Fraud and Lies Continue in the Natural Wine Community

lieSometimes, in mounting a defense against accusations, we inadvertently expose the weakness of our position. This is what has happened with the Italian “natural wine” community.

An open letter to Italian wine publisher Gambero Rosso (which earlier published a scathing and largely unfair diatribe against “natural wine”) by a group of Italian “natural wine” producers offended by being attacked in its pages, reveals that these “natural wine” producers understand the fraud that they are perpetuating.:

“We are the first to acknowledge that there is no wine that is completely and exclusively “natural” and that wine is a product of culture, the fruit of interaction between man and nature. Perhaps the term “artisanal” is better suited to our ideas: wine should be the fruit of choices made by those who work in the vineyards and those who transform the grapes into wine.”
Jeremy Parzen provides a translation of the entire letter at his Do Bianchi blog.

It turns out that at least this set of Italian “natural wine” producers understand that the wines they think are unique are not what they label them: natural. They understand that they are better described as “artisanal” and they say so. But why don’t they adopt this umbrella term to describe what they are doing with their vines and wines? Besides the fact that it doesn’t have the marketing value of the term “natural”, there are certainly other reasons.

One of those other reasons is also exposed in their Open Letter to Gambero Rosso. The term “artisanal” doesn’t lend itself nearly as well as “natural” to supporting their extraordinarily ugly and offensive assertion that all but their own wines are health threats. Read this:

“And yet, the more substances that are added, the less the wine is spontaneous and digestible. This is what’s happening today: many wine drinkers and lovers — perhaps tired of the “obssession with the best wine there is” and the “obsession with the best vintage of the century” — shift away from the most manipulated wines and move instead toward more spontaneous products that don’t give you a headache, wines easier to digest and more food friendly.”

As long as those, like the undersigned in this letter to Gambero Rosso, continue to mischaracterize all other wines besides theirs as dangerous, inauthentic, dangerous to one’s health and indigestible, they can expect to continue to be ridiculed by those who object to fraud and lies in the service of marketing.

Posted In: Natural Wine


14 Responses

  1. Erica Steiner - February 19, 2013

    So…what is the difference between these supposed “natural” wines and other wines? Is there any difference at all? I’ve long understood the term “natural” in terms of food marketing/ labeling to be absolutely meaningless.

  2. Don Clemens - February 19, 2013

    Great post, Tom. I am really getting tired of the elitist attitudes displayed by most of the “naturalists” that I run into. One would think that they are the only ones who have the “sacred truth” of winemaking.

  3. Charlie Olken - February 19, 2013

    I would offer a slighlty different view from Erica’s–and slightly is the operative word. Regardless of the idiotic farce of saying that other wines are unhealthy for the consumer and inferior in quality, most wines, at least in CA, bearing the name seem to have less manipulation going on.

    That these folks have turned manipulation into a bad word is unfortunate, but then again, I guess they do not cook their proteins, or perhaps even eat any, and they like their green undressed and preferably unwashed.

    If so, mother nature will slowly but surely cause them so much gastric distress that they will give being totally natural and will turn again to such manipulative practices as using clean yeasts and adjusting acidity to make the wines better balanced and thus better tasting–just as they did with their green.

  4. Mat - February 19, 2013


  5. Tim - February 19, 2013

    Good thing no other producer of wine ever perpetrated fraud on the public or lied about their wines, so that the opposite side of this story has the moral highground always and forever.

  6. Kurt Burris - February 19, 2013

    I think the marketplace may be the final arbiter in this one. I may give a producer a second chance if I open a flawed bottle of wine, but probably not. How many consumers will keep buying wines after getting a bad bottle? There is enough really good wine out there, that has not been excessively manipulated, but is not “natural” by the naturalists definition, to keep me pleasantly pickled for eternity.

  7. Fredric Koeppel - February 19, 2013

    I had not seen the “indigestible” argument before. How bizarre…

  8. J R - February 19, 2013

    I have heard several so called “Natural Winemakers” reject the term Natural. I think buyers and journalist have been quick to use the term. It is probably a bad term but organic has issues too for example as well.

    As for health, different countries have different rules for what can be added. I have heard that some people react to some of the common additives. Velcorin is an example.

    For Emily. Here is a list of some of the things that can be added legally to wines. Thanks to strong PR and lobby efforts, wine is except from labeling ingredients. I believe the argument on labeling is that the public won’t understand what the items are but Tom might be able to clarify.

