Drink Natural Wine—Or Get a Bad Rash

A rash1I'm looking forward to reading the interview with Giuseppe Mascoli in the February issue of Drinks Business just so I can see how demeaning he can be and to determine how far out of the intellectual fringe he can sit when talking about "Natural Wine".

In a story on Drinks Business that previewed the interview with Mr. Mascoli of Aubert & Mascoli we learn a number of things:

1. Non Natural wines will make you ill and cause you to form rashes on your body.

2.Natural Wines are like the works of Karl Marx, mean to be appreciated by folks with "sufficient level of knowledge

3. "Industrial Wine" (which goes undefined other than to make note of the use of cultivated rather than indigenous yeast) is for "children"

If it's not clear what this merchant and promoter of natural wines is saying, let me rephrase for you: Only the most sophisticated of wine drinkers, rather than all the other simpletons that drink something else, can appreciate "natural Wines", which won't make you ill like other wines.

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post here that drew attention to the proclivity of promoters of "Natural Wines" to denigrate wines that don't fall into the nebulous category of "Natural Wine". I highlighted a number of examples and suggested that "Denigration Marketing" ought to tell you a lot about what is being marketed. That post was met with a variety of responses, not a few of which poo-poo-ed my contention. That said, even many natural wine proponents that commented thought that denigrating non-natural wines would be a bad idea, even if they didn't see it happening.

Well, here it is happening again by a representative of natural wines in the UK. As I mentioned before, it is extraordinarily rare for any marketing to be based on the denigration of other products in your same category. Politics and beer and soda are about the only examples I can think of. And prior to the emergence of the Natural Wine supporters, I've never seen marketers in the wine industry actually come out and denigrate other wines—let alone suggest that these competitors will actually make you ill.

Some have pointed out that it's the marketers and not the producers who are involved in Denigration Marketing. What I'd like to see is some natural wine producers disavow this kind of thing. It's in their best interests to do so. the cacophony of denigration, spite, nastiness coming from many marketers and promoters of Natural Wine is getting awfully close to making all producers of natural wine look and smell like spoiled, oxidized wine. No one wants to drink that stuff.


25 Responses

  1. Wine Harlots - January 23, 2012

    Oh fucking awesome.
    Another reason for the general public to avoid wine.
    ‘Cause Jane Winebox sure isn’t going to know the difference the “pure” wines vs the plonk.
    Then again, neither do I…

  2. Blake Gray - January 23, 2012

    Tom: I read the link and think you’re overreacting. That article gave you a rash. You might be allergic.

  3. Tom Wark - January 23, 2012

    Au Contrair, M. Gray…
    This is par for the course, this notion of denigrating all but Natural Wine. This guy, however, just drove off the cliff. It’s a very demeaning attitude. What’s worse, is that it’s a demeaning attitude in the service of sell his own wines.

  4. Fabio Bartolomei - January 24, 2012

    Tom,
    That’s two strongly worded anti Natural Wine posts this year already! Are you starting a crusade?
    Why are you so upset? Why focus on the loud-mouths who are just making soundbites and drumming up publicity/sales? There are so many different and interesting aspects of natural wine that can be talked about sensibly and with intelligence and mutual respect.
    Are you not interested in what natural winemakers have to say about terroir, wine faults, how grape cultivation and vineyard management techniques impact on wine quality, ditto interventions in the winery? These are some of the fascinating topics that all serious wine-lovers could be talking about and debating.
    In your two posts so far you seem to zoom in on extremist, high-publicity value issues, and ignore the deeper philosophical and wine-related issues.
    Perhaps you are guilty of the same ‘crime’ as the strident natural wine marketer that you complain of? Seeking exposure and short-term impact, as opposed to hosting and/or participating in a serious debate?
    I notice that you’ve selected only the most provocative of Mascoli’s statements. You didn’t quote this one for example: ”There are a lot of really bad natural wines out there. The wines are so delicate, it’s easy to screw them up,” That’s pretty sincere, coming from a natural wine importer.
    I think you’d find that the vast majority of natural wine producers would in fact ‘disavow that kind of thing’, as you say. Anyone with even a small brain can see that it’s bad marketing in the long run. And it’s also disrespectful, and also two wrongs don’t make a right. Like I said in a comment to your previous Nat Wine post, and to extend the analogy of the times, the reality on the ground is that we are the 99% (quiet, sensible, respectful, hardworking producers and importers) while you are focused on what the 1% (strident, loud-mouthed, charismatic, marketers) have to say.
    Anyway, the proof is in the bottle, all the rest is just words.

