The Ongoing Tale of the Gutter Snipes of Natural Wine World

Is it possible for Natural Wine advocates to be anything other than assholes? More and more it seems not. For example:

Those ‘faults’ [in Natural Wine] can exist to different levels and, in some cases, I’d argue they add to the wine’s character. It isn’t black and white. Advocates of conventional wine can’t handle that and, even more, can’t handle that some hipster kid on Lower Clapton Road – who they’d argue knows nothing – is celebrating the wine for it. It fundamentally undermines all their learning and hard work”

Bill Nuttall, The Guardian

Then this from the author of the article in the Guardian:

” ‘This wine requires you to engage individually with it,” says Nuttal. That may be natural wine’s most challenging quality. Not its flavours. But that it asks drinkers to think for themselves.”

Besides being an elitist asshole, Nuttal does what so many other Natural Wine advocates and champions do: They disparage the integrity and value of those who haven’t embraced Natural Wine in order to burnish their own standing. Nuttal wants us to believe that those folks who don’t like overly acidic, oxidized, piss-smelling wines somehow “can’t handle” these characteristics. Good lord.

Meanwhile the author of the piece, Tony Taylor wants to imply that those who don’t appreciate this kind of “individuality” in Natural Wines simply can’t “think for themselves.”

And the natural wine crew wonders why they and their opinions about wine are so consistently and thoroughly kicked to the corner of the gutter by their harder working, more knowledgeable, better-educated peers.

Posted In: Natural Wine


21 Responses

  1. Tom Elliot - November 15, 2017

    Don’t criticize natural wines until you’ve tried them with untreated rotted meat, uncooked of course.

    • Tom Wark - November 15, 2017

      Excellent advice from Mr. Elliot.

  2. TomHil - November 15, 2017

    I had much the same reaction as you, Tom. What a bunch of elitist crap. Does no good for the natural wine movement.

    • Tom Wark - November 15, 2017

      Hi Tom.

      And yet…it is par for the course.

  3. Charlie Adler - November 15, 2017

    And the Creme de la Creme of Elitists in that category – the Biodynamic followers – it’s more like a cult than a wine – dump some cow shit in a horn, create tea and dabble it all around and prance around your vines and you surely will create wines that go beyond normal expressions – Oxidized!

    • David Vergari - November 15, 2017

      Charlie, Charlie, Charlie…it’s quite reasonable for a Biodynamiste to bury a cow’s skull in the vineyard and expect it to channel cosmic forces, AS LONG AS THE COW JUMPED OVER THE MOON FIRST.

  4. Robert Whitelatch - November 15, 2017

    Love it….reminded of comments of another winemaker, ” I could make unfined,unfiltered wine and I could land an airplane without air traffic control, but why the hell would I”.

  5. Alison Crowe - November 16, 2017

    My next venture: the ultimate in Natural Winemaking. I’ll just leave the grapes hanging on the vine and patrons can come and eat the dessicated grape-patties off the vineyard floor. Low intervention winemaking sounds awesome.

  6. Annette Hoff - November 16, 2017

    Hey Tom: let me chime in here as I’ve been introduced to “natural” wine by a winemaker friend who doesn’t buy into it fully but uses it as a platform to experiment. He makes wine in our winery facility so I’ve have witnessed his successes and failures. As you know I’ve been making wine for quite some time (and have experienced my own successes & failures even while using commercial yeast, SO2, etc) but I was skeptical and dismissive at first. There’s a very fine line between “good” natural wine & “bad” but when it is good I’ve tasted serious, interesting subtlety & nuances that I don’t taste elsewhere. Its been a good lesson for me and has helped me to refine my palate and winemaking sensibilities even more quite honestly. Yes — there’s all kinds of snobbery in the natural wine world but then again there’s all kinds of snobbery all over the wine industry right?

    • Tom Wark - November 16, 2017

      So good to hear from you.

      I have no problem with the quality of Natural Wine. I think that good wine is good wine and I don’t care how it’s made really. I just want to experience deliciousness.

      My problem is the denigration employed by so many Natural Wine champions. It’s not really snobbery as much as it is denigration. I don’t mind snobbery. I’m a snob in many ways and I don’t care if someone thinks I’m snobby about wine or anything else. I’m bothered by denigration.

