Natural Wine: The Ugly Underbelly

NaturalwineI can’t recall an example within the wine industry where one product category was largely defined by its proponents’ denigration of competing products. Marketing-by-denigration isn’t actually common in any product category with the prominent exception of politics where candidates for office routinely denigrate their opposition in order to prop up themselves and their own candidacy.

Proponents of the Natural Wine movement, however, seem to be the anomaly in the wine business: in order to gain attention for the wines, gain legitimacy for the wines and in order to define the wines, proponents of Natural Wine have taken to denigrating wines and winemakers that, in their view, fall too far outside the “Natural Wine orbit.

This marketing strategy concerns me. Consider:

“I think that these are two very different worlds or markets out there (ie, the ‘natural/organic/ecological/biodynamic/macrobiotic/whatever’ wine market as opposed to ‘conventional/industrial/chemical/mass-produced/supermarket wine market), and there will always be room for both. I think it’s like for any other product: ie utility cars / sports cars, or any everyday bog-standard product / quality special product.
Fabio Bartelomei

“Natural winemaking will always produce a better, more individual wine than conventional methods used on the same site…..A natural winemaker is a genuine artisan. Natural winemaking requires skill, patience, nerve, and hard physical labour. In most cases it brings small financial rewards. There is more money, less risk, and far less work in making wine conventionally.”
More Than Organic

“If you are intervening too much you’re not an authentic, but a commercial product….Today the lowest common denominator of wine is higher but it is still incredibly mediocre.”
Douglas Wregg

“Natural wines have purer flavours, more personality and are easier to digest. They are also better for you….The heavy-handed use of synthetic fertilizers, weed-killers, fungicides, pesticides and inappropriately applied heavy metals like copper have destroyed soil life in most vineyards….Wine today is far removed from its original definition of fermented grape juice. It is the by-product of chemically induced and tightly controlled fermentation through the aid of additives and structure altering equipment. Why? Because the vast majority of wine has become about the bottom line. I tis about producing more and more for less and less cash. It’s about producing it as quickly as possible then flogging a brand—an illusion of people at one with the earth, translating a grape and a piece of earth into a bottle.”
Isabelle Legeron

No matter what you call minimal intervention wines, it’s all about returning to a more sensible time in wine making when an ego stayed out of the winemaking and stayed in the farming and what was in the glass dazzled….More wine makers who are happy with small scale production will see if they make the wine they actually want to drink, there are customers waiting to drink with them. And happily, more and more farmers will be going organic, biodynamic and the real love of farming will come back to the vigneron.”
Alice Feiring

“The Natural Wine Movement doe not expect the Wine Industrial Complex to be won over to natural fermentation, low sulphur and what-have-you. Even if it were, it would still be making unfathomable, undrinkable stuff.”
Joe Dressner (deceased)

IT CAN BE NO OTHER WAY
This is merely the very tippy top of a very deep and wide collection of disdain that proponents of the natural wine movement regularly heap upon wines and winemakers they deem not sufficiently dedicated to making real wine.

And yet it can be no other way for the simple reason that the Natural wine movement is based upon the notion that only extreme non-intervention in the vineyard and cellar can result in authentic wine or wine that accurately depicts a terroir. This idea of course has no merit. However, that aside, note that in order for those promoting the virtues of Natural Wine to make their case, they must make the concurrent case against “commercial” or “industrial” wines. The case for Natural Wine cannot be made without making a case against non-Natural wine.

I’m again trying to recall a marketing effort in the wine industry by any association or group or collection of producers or promoters that demands denigration of other products in order to succeed. I can’t come up with an example.

This alone should go a long way toward explaining why so very much of late has been written about the Natural wine movement, against the natural wine movement and in defense of the natural wine movement. The simple fact is that natural wine promoters have not mustered the the necessary creativity to find a way to explain their wines and their philosophy without also denigrating their peers. It’s a little ugly to these eyes…and I’m a publicist for heaven’s sake.

THE MEANING OF THE MOVEMENT
This is not to accuse the natural wine movement of insincerity. There is no question of the passion that drives many in the movement. Nor can it be said that the wines coming out of this movement are not interesting, inspiring, or delicious.The fact that some “natural” wine is criticized as flawed is an observation about some bottles, not a condemnation of the category.

What’s most important to understand about the natural wine movement is its meaning. I see it not as much a response to perceived homogenization of wine styles or “Parkerized” wines or industrial wines. No. This natural wine movement is much more. It exists as part of a response to a much smaller world where regionalism has been replaced by globalism. It is the slow food movement, the anti-globalization movement, the embrace of Rachel Carson, the culture’s retreat from ordered sectarianism into a more disorderly paganism. And in many cases it is a desire by some to find meaning for their lives in a world that too often can sweep them up into digital collectivism that threatens to strip the individual of their individuality.

The response is often to strike out against the machine. But in the world of wine, the precieved machine is in decay and has been in decay for quite some time. The diversity within the world of wine has never been as great as it is now, and whether the “Naturalists” appreciate this or not, it is a fact that more artisan winemakers toil today than ever before, producing wines of great individuality in a world where the depiction of terroir is the be all end all, both in marketing and in reality. The Naturalists are in fact not leading a charge away from industrial or commercial wines. That charge began long ago and it was begun by a generation of winemakers that took to crafting artisan wines that depict a piece of dirt and doing so without denigrating anyone else.

WATCHING FOR SOMETHING BETTER
I will be keenly watching to see whether the current proponents of Natural Wine are capable of presenting their wines without the aid of a bludgeon and without the need to denigrate those that look different than they do. As long as the terms “natural” or “authentic” are attached to their movement, I fear they will be bound to an adversarial relationship with most of the rest of the wine industry. Personally, I like the term “Minimalist” to describe the wines and philosophy that these passionate folks represent.

Until, however, they are able to rid themselves of their false veneer of superiority and until they can find a way to discuss their ambitions without looking down their crooked noses at the rest of the wine world, they will find themselves constantly on the defensive and looking quite ugly as they defend the rickety perch they are attempting to build.
_________________________

UPDATE: Here is one more example of the denigration in which it is claimed non-Natural wines will give you a rash if you drink them after sampling a Natural Wine


73 Responses

  1. Strappo - January 2, 2012

    Tom, I think you nailed the Manichean extremism of more than a few people who, in their own way, tout natural wines. Your comment that the “naturalists” haven’t yet created a vocabulary to express their position and the wines in positive terms, rather than relying very heavily on a stark opposition, strikes at the crux of this problem.
    Mystics may define God in negative terms, but the church won’t survive doing that.

