Natural Wine = Consumer Fraud?
While it seems to me a bit over the top that Italian officials would raid a famed Roman wine store for promoting "Natural" wines in violation of Italian consumer fraud laws, the episode reported by Jeramy Parzan at his respected Do Bianchi blog does speak to the nebulous intellectual and commercial space the "natural" wine movement has carved out for itself not just in Italy, but across the globe.
According to Parzan, famed Enoteca Bulzoni was raided by Italian officials and is in line to be at least fined for selling wine under the banner of "natural", a term and category unauthorized under Italian wine laws. The violation apparantly amounts to "consumer fraud".
There is no question in my mind that promoting any wine as "natural" is a case of consumer fraud, but whether it ought to result in a penalty or fine or arrest is another question altogether for which I can not find reasonable justification. Condemnation for trying to dupe consumers? Yes. Pity heaped upon the champions of the term "natural" for the obvious implied denigration of those that aren't "natural"? Appropriate. Contempt for the champions of the idea of "natural wine" for making no formal effort to define what they mean? Acceptable. But fines and penalties? I don't think so.
Parzan, an excellent and enthusiastic promoter of italian wine and italian wine culture, finishes his report on the Italy's "NaturalGate" with this:
"At a time when the financial crisis has led to an overarching reset in the Italian wine industry and when small producers and retailers continue to struggle to stay afloat, is there really any harm in a little sign on Viale Parioli?"
Parzan's rhetorical question begs a more comprehensive question: At a time when transparency and honesty seem to be the talk of the wine world (or at leasts its media), is promoting a deceptive, denigrating, made-up and fraudulent category of wine really of any value to consumers and the wine trade?