  5. Sal - January 24, 2012

    I am sorry to see you sounding the political drums of war against Natural Wine, just as much as the cheap salesman of Natural Wine has done. Please rise above that level as I do respect many of your opinions. The statement with which you ended your blog is indicative of what I mean.
    “the cacophony of denigration, spite, nastiness coming from many marketers and promoters of Natural Wine is getting awfully close to making all producers of natural wine look and smell like spoiled, oxidized wine. No one wants to drink that stuff.” Not true, you are condemning a good product when made by good wine makers.
    Best,

  6. Tom Wark - January 24, 2012

    Sal,
    I have nothing against natural wine. In fact I’ve enjoyed a number of wines that fall into this category. And my last sentence is not aimed to describe natural wine in general at all. Rather, the entire post is aimed at what is an undeniable trend among Natural Wine proponents to denigrate non-natural wines.

  7. the drifting winemaker - January 24, 2012

    Tom,
    I thought the tone of your post was fair, including the obvious metaphor about spoiled wine not meant to describe the wines but the makers. As is seen in these types of situations, denigration by one party often leads to retaliation by the other.

  8. list your flat for Olympics - January 24, 2012

    Unfortunately you never know what exactly you are buying except the cases when the wine is produced by certified producer and all the requirements for the producing process are handled. However the number of low quality wines one the market with questionable quality is growing rapidly.

  9. Anna Marie dos Remedios - January 25, 2012

    I read the story this morning on thedrinksbusiness.com and thought to myself, “oh no, here’s someone defending natural wine by being pretentious and arrogant…this is not going to go over well…”.
    As a winemaker, I hate it when people in the business act as though wine can only be enjoyed by the elite, whether its the rich or educated etc. It happens all the time.
    I also believe the beauty of wine is that there are many differences in the way it is made, influenced or industrial, nonmanipulated or natural… these differences mean we all have choices in the wines we make and drink and the experiences we enjoy from these wines. Afterall, I drink wine for the experience not because I’m thirsty.

  10. Vincent Wallard - January 25, 2012

    About provocation, you seem to know a lot …. knowing Guillaume Aubert & his partner, it looks more like a pure free provocation to make people like you react, and I agree to your reaction because it’s never good to build an image on other’s bodies…..
    Anyway, there is a lot of subjectivity in wine, like friendship or love and, as a Natural wine Lover, I”ve got to admit that it is not always easy to understand what the winegrower’s is looking for ….
    Vincent

  11. Tom Wark - January 25, 2012

    Vincent,
    I fail to see why anyone would want to simply offer a provocation just to make people react. This also implies that Mr. Mascoli did not really believe what he said, but just wanted to get a rise out of the readers. That’s silly. But possible.

  12. LCFwino - January 25, 2012

    Tom, I drink a lot of natural wine, and my ass does not look like that. Proof-positive, right?

