March 21, 2015
In my book, The Wines of France, the Essential Guide for Savvy Shoppers (I hated the title BTW), I referred to these wines as hypernatural – for lack of a better term. Now, the snark in me is tempted to call them Paleo wines.
I think all of us who care to some degree about the issue are trying to figure out how to define just what makes one wine “natural” and another “merely” biodynamic.
Wo we start with the mantra “Nothing added, nothing taken away.” Yet when it served their purposes, the so-called Naturists acquiesced and added a bit of the dreaded so2 at bottling. Like a slew of other eco-conscious vintners.
But let’s revisit that mantra. Just where does that “Nothing added, nothing taken away” start? In the vines? Let’s draw some clear lines here. Does it mean no pruning, no training of vines? Have you ever seen an untrained, unpruned vine? It quickly becomes an impenetrable jungle.
And let’s start at an even earlier stage: the planting of the vine. Why would the vin natur folk – like the ones investing in qvevri and amphorae -- accept grafted vines? Shouldn’t they advocate and indeed plant franc de pied? I mean isn’t it “adding” something rather critical to the vine to graft it onto another vine, and a vine of essentially different origin, the hybridization of which may have involved some ampelographic alchemy for all we (or at least I) know?
Something had to be done to defeat phylloxera, you argue? Well, what about flavescence? And those are just two examples of causes for intervention, of which there must be thousands.
What I’m getting at is that it seems to me that the Paleo crowd goes rather easy on itself. Its mantras express rules it can follow – until they can’t. Yesteryear’s practices were preferable to today’s – until they aren’t.
There are plenty of really good “natural wines.” There are also plenty of lousy ones. My own mantra is: first master the craft of making wine; then think about making a statement with your wine.
And while you’re judging the people who aren’t in your congregation, please look closely at every single one of your principles and take each to its logical conclusion.