Hypocrisy and Natural Wine

So, Isabelle Legeron wants stricter label requirements for wine and more transparency….except no word of such “transparency” when it comes to the use of the term “Natural”.  For that term on a label or promotional materials, no such label regulations are necessary:

Stronger legal framework

Careful food sourcing should equal careful drinks sourcing, says Isabelle Legeron. For her it just makes sense. As restaurants, and their customers alike, care even more about what what goes through their kitchen, and ends up on their plate, then it is only natural the same should apply to the wines that restaurants and bars are pouring into their glasses. 

The difficulty, however, says Legeron is that whilst people might understand and accept the farming techniques being used to make more sustainable and organic food, they don’t equally understand the different classifications of wine – be it natural, biodynamic or organic. It’s why so much of the RAW wine fair is still about trying to educate consumers about differently styles of wine and what all the terminology actually means.

For her the problem fundamentally centres around labelling and the transparency of the wine industry’s production values. Whilst the food industry has particularly stringent labelling laws, rules and regulations are not as strict in the wine industry.

It’s why Legeron continues to campaign for a much stronger legal framework in which wine can be made, bought and sold, with greater transparency underpinning the production techniques and ingredients. Central to all this is organic wines. If, for example, the starting point was that all wines were produced organically and naturally in the first place, then we wouldn’t need all the vocabulary of organic, natural, biodynamic winemaking because the basic assumption would be the wine is clean to start with.

There is a word for wanting something for someone else, but not for yourself… Umm? Dang. What is that word? I’ll figure it out.

Meanwhile, wine is not “wholesome” unless its organic, biodynamic or “natural”:

“She proposes that modern winemaking is just 50 years old, when high degrees of mechanisation became involved. This had the effect of moving styles away a traditional rustic, wholesome flavour towards the polished fruit styles so beloved of many so called New World countries.”

Here’s what I’m wondering: Is “rustic” a euphemism for “spoiled” or “flawed”? Is “wholesome” a euphemism for “only those wines my friends like”?

Oh…by the way…I found the word was looking for earlier: Hypocrisy.

The term “natural wine” and the way it has been marketed by primarily denigrating anything not considered natural has been a hypocritical fiasco from day 1.

Posted In: Natural Wine


6 Responses

  1. Liz Holtzclaw - April 12, 2018

    Of course Tom, she leaves out that the FAA Act, and the wine label regulations in Title 27, CFR Part 4: Standards of Identity 4.21 (a)(1)(iv) … Any grape wine containing no added grape brandy or alcohol may be further designated as “natural.”

    The term natural is clearly defined in regulations for grape and other fruit wines.

  2. David Vergari - April 12, 2018

    Yet another self-righteous barbarian at the gate. Go get ’em, Isabelle!

  3. Helene - April 12, 2018

    Ouch…double ouch.

    Much as I love my MW colleague Isabelle, too much so-called ‘natural wine’ is so ‘natural’ as to be ‘UN-natural’, that is, nearly undrinkable.

    Here in our non-terroir (London, UK) we have a wine bar/restaurant which specialises in organic, biodynamic and natural wines, Les Terroirs. It’s in the West End and close to the theatres, so it’s good for pre- or post-theatre suppers. Food is very good, plenty of small plates. Wine list is so variable that my co-partners and I often ask for a snippet before ordering a bottle. Sadly, more than 4 out of 10 are ‘not nice’. We (the MS) and I (the MW) would rather drink delicious than necessarily ‘natural’, biodynamic or even organic. Whatever.

    Please remind me where are the organic escargots? Oh, our London garden or Bourgogne garden, I think? Are they better? Doubt it? But, if you aren’t minded to eat them, the little snails do make excellent pets…

  4. Bob Henry - April 13, 2018


    Just to be fair, where do you stand on the practices of California wineries labeling their wines “Reserve”?

    Another tern that has no legal definition.

    Recall the disgruntled California North Coast producers back in the 1980s to Glen Ellen using the “Proprietor’s Reserve” designation for wines that sold for $3.50?

    Link: http://articles.latimes.com/print/1992-07-02/food/fo-1606_1_expensive-wine

    ~~ Bob

  5. Bob Henry - April 13, 2018

    “She [Isabelle Legeron] proposes that modern winemaking is just 50 years old, when high degrees of mechanisation became involved. This had the effect of moving styles away a traditional rustic, wholesome flavour towards the polished fruit styles so beloved of many so called New World countries.”

    As the late California vintner Louis M. Martini observed: “We like that best to which we are accustomed.”

    (Link: http://articles.latimes.com/print/1986-12-07/magazine/tm-952_1_white-wine )

    Those with l-o-n-g memories and drinking experience will recall how dire were most vintages of French red Burgundies and red Bordeaux in the 1960s and 1970s. Tart, green herbal, thin bodied, tannic — an “ugh” experience.

    But to those “to the manor born” Brits raised on these thin gruel wines, they reflected the internalized reference standard that defined the “typicity” of the times.

    Thankfully, modern (versus “rustic”) grape growing and winemaking techniques championed by French enology professor Émile Peynaud and others were adopted.

    (Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/wines_world/2004/07/the_tastemaker.html )

    And today we have better wines for the public to enjoy at all price levels, from a wider array of countries.

  6. Bob Rossi - April 14, 2018

    And don’t forget that for 1,000’s of years before the modern era of wine making, most wine was probably undrinkable and often had to have flavorings added to it to make it palatable. Not that I was around to try them.

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