    Malic acid, Tartaric acid, Silicon dioxide, Edible gelatin, Gum arabic, Aluminum silicates (bentonite or kaolin), diatomaceous earth, cellulose, Polyvinyl, Activated charcoal, Water / H20, Concentrated grape must, Saccharose, Distilled alcohol,Oxygen, Cellulase, Protease, Betaglucanase, Pectolytics, Yeast, Yeast cell walls, Lysosome, Ascorbic acid, Fumaric acid, Lactic acid, Potassium caseinate, Casein, Isinglass, Milk/lactalbumin, Ovalbumin (egg whites), Ferrous sulfate, Lactic bacteria, Potassium carbonate, Potassium bicarbonate, Calcium carbonate, Copper sulfate, Oak chips, Acetaldehyde,
    Granular cork, Catalase, Glucose oxidase, Urease, Thiamine hydrochloride, Soy flour, Ammonium phosphate, Diammonium phosphate, Sorbic acid, Sulfur dioxide,
    Nitrogen, Dimethyl dicarbonate, Carbon dioxide, Potassium metabisulphite, Potassium sorbate, Ferrocyanide compounds, Citric acid, Potassium bitartrate, and Fruit concentrate of same grape variety

    For Charlie – Those clean yeast are isolated examples of what I guess is dirty yeast.

    Kurt – totally agree.

    • Giorgos Hadjistylianou - February 26, 2013

      Nice on JR

  9. Lee Newby, AIWS - February 19, 2013

    I think of “Artisanal” as a synonymous with “Garagiste”. I think Jamie Goode using “Authentic” though not very ad worthy got closer to the much loved “Natural”. I also think on sampling many that the idea of being good for me is “ad worthy”, because many are not very tasty and most Artisans would not bottle flawed wine, unless it is some sort of tonic.

    • CSMiller - February 21, 2013

      I feel most comfortable with Jamie Goode’s Authentic tag. For example a Brunello that slips a touch of Merlot in could be all organic or natural or bio etc but not Authentic. I prefer authentic wines and wine writer/bloggers for that matter.

  10. MIchael DeLoach - February 19, 2013

    I checking in once again to say, simply, any of these tags – artisanal, natural, garigiste, reserve, proprietor’s selection, old vine, etc., are meaningless in the void of an agreed definition. They may mean something to the trade but are largely noise (or marketing poetry) to consumers. See “estate bottled” and “Meritage”.

  11. Unmitigated Gaul - February 23, 2013

    Thank you Mr. DeLoach. It’s all hogwash. Let each wine stand on its merits regardless of production method.

    Oh, I forgot, that would cause the sheep no end of confusion.

  12. Giorgos Hadjistylianou - February 26, 2013

    I’m truly amazed about all the hostility about all this.
    Where is GR coming from all of a sudden.
    Obviously some……. are missing from their sales shares? So lets blast them….
    What’s up with that.

    If you were asked to add all additives and shit you put in your wines a 75cl bottle will not be enough. YOU WILL HAD TO BOTTLE MAGNUMS TO SAY THE LEAST……….
    You are shitting your pants because these true craft men and women are taking from your pie………. You are feeling the heat.

    Mr Der Loach……. This Meritage and estate bottle still mean nothing. You can label a wine; Wine of the US if it’s. It doesn’t have to be a region sub-region, that doesn’t make it a better wine or guarantee that an estate wine from a California is better. This is what you like to show. Oooops…. did I just spilled the beans……….
    How do you sleep at night by saying all that?
    Are you for real?
    Do you really mean that

    Why don’t you tell people how many hundreds of flavors are added to wine with
    Industrial or cultured yeasts
    Industrial bacteria
    Industrial enzymes
    Flavor enhancers
    Added acids
    Added sugar, added fruit juice, added fruit extract
    Added water
    Wood chips
    Artificial tannins

    In addition
    Spraying with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and/or fungicides….
    Heat the wine up and/ or Cool the wine down (the shock it goes through)
    Filter it and/ or add any substances for clarifying or fining the wine
    Use reverse osmosis and/ or use spinning cones
    Use cryo-extraction
    Use sterile filtration

    At least some people had the balls to try, we love their wines and what you are actually achieving is throwing your wines of our lives.


Leave a Reply