  2. Steve Heimoff - January 2, 2012

    Could agree with you more, Tom. There’s something in the ideology of the natural wine people that reminds me of the tea party.

  3. Steve Heimoff - January 2, 2012

    Oops, shoulda said “couldn’t” not “could.” Sorry.

  4. Wijnfolie Be - January 2, 2012

    To be honest : the ‘industrial’ wine world denigrates the natural wine movement since the beginning as well. E.g. lies about ‘winemaking without using SO² is impossible’ … negative comments on the ‘vin de soif’-style like : ‘this is some lemonade with some alcohol…’ or critisizing some aroma’s as “off-aroma’s” allthough that are only ‘natural-occuring’ aroma’s…
    It is more like 2 opposites.
    like :
    I am fond of the ‘attacking soccer’ – style . Therefore I dislike the ‘catenaccio’… But I think ‘catenaccio’ has its merits….
    So I like natural wines.
    I do not drink ‘accidified wines’, ‘oversulfited wines’, ‘wines with flavour-yeast addes’ and so on…
    But I’m glad that those wines exist…
    That leaves more ‘natural wine’ for me ;-))
    PS:
    If every winemaker would be honest about what he/she does in the vineyard and in the cellar, there wouldn’t even be an issue about natural/non-natural…. Everything would be very clear to the consumer ;-)
    And … maybe it would not be black/white, think about that in both ways

  5. SUAMW - January 2, 2012

    Strappo
    Could it be that these people have not come up with terminology because they hold fantasy-like conceptualizations of wine? Interesting when one conceives of wine in terms of chemistry, microbiology and sensory physiology (which, unlike fantasy, are real and tangible) the nomenclature and parlance comes so much easier….

  6. Anna Marie dos Remedios - January 2, 2012

    Tom,
    I agree and appreciate your description of The Meaning of the Movement. All too often, when natural wines are blogged about, the wines are all lumped together as bad or “rustic”.
    As a natural winemaker, I find myself defending/explaining my minimalist winemaking techniques all the time, not to denigrate other more manipulated wines necessarily but to explain why natural winemaking create wines of less predictability.
    I choose to trust the nature and allow the wine to ferment without total control. I don’t make each vintage fit a “protocol” through manipulation. I do understand that many wineries want/need consistency from vintage to vintage and that perhaps, natural winemaking doesn’t provide that structure. I find it a luxury that I can choose to make wines with less manipulation and hope that my wines are understood and enjoyed by others.
    This lack of control is a scary concept in the wine industry, my studies through UC Davis certainly did not support native yeast fermentations, in fact the coursework instilled FEAR of the risk-ridden natural winemaking style.
    All I try to tell people in my tasting room is that natural winemaking works for me.
    Its not for everyone. But that’s what makes the wine world so interesting.
    Thanks for your insightful post.
    Anna Marie dos Remedios
    Winemaker/ Idle Hour Winery

  7. LCFwino - January 2, 2012

    I’ve come to know a few “natural” winemakers over the last two years. Most are pretty humble, and extraordinarily careful about how they talk about wine. The methods involved pretty much require consideration and thought, and these traits for the most part to carry over to the personalities involved. 
    Most of the extreme positions come from those who do not make wine.  And it seems to me the strongest venom comes not from those actually making “natural” wine, but is aimed AT them. 

  8. Julien Weiller - January 2, 2012

    Ah Steve, you know you do don’t don’t. Don’t you know you do! I could agree with you more.

  9. Bradley Cooper - January 2, 2012

    Much of the zealous defense of natural wines (whatever natural means) comes from the young and passionate. Sometimes their fervor creates blinders to other possibilities. Pointing out the weaknesses of others is poor way to support your argument. If I recall, these are Red Herring or Straw Man defenses and, as such, are invalid.

  10. Brad Kitson - January 2, 2012

    My production in 2010 was 116 cases. I use SO2 and commercial yeast. I could explain why and how much. It doesn’t matter how much care I put into making our wines. As defined by the “natural” wine movement, I am an industrial winemaker. Thanks a lot.

  11. Alicefeiring - January 2, 2012

    I’m delighted to be included in this line up, but I’m not sure what was actually objectionable in my pull quote. Was I saying something that isn’t true? If there were ingredient and process labeling on wines, this wouldn’t be necessary. I hardly think saying wines are yeasted, bacteriaed, enzymed, RO-ed, MOXed, acidified etc is Manichean or mud-slinging but just raising awareness that there are winemakers that do, and winemakers that don’t. And is there something odd with saying that wines without additives are ‘purer?’ Pure being a scary word to me, but isn’t that just natural?

  12. Edible Arts - January 2, 2012

    Writers who promote natural wine through blanket condemnations of “intervention” are just confused. Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that they are right that “only extreme non-intervention in the vineyard and cellar can result in authentic wine or wine that accurately depicts a terroir.” Even given this questionable assumption, the fact that a wine reflects terroir tells us little about whether it is well-structured, balanced, complex, concentrated, enjoyable overall, etc. “Reflects terroir” is an important consideration in evaluating wine, but it is an independent criterion, not necessarily related to quality. To assume that it is a necessary condition for a wine worth drinking is a crabbed and blinkered vision of what wine can be.
    You are right to see the natural wine movement as akin to the locavore/slow-food movement. Whether it is anti-globalization is less clear since many promoters of natural wine have a deep interest in wine regions throughout the world. (I am not sure how Rachel Carson fits here. Environmental pollution is global problem that requires global solutions.) These movements are not without their virtues. The problem with the “Manichean” promotional strategies that you rightly condemn is that the world (like wine-drinking) is too complex to fit into a binary conceptual scheme of good guys vs.bad guys.

  13. Tom Wark - January 2, 2012

    Alice, there is an strong implication in your words that those outside the minimalist camp make wine to serve their ego and don’t have a real love of farming.

  14. Mike Ratcliffe - January 2, 2012

    Really interesting…

  15. David Vergari - January 2, 2012

    Ah, the Natural Wine faction…brought to you by people who heap scorn upon those who try to make an honest living making wine “outside the tent” stylistically …whose ranks include many who never made wine commercially–let alone tried to sell it…and base their Orthodoxy on a Belief System. One acknowledges their passion and panache, but respect is another kettle of fish. Also, the comment that UCD instilled fear about native yeast ferments is a load of rubbish, at least when I matriculated there. We were simply told about the risks involved with this approach. There was no attempt to discourage anyone from taking this path.