  7. Joel - November 16, 2017

    Tom, I read that Guardian article yesterday and had the same reaction you did. Being an old coot, this reminds me of the first wave of vegetarian, “natural food” restaurants from the early 70s. A few of them were good. But the majority served up concoctions of unharmonious and badly-prepared ingredients, conceived and cooked by people convinced that those who couldn’t appreciate their efforts had been clearly indoctrinated by the meat industry to “need” steak on their plate at every meal.

    Sound familiar?

  8. Alison Crowe - November 16, 2017

    Joel, I was just thinking on a culinary bent as well. Do these same natural wine fanatics and elitists also demand that their favorite 4 star chef step away from her sous vide or *gasp* carrot peeler? Immersion blender? And pastry chefs certainly must stop using baking powder. Additives and chemicals have no place in the real world of food. Even eaters of genoise (cake made with “intervention” whipped eggs) certainly can’t think for themselves and have been brainwashed.

    Seriously- what if the culinary world was viewed through the same lens?

    • Joe Ako - November 23, 2017

      Alison, You are 100% correct. Yet there is something about being able to cook without chemicals. Machinery is to relieve fatigue.
      As a home winemaker I just happen to make wine naturally with naturally high quality grapes and the wine tastes like an expensive amazing quality wine. Just let it ferment naturally make sure there is no oxygen exposure and the wine will taste as good as the grapes., and give you the tastes of the grapes you are using.

  9. Bob Rossi - November 16, 2017

    “Is it possible for Natural Wine advocates to be anything other than assholes?”
    Well, I have run across a few who aren’t. However, I want to gag when I read the kinds of statements you quote. Such as “This wine requires you to engage individually with it,” says Nuttal.” I don’t want to engage with my wine, individually or otherwise. I want to drink it and enjoy it.

  10. Joe Ako - November 16, 2017

    As a home winemaker I just happen to make wine naturally with naturally high quality grapes and the wine tastes like an expensive amazing quality Napa Valley wine. Just let it ferment naturally make sure there is no oxygen exposure and the wine will taste as good as the grapes.

  11. David Scheidt - November 16, 2017

    I wonder what natural wine advocates drink when they’re not drinking natural wine?

    A really fine aged bourbon? A bourbon that probably uses some form of conventionally farmed, not biodynamic, corn? And then fermented, not through native fermentation, but by pitching commercial yeast. Then the finished product must, by law, put in new American Oak. Reconcile that one.

    Maybe beer? Same set of problems. More than likely, conventionally farmed hops and commercial yeast.

    Where do they eat? At a restaurant that uses a vacuumed sealed plastic bag to cook their 20 hour short ribs sous vide? Or perhaps a little agar agar in a really cool sauce? Or a commercial pasteurized vinegar for their salad? The list can go on.

    It’s a strange world of contradictions. I happen to like plenty of wines that are not flawed and are made using native yeasts, neutral oak, unfined, unfiltered and minimal SO2 additions, call it natural or just very clean winemaking. I also think that there are plenty of other wines with too much booze and oak on them, but that’s a personal preference. In the end, I just want the wine to taste good.

  12. Tom Sawatzki - November 16, 2017

    I was with you until you ended with “harder working, more knowledgeable, better-educated peers.” Soooo close… 🙂

  13. Patricia - November 17, 2017

    Many so-called “Natural Wines” are so natural as to be unnatural! Personally, we don’t mind a little Brett or a little VA, which can add complexity to wines such as Bordeaux, Rhone and Italy, but too much is too much. Some would suggest that ANY of the above is too much. Oh, well, chacon a son gout. The only “complexing element” where zero is the always the correct amount is one of the 13 anisoles, better known as Cork Taint! Bring back SO2, please?

  14. Marcelo Solá - November 22, 2017

    Patricia, the problem with Brett is that volatile phenol (and other compounds) production by the little bastards does not cease. “A little” Brett today will surely be “a lot” in a few months or years. What today smells like dried rose petals will end up smelling like a used diaper in the not-so-distant future.

  15. Bruce Gutlove - November 26, 2017


    When calling others smug assholes you might want to try extra hard not to come across as one yourself.

    Just a suggestion….

  16. 20bet - September 14, 2023

    Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

Leave a Reply