Natural Wine Gets Busted
Well, how about calling it “Wine”?
Not since Jeremy Parzen at the Do Bianchi blog broke the story in July has there been any reporting in the English language media about the Italian government’s crackdown this summer on a Italian wine store that advertised selling “natural wine”. Now Wine Searcher has published a story on the Italian government’s visit to the Enoteca Bulzoni wine store in Rome and its subsequent warning that the store could be fined for promoting its sale of “Natural Wine”.
In addition to publishing claims that the store was set up by “someone annoyed by the phenomenon of natural wine” or by some “big producer”, there are some other very interesting conjectures about the incident and thoughts on the so-called “natural wine” movement.
Wine Searcher quotes an Agricultural Ministry official who explained the visit to the story this way: “the phrase ‘natural wine’ does not exist and, therefore, does not correspond with the accepted appellations, and, for this reason, it is not verifiable.” He continued: “No similar appellation exists in the regulations that govern the commercialization of wine in Italy or in the European Union.”
Wine Searcher goes on to note that the ministry official explained, “the label ‘natural wine’ was misleading to the public and damaging to the Italian wine industry.”
Of course it is. That’s why the term is used in the first place.
While the Italian Ministry of Agriculture clearly has too much time on its hands, it does also have a point. There is no definition for “natural wine”, it is a term of art, a marketing phrase that profits off the positive association consumers place on the term “natural” despite the wines being no closer to being “natural” than processed apple juice. Show me a grape vine that prunes itself, picks itself, plows its own field and puts itself in a bottle and I’ll show you a “winemaker”, not a vine.
The Italian natural wine organization VinNatur sees it differently: “The term ‘natural wine’ means no chemical treatments in the vineyard or in the cellar, to respect – as much as possible – the characteristics of the territory, and of the variety, while protecting the environment and the consumer.”
By this definition, “natural wine” is being produced in huge volumes all over the world and the movement is nothing new. What’s new is the deceptive use, as the Italian Agricultural Ministry points outs, of the term “Natural Wine”.
But here’s the real kicker in the Wine Searcher story. The owner of the busted enoteca in Italy says this:
” For years we have been aware that certain types of products do not really offer the intrinsic quality that they would have one believe. We therefore found another type of product with nutritional value: that’s why we defined it as ‘natural.”
What intrinsic quality? Which products have been deceiving consumers? And what “nutritional value” do “natural wines” have that that others don’t? You see, here’s the problem. Not only do you have a new category of wine that purely for marketing purposes claims to be something it is not, but so many of the champions of these wines are selling the idea that all other wines are without nutritional value…or put another way, unhealthy. Yet, we never, ever see the natural wine proponents identify which other wines are “unhealthy”? The implication is all of them.
Good for the Italian Ministry of Agriculture!! Fraud is fraud.