  16. Rick - January 2, 2012

    I love natural wines, buy them and drink them, but to me excessive love for them is also exaggerated. It is a bit like women (sorry ladies for the comparison): i like a wild girl without make up, but i see the attraction of a well dressed lady of the world too. I once wrote a blog on it (in dutch).Natural wines are like children from a free education: very interesting free spirits that develop their talents unhampered, and so sometimes go wild and wrong, but when it works they’re great, interestng and lovely. Other wines are like children that developed their talent in a more structured way, say for example a famous violist or a scientist, where years of formation were needed to reach the summit they are on, and ok some of them suffer some psychological damage on the way to the top when a parent or a teacher overdid it, but when the education was succesful they become geniuses. But both can become great people, although on a different way, and one should not condemn. I use since a while a difference between industrial wines (enormous quantities, anonimous, no soul, and in fact often a lie) and real wines (made by real people you can talk to, from real vineyards, and without techniques that hide where they come from). I sometimes call them classical as opposed to natural, but to me they just have to be real. And by the way, most really good winemakers see it this way too. just look in their cellars…

  17. WineLush - January 2, 2012

    Tom, the more I read your blog, I realize how much you remind me of a cross between Glenn Beck & Michelle Bachmann. Where’s your chalkboard? Trace the evils of Natural wine from the middle ages to the present and somehow blame it on the masterminds who are evil wine Fascists and must be destroyed. Good grief, enough already. There’s a lot of room in this world for all types of different styles of wine making & opinions that are different from yours.

  18. Tom Wark - January 2, 2012

    Lush,
    They took my chalk board when I lost my show and the caucus. Also, if it were my intention to remove different opinions from this world, I’d be insane, wouldn’t I…insofar as such a thing isn’t possible. And of course, in the end, my opinions are just that.

  19. Alicefeiring - January 2, 2012

    Tom, that’s taken out of context. I have a very hard time with posts that are supposed to be merely inflammatory, as this one is. But
    there is a huge difference between the kind of wine that is truly artisinal and made with nature, as opposed to a wine that is made towards a market.
    Do you really believe that triage wine making, where the winemaker changes as frequently as wait staff, is the same as a one (or three) man band, or that the same kind of wine can be made in large quantities as from small? Do you believe the same kind of winemaking can be done when it is a business and have marketing directors formulating the taste as when someone works with nature directly? This is not a black and white situation, there are many examples of winemaking and farming in between.

  20. Tom Madrecki - Wine Lines - January 2, 2012

    Appreciate much of the sentiment of the article, but have some thoughts on the matter…
    I likewise agree that marketing the wine as “minimalist” or “just different” would be beneficial, as it would set aside the ugly back-and-forth that has come to characterize the debate.
    I view this not in terms of whether there is a right or wrong way to make wine. To me, it isn’t a moral argument, or an ethical one, or anything of the sort. It’s a matter of hedonism.
    There is something to be said about some natural / minimalist wines having truly unique flavor and aroma profiles. The same can be said about many other wines treated with chemicals and industrial farming, but across the board, I feel reasonably safe in asserting that a natural wine has an exponentially greater chance of being “different.” Some of that is do to small productions, some of it is just a matter of percentages. If I pick up a bottle of natural wine, I feel as if I have a higher chance of tasting something interesting / something I haven’t had before / something that might make for a dynamic food-pairing.
    I spent the summer working in Noma and Le Chateaubriand, two restaurants that pretty much only stock natural or biodynamic wines. I also had the luxury of meeting several natural wine importers and staying with Alexander Bain and Sebastien Riffault in Tracy-sur-Loire and Sancerre, respectively. I will grant you that many proponents of natural wine have a tendency to come across as arrogant, but at the end of the day, all I truly care about is what is in my glass. I will drink what I want, see how it fits with the meal I’m preparing, etc. Find me a cherry-inflected industrial Jura and I’ll try it. Likewise for a peculiar, funky “orange wine” from Italy. Thing is, natural producers have those styles available, and because of the increased demand for natural / bio products, they are that much easier to obtain in the U.S.

  21. John Kelly - January 2, 2012

    Aside from Anna Marie, Messrs. Kitson, Cooper and Ratcliffe, and my friend Dave Vergari—who are the rest of you people, and what entitles you to put labels on the wines WE are making?
    Proponents of some so-called “natural wine movement” are like teenagers in the giddy rush of hormonal overload who think they are the first people in history to discover sex.
    Wine has been made throughout history on a human scale, by people who care about the land and the craft, and could not give a crap about what the rest of you think.
    Large-scale wine production is new in history. I for one am glad it exists, as it has brought more consumers into the pool. It is large-scale production (alongside other technological advancements in the line of market development and logistics) that has enabled the explosive growth of human-scale production.
    It is the current generation of proselytizers that have put such a shine on “natural” that it has become a marketing goal. We have you guys to thank for regulations—sure to come from USDA or some other gov’t agency near you—that will define what “natural” means. And like “organic” those regulations will have loopholes in them big enough for the large-scale producers to drive through.
    And to those calling for ingredient and process labeling—get over it, this will NEVER happen. Name me one other consumer product that has similar requirements. Just one.
    The law cannot require me to divulge my intellectual property. All it can do is require me to tell you the composition of what actually remains in the bottle—not how it got there, or why.

  22. Caroline - January 2, 2012

    Hi Tom,
    I read your post with interest for several reasons… The first being that I sold regular quite technical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for quite a few years for a living, and I can assure you that there is plenty of back stabbing going on in the wine biz.. I am not saying this is something I adhere to or enjoy but fact is that just about every medium and small sized NZ winery will back stab the likes of Constellation in a very similar way your describe here above :-(
    Secondly I was actually just today writing up my report of the Natural European Wine Conference in Zurich so obviously I was v interested in your thoughts. I learned many things at the conference, but I think the most important one was that there are lots of very passionate small producers out there who really want to make the a wine which reflects their terroir and who feel that natural wine does just that. By these producers I do not mean the lazy natural wine producers who do as little as possible in the sense that they do not tend to their vines, their winery is a tip and they just hope for a higher price cause their wine is natural. I know there are plenty of those people out there (I experienced some of it first hand this summer..)and thinking of some of them I fear they may be part of your denigrating marketing mob… But a lot of producers I met in Zurich were generally interested in making high quality wine. Most of their production will be consumed locally as with all the work in the vineyard and winery there is not much time left to market the end product… The Natural European Wines Conference was all about learning more about soils, yeasts and how one can best express the true notion of one’s terroir… And I am very happy to say that there was no back stabbing of the regular/non natural wines :-)

  23. Scott C Arellano Borges - January 2, 2012

    I wonder if your concern for the natural wine phenomenon is truly sincere. I can agree with you that natural wine should be meant to stand on their own merits aside from their proclaimed “purity”, but for some reason I get the impression from this attack post that there is an ulterior motive behind it.

