We Prefer Natural Wine Because They are Real

Excuse my brevity, but I ran a little under 7 miles tonight and have a few books on the wines of Portugal on my lap while watching the Indiana/Michigan men’s basketball game.

Tonight I came across a post from Charlie Oken as he chimed in on the latest kerfuffle over natural wine.  Tom Wark posted his latest thoughts on vitis naturalis on his site (and for the record, I have almost zero respect for anything that comes out of Wark’s mouth or keyboard since he compared wine wholesalers to Nazi’s awhile back) which led to a response from Hardy Wallace on his site – Dirty South Wine.  Oken, like so many wine writers, misses the point when it comes to understanding why a growing sector of the wine market prefers place over process.  For those of us who prefer to drink wines that are reflective of place and are produced in a manner that involves minimal intervention, our value for these wines isn’t based solely on method – the wines need to taste delicious.  I have had many wines made with little to no intervention that taste terrible, while others are some of the most memorable bottles I’ve ever come across. However, for those wines that taste delicious and are made in a responsible, non-interventionist fashion – they represent not only a process that allows a wine’s voice to speak, but they offer something that is real.

What do I mean by real?  I mean there wines out there that are mind-blowing examples of what’s great about non-manipulated food products.  They fall into a category that is much bigger and more important than taste alone – they represent a method of production that is anti-process.  And by process I mean processed product.  When I teach wine classes, I often use the analogy that when foods such as doughnuts, cookies, juice from concentrate and by-product cold cuts replace their freshly made, and more authentic predecessors, these pre-packaged food-like products represent more factory than real ingredients.  I, along with a large number of natural wine lovers, believe, though “flavor” and “texture” might be gained by manipulating grapes in the vineyard and juice in the winery, a connection to what’s real is lost – our feet are no longer on the ground.  Instead of viewing a painting in a museum, we are now understanding it through a 17 inch high definition computer monitor.  Though shiny, crisp, clear and lucid, it’s no longer the same painting.  We believe that same “there there” is lost when wines going through the funny business of manipulation.  These wines aren’t always delicious, but those that are represent something that far too many people in this world are losing touch with – an experience that cannot be duplicated, wrapped in plastic and mass produced.  And that my friends, is what the best wines in the world stand for – an unmistakable sense of place that provides an eye opening respite from banality that floods too many wine shops and restaurant lists.