Alice Feiring, Natural Wine and the Question of Integrity
Alice Feiring has long been a darling of this small movement. She has championed its champions and its wines, defended it against criticism and been on hand nearly where ever necessary to discuss its trends and substance. And of course, she has written extensively about “natural” wine.
Today, Alice released her first newsletter, “The Feiring Line”. While I think her tagline for the newsletter, “The Real Wine Newsletter”, is without merit, I want to quote from the newsletter’s last page:
“The Feiring Line is…the only independent newsletter specializing in honest viticulture and minimal intervention wines.”
Note there is no use of the term “natural”. In other words, note the precision with which Alice uses words and her lack of fraud in the use of terms in her description of her newsletter. I congratulate Alice for utilizing particularly the term “minimal intervention”. This is a perfect description of those wines that have now come to fall under the “natural” heading.
I would have little but good things to say about this movement if more folks followed Alice’s lead.
The idea that a wine might be “natural” is absurd in any context. The use of the term is exclusively for marketing purposes. I’m clearly not against marketing. But it’s not really marketing when you make a claim that you know isn’t true. It’s fraud. And lies. I’m further put off by the claim made by too many that these minimal intervention wines are somehow new or some sort of new movement among enlightened vintners; some new road being paved by iconoclasts and trailblazers. In fact, the kind of wines that Alice champions in her “The Feiring Line” and that have been hailed under the banner of “natural” are the same kind of minimal intervention, artisan wines that have been pursued and made real by vintners across California, Europe, Australia and in other winemaking regions for decades now.
As for Alice’s Issue One of The Feiring Line, well, I think it’s grand, I think it’s really well done, and I think it’s a terrific and valuable addition to the wine media landscape. The reviews are without ratings, feature pithy yet descriptive prose and let the reader know the grape, the viticultural technique, SO2 levels, price and importer. The design of the newsletter, delivered as a PDF document, is outstanding and easy to read and follow. We get profiles of producers, restaurants and regions. And of course, we get Alice’s fine and engaging writing style.
But again, I’m particularly happy and pleased to see that Alice chose not to go with the term “Natural” in describing the wines she focuses on in this new entrant into the wine newsletter sweepstakes. It shows courage and integrity, two things that we’ve come to expect from her.
Hopefully, those other champions of Minimal Intervention wines will follow suit and drop the “natural” wording.