  24. Tai-Ran Niew - January 2, 2012

    Very often the most severe of wine activists and moralists are not those who actually toil on the land.
    I understand the very nature of PR, marketing and selling wine is, by definition, one step removed from the product itself . But does what is actually being SAID about the wine going to change how it TASTES?
    Yes, any attempt to seek any form of moral high-ground (on both sides) is annoying and will inevitably lead to verbal jousting on the Internet, but is there any chance that we can not just discuss how wine is made(1) and also focus on how it tastes?
    Are the natural-winistas really not going to enjoy a 64 Latour or 96 Rayas? Are the anti-natural-winistas really not going enjoy Tom Shobbrook’s Syrah? If the result of triage wine-making (accidentally, for the sake of argument) is an ethereal work of art, I will drink that. If an artisanal winemaker makes a completely rubbish barrel of rancid vinegar, I won’t. And, critically, vice versa. The skill (and TASTE!) of a vigneron and winemaker is key, not just his/her philosophy of life.
    If every marketing department, PR firm, wine writer and advocate were to disappear, will people stop looking for interesting, expressive, delicious wine to drink? Are consumers really so passive and devoid of any form of imagination and judgment?
    Perhaps I am too naive, but I have always hoped that the proof is in the glass. And the real problem in wine is not how it is made, but how every form of marketing and advocacy (remember Old vs. New World? Low vs. High Alcohol? ) is determined to take it away from what it is all about, which is enjoying it with good food and good company.
    (1) Environmental sustainability is a completely separate issue and there are very few scientific and properly holistic discussion of this topic.

  25. Tom Wark - January 2, 2012

    But Alice, you make it sound as though all but Natural Wine is purely market driven and has not artisinal effort behind it. That’s not true at all.
    And I’m not even sure what “triage” winemaking is. Nor do I have an idea how many wineries you think engage in it. But again, you are leaving the impression that all but natural winemakers do this. You are making it sound like a black and white situation. And I’ve never met a marketing director that formulates wine and I’ve worked with lots of wineries.

  26. Tom Wark - January 2, 2012

    Caroline,
    I have no doubt and I’m sure that the “naturalists” are not only looking to make really great wines, but that they are. However, there are also many hundreds if not thousands of non naturalists that are also quite bent on displaying terroir and making great wines and who in fact do just this. The so-called natural winemakers who promote the process to often leave the impression that none but natural winemakers are really aiming at displaying terroir. And in the course of leaving this impression, they also leave the impression that non-natural winemakers are making something “fake”. It’s not a pretty way to market wine.

  27. Tom Wark - January 2, 2012

    Scott:
    I’m open to criticism. So, by all means, speculate on this ulterior motive.

  28. Rick - January 2, 2012

    Shouldn’t we blame more the people who sell (or market) natural wine than the ones who make it ? Most natural winemakers are pretty cool about it, and i rarely heard them criticise a neighbour who works differently (excluding these neighbours whose pesticides and herbicides…yes).

  29. Joseph Di Blasi - January 3, 2012

    Tom,
    This is an interesting post, and you bring up some interesting points. But, I have to ask, is it considered denigration when many of the statements used are true? Statements like «There is more money, less risk, and far less work in making wine conventionally » and «The heavy-handed use of synthetic fertilizers, weed-killers, fungicides, pesticides and inappropriately applied heavy metals like copper have destroyed soil life in most vineyards »? The only reason why statements like the one’s quoted can be denigrating is because they are often true, and the receiving end feels threatened by the fact that the more consumers become aware of what is allowed to happen in winemaking, or added in winemaking, the more they will demand to know what is in that bottle of wine they are drinking. This will eventually lead to pressure to list the ingredients on the back label, which is what many, not all, winemakers are afraid of.
    Unfortunately, as you state, in order to make these statements, proponents of natural wine want to shed light on what is happening in much of the conventional wine world. This is because the majority of wine drinkers believe that ALL wine is a natural product. In order for proponents of natural wine to help wine drinkers understand that not all wine is natural, we have to inform them about what really happens, or what can be added, in conventional wine making. This is just information, information that wine drinkers should be entitled to. This my seem to denigration on the receiving end, but it is merely informing wine drinkers about the truth.
    And the deigration does go both ways, as Wijnfolie stated in his comments. I cannot tell you how often I hear that it is impossible to make wine without the addition of SO2. Or that a natural wine has to be drunk up right when you open the bottle or it will spoil. Or that all natural wines smell and taste the same, hence they lack terroir.. I have heard it all from the side of conventional wine, from the mouths of the winemakrs themselves, and not to mention, from text books which are used in classrooms everyday.
    I just want to end by saying what I tell my readers, guests and frieds. Not all conventionally made wines are bad, just like not all naturally made wines are good, and I encourage people to taste and decide for themselves what they like. But, they should be able to do so with as much information as possible.

  30. Joseph Di Blasi - January 3, 2012

    John Kelly
    Food items…

  31. Thomas Pellechia - January 3, 2012

    Alice,
    I think Tom picked up on your actual words and not out of context but a complete thought:
    “No matter what you call minimal intervention wines, it’s all about returning to a more sensible time in wine making when an EGO stayed out of the winemaking and stayed in the farming and what was in the glass dazzled.”
    John,
    Large-scale winemaking is not new in history, which is something that the extremists on the so-called “natural” side also don’t understand.
    During Roman rule, large-scale wine production ebbed and flowed, based on the economy and also on the way that the large production did indeed diminish the quality of the wine, which is not to say that they went chemical against natural; can’t say that because the useless descriptor “natural” had no meaning then as it has none today.
    On a large scale, the intensity required to maintain quality suffers, with or without chemicals. Also, to counteract Alice’s ego comment, seems to me that small-scale winemaking would have more ego invested than large-scale, but what do I know? I’ve only been a winemaker, wine seller and wine writer. Maybe it’s best to listen to the couch potatoes…people like us, John, are too vested in wine to be trusted.

  32. John Kelly - January 3, 2012

    Hi Joe – Food items? Have you read a food labeling law? Ingredients are not contents, the latter is only what is in the package. Process? Do you know what “fresh squeezed” or “Swiss water process” really means?
    RE: Statements like «There is more money, less risk, and far less work in making wine conventionally » and «The heavy-handed use of synthetic fertilizers, weed-killers, fungicides, pesticides and inappropriately applied heavy metals like copper have destroyed soil life in most vineyards »?
    There is more money in large scale winemakeing due to economies of scale. Risk is an agruable subject – ask a banker if he/she would bet on a small or a large start-up in this economy. Less work? You have obviously never worked in a winery large or small if you think large scale winemaking is less work. Less work per gallon perhaps – see economy of scale.
    Your second statement is pure hyperbole. I freely acknowledge and celebrate that low-impact farming results in soil with more micro and meso flora and fauna. But “destroyed” in “most”? Absolutely not. This is precisely the kind of statement that really annoys those of us actually doing this work, and marginalizes “natural” proponents. Back it up with fact (real fact, not echo chamber internet posts) or cut it out.

