The SXSW (South-by-Southwest) of the natural wine world is about to descend on the Bay Area. SF Natural Wine Week will be held from August 23-29, 2010, promising tastings, seminars, and wine-fueled mayhem. Now that I’ve used the term multiple times, it may be helpful to actually define “natural wine.” According to the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné:
“Natural wine isn’t a certification as much as a belief that the wine should be the result of the absolute minimum of intervention from the winemaker – a tribute to the grape’s transformative ability to become wine with nothing added, nothing taken away.”
Natural Wine Week is the type of event that makes wine geeks swoon, but may make the every-day consumer cringe. So, in an attempt to demystify natural wine — and for my own personal education — I decided to collect a few articles that provide an introduction to natural wine. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other great write-ups out there (and I would love to hear your recommendations). But I wanted to pick three articles that would get me up to speed in time to dive into Natural Wine Week without reservation.
For a more comprehensive and greatly entertaining discussion of the natural wine, I highly recommend that you check out Saignee’s 32 Days of Natural Wine series.
Eric Asimov, “Natural Wine Stirs a Debate,” NY Times (June 14, 2010) and follow-up blog post here.
- Asimov provides a general overview of the “Talmudic bickering” that the term “natural wine’ has spawned in the wine world.
- Key Quote No. 1: “Like artists, musicians and writers in the avant-garde, the [natural wine] movement traffics in ideas that swirl far beyond the interests of the vast majority of ordinary fans. Nonetheless, their ideas may change the way people think of grape growing and winemaking.”
- Key Quote No. 2: “The fact is that making wine without benefit of chemicals or other technological shortcuts demands precision and exactitude. Far more so, perhaps, than in conventional winemaking. I find this passion and determination inspiring.”
Pameladevi Govinda, “Natural Progression: The Real Dirt on Natural Wine,” Imbibe Magazine (Sept/Oct. 2008)
- A good introduction to the different terminology floating around: natural, organic, biodynamic. And a short history lesson on the roots of the natural wine / “vin naturale” movement.
- Key Quote: “[F]or anyone intrigued by the idea of terroir — that mystical translation of a wine’s birthplace into its flavor — there’s a certain appeal to the idea of a wine that has had virtually nothing done to it since the grapes were picked, an unmediated relationship between the wine’s drinker and its native soil.”
Good Grapes Blog, “Why Natural Wine Needs to Go Extreme“
- Very thoughtful piece that poses a good question: what is the purpose of the natural wine movement? While there is no clear answer, there are some great points in here worthy of debate.
- Key Quote No. 1: “The natural wine movement needs to move to the edge like vegans. They need to go to the edge and risk alienation and lack of understanding, transcending the hypotheticals.”
- Key Quote No. 2: “If the natural wine movement wants to earn real simpatico respect, while gaining broad mindshare, the vignerons need to move further afield and embrace the quirky and what some might say is even weird, highlight the contrasts to the starkest degree. They need to risk abject failure.”
Finally, if you have the time, take a look at Jon Bonné’s “One Barrel” Blog Series (at SFGate.com). In this series of posts, Jon writes about his experience making a barrel of natural wine with Lioco‘s Kevin Kelley (who also happens to be a founding member of The NPA (the Natural Process Alliance) a very cool project that I certainly will be writing more about in the near future). [Hey JB – If you have an extra seat at the table for the release party of your wine, let me know!]
I hope to see many of you at the SF Natural Wine Week events!