natural, Conventional or Commercially made wines, all must decide on a myriad of things that influence the final wine. Choosing when to pick, to destem or use whole cluster, what type of vessel is used in fermentation just to name a few. If the winemakers don’t make these decisions and the final wine is shit, who cares that you did it naturally if the end result sucks?
Failed science experiments shouldn’t be marketed as Natural or any other kind of wine. If the wine is sparkling and that wasn’t the original intention and a little Sulphur could have prevented that then you use it. All good wines have one thing in common, the intent of the winemaker to translate the taste of his/her place. How they arrived at it, is never as important as the taste of the final product.