  33. Tom - January 3, 2012

    As you pointed out last year yourself, Tom, it’s not really new — there were also some rumblings that conventionally-produced wines are somehow hazardous to your health. Even though it would be impossible to show this in a meaningful, controlled study. Perhaps these days it seems necessary to make your preferences seem to have the air of moral authority when there are more wines chasing fewer dollars. That combined with instant publication access and no editing. It doesn’t make it right, but we need only look to today’s voting for the prime example.

  34. Alicefeiring - January 3, 2012

    Well, you know Tom, I’m just a bad person.

  35. Morton - January 3, 2012

    Freud used the phrase “the narcissism of minor differences” to explain why communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in many ways, engage in constant feuds and ridicule each other’. If you stand back it is quite easy to see this is some of the driving force behind the motivation of the naturist to denigrate. To the naturist these differences are a matter of pride and reassurance because not only do they represent that they are members of an exclusive club, but that they are “authentic.”
    Within these communities we see arrogance, boasting, criticism of non members, intolerance, exaggerated entitlement, envy, fantasy, haughtiness, magical thinking, perfectionism, self absorption, self-righteousness, superiority complex, and vanity. Accompanying this human trait we see the snob, the prima donna, the dandy, and the jerk. At least this is what wikipedia has to say on this Freudian observation.
    It should be obvious that if any of the “minor differences” like organic farming, biodynamic farming, unfiltered, non GMO, anti mass market, natural yeasts, carbon neutral, non corporate winemaking made the slightest taste-able difference in wine these would be secrets kept by the winemaker. The fact that the naturist is so loudly willing to share these stories about how they make wine is ample evidence the differences are minor and not readily evident. The denigration of those outside the group is amply explained by Freud.

  36. John Dorminey - January 3, 2012

    Tom,
    I thought you were making the point that there must be a positive way to market Natural wines, rather than putting down the competition. If so, I agree whole-heartedly! All this does is confuse the general public into throwing up their arms screaming “TMI, whatever! Where do you stock the Charles Shaw?”
    I am a national sales/marketing manager for an organically grown line of wines. We view our customer as already educated by the organic foods producers. You either want organic foods or you don’t care. Consumer preference for wine is no different. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time explaining to potentially new customers that “our wines taste no different “regular” wines, only we farm in areas and in ways where the use of pesticides, weedkillers, etc. is not necessary.”

  37. Tom Wark - January 3, 2012

    John:
    I think you can count on the “organic” wine market growing as “organic” continues to attract consumers. I think too that any issue your portfolio may have with consumers thinking the wines taste different will eventually be a small concern.
    As I said in the post above, the “naturalists” are making really interesting, delicious, unique wines. Wine lovers will flock to them. But as long as there is a contingent of Natural Wine promoters that allow the impression to be left that non-natural wine is somehow flawed or bad for you or “industrial”, these folks and the category will see push back. There are so many good ways to promote and market natural wines without denigrating competitors. I think they’ll get there.

  38. Tom Wark - January 3, 2012

    Joseph:
    Does this quote really ring true to you: “The heavy-handed use of synthetic fertilizers, weed-killers, fungicides, pesticides and inappropriately applied heavy metals like copper have destroyed soil life in most vineyards” ?
    Does this mean that most vineyards in the world? Does this mean most vineyards that heavily use synthetic fertilizers, weed-killers, fungicides, pesticides and inappropriately applied heavy metals like copper.
    It’s a statement that, left on its own really only suggests that all vineyards besides Natural Wine vineyards have dead soil. That’s about as far from reality as the principles of Biodynamics.

  39. Josh Hermsmeyer - January 3, 2012

    Careful, Tom. Your opinions must end where Alice’s feelings begin.
    Vigorous intellectual disagreement on this issue is prima facie evidence of sexism and general unpleasantness.

  40. Zeke - January 3, 2012

    I wonder how natural winemakers can be both minimalist and hands-off, letting mother nature do all the work, and at the same time be more hard working than other winemakers (per the quote in the article)? I’m waiting for my kids to tell me they won’t clean their rooms because they want them to exist in their natural states, replete with the natural aromas therein.

  41. Tom Wark - January 3, 2012

    Josh:
    Alice makes good points and frankly she’s probably the best and most accessible defender and promoter of Minimalist wine. Plus, she’s tough!

  42. Josh Hermsmeyer - January 3, 2012

    “Well, you know Tom, I’m just a bad person”
    Extremely tough…

  43. George Vierra - January 3, 2012

    There are many writing about “natural wine”. It is almost certain that 1 to 1.5 million years ago Homo erectus collected and ate the wild grapes in the South Caucasus of present day Georgia. They must have had methods to collect and carry the grapes. Did they collect the grapes and share them with others? It must have occurred on occasion that a good amount of the red Vitis vinifera were left behind and later revisited. The Homo erectus upon return probably found the grapes a bit “tingly” on the tongue. They also found the pool of juice collecting below the grapes was quite nice to drink. After eating the grapes and drinking the juice they got a bit cheery. Soon, drowsiness set in and naps were had.
    This is probably the definition of the first natural wine. All else is tinkered wine.
    George Vierra
    12 May 2010

  44. Tish - January 3, 2012

    Tom, congrats on adding fresh heat to a hot topic. I found John Kelly’s and Alice’s comments especially interesting. If we step back and consider the entirety of the Natural Wine movement, you will see far less agressive promotion/marketing/spin by naturalists than by other would-be “green” winemakers/marketers. Personally, I am content to love the way the Natural Wine movement has simply made lots of people (though mostly in the trade, not consumers…yet) question just how the fermented grape juice in this tasty beverage called wine got there. I like the way WineLush put it… there is plenty of room for many types of wine. And many opinions.

  45. Tom Wark - January 3, 2012

    Howdy Tish.
    I have nothing against marketing, promotion or spin…as you might imagine. However, my contention is that the Naturalists/Minimalists (at least too many in that camp) are carrying out marketing that denigrates. I don’t think the “would-be Greens” do this.

