Tuesday, 8 November 2011


There is a growing clamour about the so called ‘natural’ wine movement which seems to market itself as a half way house to organic. Organic wine itself is rather full of inconsistency and confusion (see our summary on organic wine here) and the thinking behind ‘natural’ wine is equally muddled. The promoters are proud of their non interventionist stance and lack of ‘treatment’ of wine which they parade as naturally better. Reality, we feel, lies elsewhere!
If we return to first principles we can see that wine is never natural! Because although alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally in grapes, without human intervention it all too quickly ends up as vinegar which is the real natural result. So it is all very much a matter of degree. Some so called 'natural' wines are distinctly variable bottle by bottle. Interestingly, (leaving aside Austria and Germany where producers are still conscious of the antifreeze scandal) the natural wine movement is largely confined to France - a country with a Roman Catholic heritage and where not so long ago wines with what would today be regarded as faults were routinely on sale – the Good Lord had made the wine, as it were, and that was how it turned out, faults and all. The Protestant background of somewhere like Australia has led to a much more widespread technical approach in winemaking as a way of 'improving' nature. Of course this can lead to a certain standardisation, but for inexpensive wines this amounts to a version of quality control for the consumer. Without intervention interesting variabilty can all too easily be a lottery. And even for wines in wide production careful 'interventionist' winemaking and cellar practices lead to wines that have more individuality such as, for example in the barrel ageing of any number of wines from both old and new worlds, or Château Buisson Redon's microbullage (oxygenation) to enhance ageing characters of a simple Merlot based Bordeaux 'Petit Château'.
To paraphrase the cream producers, it may not be natural but it's nice. And nicer than it would 'naturally' otherwise be!

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