  13. Iris - January 26, 2012

    Just coming back from the biggest professional trade fair around organic wines at Montpellier, in the South of France, where you meet the winemakers behind simple white clothed tables and can taste their wines and ask questions directly. All were certificated organic (bio or bio-dynamic), some natural in their vinification methods, but fortunately, I met nobody, who lost his time in denigration. Just explaining what they do and why is interesting enough with the result in your glass, to measure, whether it brought out a wine, which you like or which doesn’t meet your personal taste.
    I think, you’re right in pointing out, that denigration is more a matter of marketers, or “fans” who confound taste with “member cards” of popular currents or fashionable clothes. The truth is in the bottle and the “making of” can be seen in the vineyard and in the cellar… I like the term of “minimalist” intervention, even if you have to keep in mind, that minimalist in this context means very often a lot of work in the field and a lot of risk in the cellar:-).
    It is perhaps more understandable in France, where publicity around wine has been regulated during the last 20 years by a very strict governmental law (loi Evin), which is based on public health arguments against wine as an alcohol containing beverage, there is a strong reaction to emphasis the difference of chemical based farming and wine-making and “natural” methods, which try to underline, that there are more dangerous residues in the end product, than the mere alcohol. Whether it’s a long-term strategy, to insist on these differences in place of the taste and pleasure ones, should be discussed. And in my opinion (and reading of what you wrote), that seems to be what you try to bring back to the stage:-).

  14. Dave Erickson - January 26, 2012

    Tom, what market share does “natural” wine have? Is it even 1%? Will it ever get to be much more than 1% when you have people like Joly making pronouncements about how the first job of wine is to be “authentic,” and secondarily to taste good? Really, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
    UNLESS: The only reason I can think of for anyone to sound alarms about “natural” winemaking is because once the subject has been broached, people might start looking at stuff like this:
    http://www.alicefeiring.com/blog/2010/11/-approved-wine-additives.html

  15. Tom Wark - January 26, 2012

    Dave:
    Though we have no working definition of “Natural” wine, it seems impossible that it is even 1%.
    I have personally enjoyed the NW I’ve had. But what bothers me is the accompanying denigration of other wines that too often is delivered by it’s proponents. Being involved in and interested in Marketing of wine, this is my motivation, not steering people away from it.

  16. Scott Frank - February 1, 2012

    So if wine is food, what is your beef with people differentiating themselves from different modes of production? Would you really be apoplectic if someone produced cakes made from organic flour, eggs, milk, and sugar and proposed that their product was better for you or better tasting than a Twinkie? I don’t think you’d find independent writers leaping to the defense of Hostess and asking how people dare suggest there’s something wrong with consuming Twinkies by claiming their product was made with better ingredients.

  17. Tom Wark - February 1, 2012

    Scott…
    Problem is that the Cake/Twinkie analogy doesn’t work. No one is making wine the way they make twinkies. However, too many Natural wine advocates would like to leave the impression that all but they are doing so. That’s a problem.

  18. Scott Frank - February 1, 2012

    But there are wineries who are making wine like they make Twinkies. I’ve been to them. I’ve looked at their tech sheets and seen what they’ve done to them. I know what they’re putting in the vineyard. And if wine is food, then it does matter what is being put into it. I’ll happily send you a photo I’ve taken of a list things added to a wine in WA. Tell me if you’d consume food with a list of ingredients that included those chemicals.

  19. Alicefeiring - February 2, 2012

    Tom, you’re being naughty!!

  20. Scott Frank - February 5, 2012

    I just hear crickets…

  21. Emma B - February 18, 2012

    My problem with “natural” wine & winemakers is the presumption that they have some sort of right to the word “natural”. What, so if you don’t give your wine some esoteric thoroughly unspecific non-delimited name, it must be *unnatural*?
    I have no problem with the term “minimalist intervention”, none whatsoever. But when I hear anyone call the process “natural”, it makes me want to scream.
    Yes, there are probably far too many over-processed wines out there which are lacking in character, but they serve a market need. And commercial is NOT the same as scientific.
    But you can use science in wine production without battering your fruit to death, or poisoning your vineyard soil.
    I sometimes suspect that the same people who insist on the term “natural” think that withdrawal is the most valid method of contraception…

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