  46. Lenn Thompson - January 3, 2012

    Isn’t the dogma, the ‘black and white’ nature of this topic the real problem here? Isn’t that why each side feels attacked, denigrated an belittled by the other?
    And let’s remember Tom, that there are writers (and winemakers) who have created careers for themselves almost solely on being contrarian and by jumping on the natural bandwagon. They have reason to defend it passionately — its their livelihood.
    The same can be said on the other side of the argument too, I suppose. That’s what makes this a topic that is difficult to debate logically.

  47. Tina Morey - January 3, 2012

    I think I came late to the party because I’m fairly sure someone mentioned “naturist” and frankly I think that fits in quite nicely here since many “natural” winemakers do touch the vines while nude during biodynamically-produced gigs and wiggles. Talk about denigrating. This is all just another blip in another fascinating process we all know and love so well: the human condition. We all do it to some degree, but it seems, to me anyway, dirty coming from those who speak of “natural” and ‘minimalism.” Yeah, just dirty, no pun intended.

  48. Bruce G. - January 3, 2012

    Tom:
    Most of the “naturals” I know are self-effacing, humble people of conviction. They’ve been practicing without preaching for years.
    The rancorous debate that has arisen over the last few years seems primarly a result of the many professional commentators eager to indict and incite.
    Maybe you’ve been paying attention to the wrong people?

  49. Blake Gray - January 3, 2012

    There’s too much hating on other people’s wine in the blogosphere.
    I love natural wines. And I love commercial wines. I love them all, as long as they’re good.

  50. Paul d - January 3, 2012

    Blake
    Well spoken. We are all in this for many many different reasons. And our individual perspectives often times cloud our view outside our own.
    Andin the end I hope that we all have the same goal of producing good to great wines.
    I’m in the – I like good wine -category. Natural or convetional, if those are appropriate terms?

  51. Amy Atwood - January 4, 2012

    Good to know that natural wine is stirring up such a heated debate. Like many other posters above, I do not believe that explaining how natural wine is made equates denigrating conventional wines. Drink what you like.
    But Goliath has felt a few pebbles hit his belly and is starting to roar at David.
    Alice, thanks for being a tireless defender.
    Tom, I respect your writing, your intelligence and that you have always been very transparent about your PR role for conventional wineries.
    As a drinker and seller of natural wines, and of conventional wines for many years before
    that, there is no doubt that natural wines receive much denigration and misunderstanding
    from conventional winemakers and drinkers alike, who seem to feel undermined somehow by those who do not desire cult cabs from Napa. Each to their own.
    I agree with above sentiment, too much hating and needless pot stirring in the wine blogosphere, which is why I rarely jump in anymore. Drink, laugh, celebrate.
    Cheers, amy

  52. WineSociete China - January 4, 2012

    Tom,
    Thank you for the well written and well argued post.
    But isn’t the issue that the “Natural” wine interest have a better marketing story? With it they are quickly reshaping consumer preference.
    We can argue the merits of either side ad Nadeem, but the reality is that consumers are responding to the story and it is changing the landscape.

  53. Tom Wark - January 4, 2012

    Amy…it has been a while. How are you?
    One thing. You are mistaken. I’ve never been transparent about my “Pr role for conventional wineries”. I don’t work on behalf of any group of conventional wineries and this post was not in the service of any organization or winery, nor did I get paid to post this….which might be the impression some are left with by your comment. This post is merely own set of observations. And for the record, I’d happily go to work for a consortium of Minimalist winemakers looking to broaden the exposure of the category. I think they could use some help communicating view of the world, winemaking and their wines without trying to knock down others.
    Cheers,
    Tom…

  54. K Hodgson - January 4, 2012

    Tom,
    My wife and I moved to Anjou a couple of years ago, to make wine with what would probably classify as a “natural” approach.
    Since moving here, and getting to know our natural wine neighbours, I find that what I read on the internet is often excessive, be it for or against the category in question.
    Before we scrutinize and infer too much, I think it prudent that anyone curious or skeptical or otherwise, pay a visit to some of these local “naturals”. I think a lot of questions and assumptions will be set to rest.

  55. Ned Hoey - January 5, 2012

    Not to speak for producers, but as a wine consuming citizen of this crowded and heavily worked over planet, it seems to me that “Natural Wine” is (to a significant extent) actually an outgrowth and fringe benefit of environmentally conscious grape farming. There’s more to the practice of doing it than just the wine itself. There’s the idea that it’s important to cease harming the land and the planet in how you farm and live. Nobody in this modern world can be perfect in that respect but the effort is at least “a good”. I thought the goals were multiple and complementary. Strive to viably farm without harm, and the juice you produce will seduce. Win, win.
    I think when THAT important aspect is factored in, the indignance regarding stridency and arrogance alleged by the rest of the wine world as coming from the “natural” camp actually could arguably characterized as a defensive reaction. Like, “Hey not only are you guys claiming the moral high ground environmentally, but that your wines are`better’ too! C’mon now.” That, I’m sure must gall those who for whatever reason, made more, shall we say compromised choices.
    While conventional farming and cellar practices aren’t all inherently inimical to producing perfectly enjoyable wines, (at least for many folks), they are in many respects inimical to the long term health of the land. Which also doesn’t automatically make those people involved, bad people (which is probably another perception), it just means that they have to expect in this day and age they’re going to hear about it.
    That there also exists a lot of gray between the black and white has got to frustrate those who find themselves placed nearer the black end but I don’t think that allows them to cry a general foul, nor those actively striving towards the white (or green) end to gloat in an unsportsmanlike way.

  56. Adam Lee - January 5, 2012

    Ned,
    At our winery (classified however you would like to classify it regarding its naturalness), we have worked to reduce our environmental footprint (though the use of lighter glass, changes in water usage, etc). I would tell you that making wine without additions doesn’t necessarily result in less footprint within the winery. For example, from what I have read, on average 6 gallons of water are used to produce 1 gallon of wine. The cleaning required to keep a cellar clean and allow for successful uninnoculated ferments increases that water usage (we do both uninnoculated and innoculated ferments). There are other examples as well.
    All of which is simply to say that it is a complicated subject when you look at environmental considerations within a facility.
    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  57. Kareem Massoud - January 5, 2012

    “I like the term “Minimalist” to describe the wines and philosophy that these passionate folks represent.”
    Amen!

  58. Damon Miele - January 6, 2012

    We should continue this discussion at the World of Pinot Noir.
    Join the World of Pinot Noir on Friday, March 2nd at Chamisal Vineyards for our seminar, “Natural Winemaking: Highest Respect or Neglect?” John Haeger moderates the seminar featuring a stellar cast of panelists: Alice Feiring, Clark Smith, Bradley Brown, Brian Maloney, Joe Wright, Scott Kelley, Nathan Kandler and Peter Cargasacchi.
    Tickets & Information at http://wopn.com

  59. Douglas Hillstrom - January 7, 2012

    To say that the natural wine movement is a reaction to wine as an industrial or luxury product is no doubt true. All new social movements are founded on a dissatisfaction with the existing state of things, from the progressive movement at the turn of the century to the slow food movement of recent times. But movements such as these can not (and should not) be defined by their more extreme proponents. The value of these movements is not in what is said, but what is accomplished. As a result of this movement, scores of winemakers have adopted various aspects of natural winemaking, from full-blown biodynamics to smaller steps, such as the use of natural yeast. It is pretty clear that even Robert M. Parker has taken note of the natural wine movement and has been influenced (see his writing on Chapoutier in the most recent issue). To say that this movement is “largely defined by its proponents’ denigration of competing products” is simply not true. It is now a large movement, with many impacts, and to define the movement based on some comments by its more extreme proponents, rather than by what has been accomplished, misses the point.

  60. bunt marker - January 8, 2012

    I am (almost) speechless, or textless. What a spectacular row over spoiled fruit juice! Any winemakers in this mudslinging contest would find their time better spent somewhere else, like the vineyard. Marketing people, I guess this is your workplace, so live it up. You have my sympathy. For me, I’ve resolved the issue. I list ingredients and processes on my label. I don’t think of wine as intellectual property- it ends up inside someone’s digestive tract (yuch). They have good reason, if they’re interested, to know how it was made. Most people aren’t interested. I think compulsory ingredient labeling is not a good idea- current regulations are adequate to protect health and prevent fraud. I am making both natural and unnatural wines- for me the jury is still out. They are different, for sure. I hold them to the same standard, though: interesting, balanced, s’mor-ish. Boring is the absolute worst thing a wine could be. Natural or not.

  61. bunt marker - January 8, 2012

    Adam
    My calculations are 40 gallons of water per gallon of wine, for irrigated vineyards. 20 in the vineyard, 20 in the winery. For me the point is to make the best wine. Would you want to drink an inferior wine because it saved a gallon of water? I clean my equipment the same regardless of winemaking. You don’t? Mark

  62. bunt marker - January 8, 2012

    Hi Kareem
    A shout-out to Long IS from CA! Met you a while ago- good SBs and a red as well, I think it was CF. I’ll come by next time I’m out there to see how you’ve dealt with the challenging weather. My hat’s off to you back there- we had a lousy coupla inches of rain in Oct. and everyone had the pistol muzzle in their mouth. Many CA winemakers would utterly fail in the East, or lose their will to ferment. I bet being minimalist in Long Island is a real hoot! Had an orange wine back there last year that was interesting, but WAY overpriced. I liked the French guy’s merlot roses, as well, but I don’t imagine there’s anything natural about them, except the main ingredient. HA! See ya. Mark

  63. Adam Lee - January 8, 2012

    Mark,
    The 6 gallons of water in the winery per gallon of wine is what we average during crush….And I clean my equipment until it is clean.
    Wine Business Monthly has had articles from 4 gallons to 20 gallons.
    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  64. bunt marker - January 8, 2012

    Adam
    Good on you for keeping the water use down. I guess bigger wineries use less water per gallon of wine. If you pay attention, you can conserve significantly. I wasn’t snaking you on the remark about natural wines being more consumptive- it was a question. As you say, clean is clean, and we always go for clean. I didn’t understand why natural wine would need equipment any cleaner than unnatural wine. I love that- unnatural wine. I’m gonna run with it. It’s the next “no-oak”. Mark

  65. Fabio Bartolomei - January 10, 2012

    Tom,
    First of all, thanks for including me in that lineup of natural wine proponents. You’ve no idea how honored I am to be mentioned right next to those people, all of whom I have great respect and admiration for.
    Secondly, I have to say that I don’t agree at all with your angle on the natural wine thing. Your whole post is based on the belief that natural wine proponents “denigrate” or “disdain” conventional wines. I can’t speak for others of course but for me personally I’ve come to a position of indifference as to what the ‘conventional’ or ‘industrial’ wine-world makes, does or says. I have no desire or need to denigrate anyone. My own favorite quote these days is “The proof is in the bottle.” and the rest is just words.
    I think perhaps you may be seeing denigration where none is intended. My own quote above “I think that these are two very different worlds or markets out there, …”, for example, seems to me to be a mere statement of fact, no? In fact, it’s one of the premises of my marketing strategy, ie to market and sell my wines only to people who are concerned about the environment and/or their health and/or who appreciate artisan quality; and to ignore the rest (not denigrate the rest!).
    Maybe, like I said in the long post that you extracted my quote from, it’s the charismatic, loud-mouth extremists in the natural wine movement that get all the attention, while the quiet majority are just getting on with it, oblivious to this storm raging all around them!
    Basically what I’m trying to say, is that even though your post contains some basic truths (especially the paragraph that ends” … not a condemnation of the category.”),imho it doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. In my own case for example I don’t have a “false veer of superiority”, nor do I need “the aid of a bludgeon” to promote my wines. I’m not “striking out against the machine” nor am I “leading a charge” anywhere! If any of these things can be inferred from my past posts in my own blog or in comments , then it’s due to my inability to express myself properly!
    Lastly, talking about denigration and disdain, don’t you think that there’s more of that going in the other direction? That’s the feeling I’ve been receiving.
    And really lastly, I’m afraid we’re stuck with the term “natural”, because a critical mass of people are now using it. The pros and cons of the word itself or of any other proposed alternative word are now irrelevant. What’s done is done! I can understand why people don’t like it though; it’s because of the semantic implication that conventional wines are somehow “un-natural” and therefore “worse”. I can’t say that I’m too bothered about that any more (though I used to be). I consider it a free lunch kindly provided by the universe, in contrast to the usual indifference shown by nature (or by the market) to the trivial affairs of us humans.
    And really, really lastly, the way I intend to proceed is not to “defend” anything let alone a “rickety perch” but simply to publicize what I do and don’t do in the vineyard and winery, using my blog, webpage, social media, labels, literature, etc so that consumers can decide for themselves whether to buy my wines or not; and if they do, they will know where it came from, and how it was made.
    “Salud y buen vino”

  66. Fredric Koeppel - January 10, 2012

    The notion that only “natural” wine is authentic and all other wine is “industrial/commercial” does a grave disservice to the thousands of families and people around the world who struggle to make a living from their vineyards on small properties and to produce the best wine reflecting a particular place that they know how to do. Let’s remember that even the producers of “natural wine” want to sell their products and earn a profit; isn’t that “commercialization”?

  67. Tom Wark - January 10, 2012

    Fabio…
    I don’t think your statement is one of fact. You make it sound like there is the Natural wine on one hand and “bog standard/industrial” wine on the other hand and nothing in between. But in fact there are amazing, small, artisan producers that finely represent their terroir that do not practice “natural wine” techniques.
    That said, thank you VERY much for your thoughtful comments.
    Ton….

  68. Warren - January 10, 2012

    The simplest solution is obviously to legally require all ingredients used in the wine to be put on the label. If you want to get crazy maybe even include vineyard regimes. Consumers should be made aware of all the options, plain and simple. Nowhere do you, Tom, denote how the Natural Wine movement can be one that truly benefits the consumer especially us that actually care about the sustainability of the largest monoculture in the world, wine.

  69. Fabio Bartolomei - January 13, 2012

    Point taken. I know that there are many wines between these two extremes. Interestingly, apart from the “amazing, small, artisan producers that finely represent their terroir that do not practice “natural wine” techniques”, the opposite also occurs, ie small (and not so small) ‘conventional’ quality producers that are quietly practicing organic or biodynamic viticulture, and cutting back on additives and manipulations in the winery, but without advertising the fact!!!
    I think maybe an interesting area of discussion would be a comparison of the wines of these two types of artisan winemakers, ie natural artisan and ‘not natural’ artisan (and ignoring the industrial wineries completely). Interesting questions spring to mind, ie can the terroir still be represented if the grapes/must/wine are overly manipulated? How much is ‘overly’? Can a terroir be represented ‘better’ or ‘worse’, or is it all or nothing? And more
    BUT 1) my statement is still one of fact as far as the wine consumers who buy their wines in supermarkets are concerned, which I believe is something like 80% of the population and increasing. Despite the huge diversity of brands/labels, in reality the wines available to them there are very limited and homogenous (and boring imo!), though perfectly drinkable and tasty in most cases. Basically, for the majority of wine consumers there is in fact nothing conveniently available to them apart from standard industrial wines. We wine-lovers will make the effort to seek out and buy these ‘in-between’ quality artisan wines, whether natural or not, but we’re a minority.
    BUT 2) my statement is still one of fact as far as my own marketing plans and my own (simplified) analysis of the wine market are concerned, because I (and all other small artisan producers, natural or not) are not competing against industrial wineries, just against each other; so for us, we can effectively divide the wine market into quality artisan (natural or not) and standard industrial (which I choose to ignore, but which others choose to attack).
    This is what happens when quotes are taken out of context, as is the case with all 6 quotes at the start of your post. How hard do you think it would be for me to find 6 quotes from the anti natural wine side of the fence and then write a post around them on, say, how aggressive and denigrating natural wine critics, writers and winemakers are, because, say, they’re running scared of the natural wine movement? !!! (Actually now that I think about it, part of this post http://vinosambiz.blogspot.com/2011/10/this-natural-wine-thing.html which I wrote last month covers this very idea!)

  70. Louisa Hargrave - January 14, 2012

    Agriculture is by its very nature an intervention with nature. A vigneron who does not cultivate the vines in some way will have a weedy jungle. And a winemaker is a wineMAKER by definition because he/she intervenes with grapes which, if never “made” into wine, would become rotten little globes or slimy vinegar.
    Anyone who has grown grapes or made wine knows this. Moving must into a barrel is not natural. So where do we draw the line between “natural” wines and “commercial” wines?
    Isabelle Legeron should know that copper is allowed as a fungicide in organic grapegrowing because it is an organic substance. A desire NOT to use copper is often a reason NOT to go organic.
    We can get pretty titchy here. I personally am in favor of making the most honest and interesting wines possible, by whatever means it takes. People who get so hot about “natural” whatever should spend a year in a vineyard, preferably in some challenging region like Champagne, to learn the true challenges of growing grapes and making wine. Preferably in the nude.

  71. Emma B - February 19, 2012

    Chapoutier’s biodynamic, but not “natural”, and I suspect from http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/529697/chapoutier-pours-scorn-on-natural-winemakers will never be so.
    Do “natural” winemakers abhor the use of temperature control for their ferments, I wonder? I fail to see how warmer climate producers could do so AND avoid SO2, though if someone wants to tell me I’m wrong I’d be grateful of the learning opportunity.
    Personally I believe that the only way to make great individual wines is to grow good fruit & pay attention to detail in both the vineyard and the winery. I’m geeky enough that I want my vintages to taste different, which is why I’m not a big purchaser of the more mainstream styles.
    And I think that a vine should grow without irrigation if it is truly to reflect its site. Can anyone give me some idea of the number of New World “natural” winemakers who dry farm rather than irrigate?
    (I keep saying “natural” because I feel the term is unnecessarily emotive – minimal interventionism is the phrase for me.)
    If the “natural” fraternity:
    - don’t use temperature control
    - don’t use stainless steel tanks
    - use only gravity feeds, no pumps
    - don’t use Bordeaux mix (organic my whatsit, it poisons the environment far more than most non-organics)
    - don’t irrigate
    then I might be prepared to allow the term. Until then, they’re using technical solutions which are by any definition NOT natural. And so they should drop the misleading descriptor, which seems to me to be designed purely to provoke the “opposition” rather than stimulate genuine informed debate.

  72. WWM Interviews: Alice Feiring | Woodland Wine Merchant - April 10, 2013

    [...] ‘natural wine.’ Tom Wark’s Fermentation wine blog wrote a much publicized piece called Natural Wine: The Ugly Underbelly, accusing ‘them’ of unfair marketing practices (what marketing practices?). They are called [...]

  73. tom - January 31, 2014

    I have worked with both ‘natural’ (i.e. bio/organic/minimal intervention) and industrial wines (i.e. flogging brands to supermarkets). Having seen first hand the methods of production and the vineyard management of both camps, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to accuse the big ‘industrial’ brands and the producers of these wines of having an extremely negative impact upon the environment and the consumer. They are awful in every sense. However, there is a middle camp; those who are small / medium scale but still follow conventional methods. Objectively, whilst I would prefer for them to follow organic viticulture at least, and eschew any additives in the winemaking (hopefully less common than industrial winemaking), it is fair to say that they can and often do produce wines that do represent a place. Subjectively, I feel that these wines could be much more interesting if they made the switch to biodynamics and wild yeasts etc. Finally, surely viticulture that doesn’t utilise synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and winemaking that abhors additives cannot be a bad thing for many obvious reasons…


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