Posts Tagged ‘Natural’

How natural do you want it?

How natural do you want it?

It nearly time again for what now appears to be an annual celebration of unsubstantiated and unsupported claims and assertions about wine. It’s time again to denigrate 99% of the worlds wine and winemakers.

Of course, I’m talking about the coming RAW WINE FAIR, a celebration of “natural” wine taking place in London on May 19 and 20. On the cusp of this important occasion, I think it appropriate to examine some of the claims that are being made about the wines being featured at RAW that have been made by the event’s founder, Isabelle Legeron, MW. Ms. Legeron was recently interviewed in the Londonist and she took that opportunity to make a variety of claims not just about “natural” wine, but all other wines not considered “natural”.

According to Ms. Legeron:
“Once grapes are harvested and taken to the cellar, natural wine growers try to intervene as little as possible. They see their role more as guardians — guiding a process that occurs naturally — rather than as trying to force the grapes or juice into particular moulds responding to market demands or trends”

I’m wondering, do only “natural” winemakers attempt as little intervention as possible? Or are there non “natural” winemakers that take this approach? Also, isn’t the process of “guiding” anything but “natural”? Isn’t it really a case of “manipulation”?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“I like wine that is alive and unmanipulated, characteristics that are surprisingly hard to come by in modern winemaking. I don’t like wines that are worked: heavily extracted, oaky, manipulated, squeaky clean and boring.”

Just how hard to come by are wines that are “alive”? What does “Alive” mean? Do only “natural” wines qualify as being “alive”? How many of the world’s wines, particularly those produced by the thousands of small artisan producers around the globe that do not claim their wines are “natural”, have you tasted in order to declare that finding wines with “alive” and “unmanipulated” characteristics are hard to find? Or are you really just making this up and offering an unsupported assertion?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“the vast majority of natural wine I come across is not only not faulty, but is deliciously complex and shows far more interesting taste profiles than conventional wine. To be frank, this isn’t really surprising either — if, as you would do in conventional winemaking, you kill off all your native bacteria and yeasts to then add lab-bred ones that have been developed to show specific aromas, you will necessarily have less complex aromatics than if nature — with its infinitesimal variations — is involved.“

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In the last decade, I have discovered that the wines I enjoy the most are often produced by organic and biodynamic wineries. This intrigues me.

I come from an era when a slogan beloved in my high school, was “Better living through chemicals.” By nature, I tend to worry less about motivation and more about outcome. In addition, I spent the last 30 years of my life with a morbid fascination of fraud, particularly wine fraud.

These three factors make me somewhat skeptical about the quasi-religious faith systems many consumers invest in their foods and eating habits. I cannot think of anybody less inclined to chase organic products than myself.

What most consumers don’t realize is how entrenched are the notions of organic viticulture. Some of the largest producers in the world are organic and more are choosing this route every year. Many of them always have been organic. As it happens, the back label of a wine bottle is a lousy place to try to explain this to consumers. Therefore, I am writing a series of columns on the various forms of viticulture and production this takes.
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Natural wine has much to learn...

Natural wine has much to learn from…

 

I can’t look a chicken in the eye anymore unless I ask it first if it’s free range. My family eats organic, right down to the kale. Yes, the natural food movement has changed the way we eat. We consider where our food came from, who grew or produced it, and how far it traveled to get to our plate.

Certainly — to throw some reality-check deionized spring water on the previous paragraph – the vast majority of American eaters are slugging down sugary drinks and sucking down deep-fried McSomething every day, but what was once the fringe domain of a few tofu freaks is now mainstream. You can buy stock in Whole Foods, which took in nearly $12 billion last year, and you can buy organic at Walmart and Costco.

Authors like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman champion intelligent eating that will help us all live longer. I wonder, though, when those guys sit down to a meal with wine, do they drink organic? I’d like to think so. Laura Klein, publisher of Organic Authority, told me that people who eat organically would also be likely to drink organic, natural or sustainably-produced wine.

“It is a natural extension of their lifestyle,” she wrote me in an email. “Grapes can be one of the most heavily sprayed crops with pesticides, and those who want to limit their exposure to pesticides will probably want to choose wine made with grapes that are grown organically the way mother nature intended: without the use of chemical pesticides that damage the soil, environment and health of the workers that pick those grapes. In fact growers who use pesticides have to pay higher health insurance rates for their workers because of exposure.”

Although you can get organic wines in Whole Foods and Trader Joes, how can you find out more about them, and who are the champions for drinking the good (organic) stuff?
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Spanking_Photo

 

In June of 1973 my father spanked me. I haven’t forgotten it either.

I arrived home on my bike around 8pm, a good 2 hours later than I was told to. When asked why I was late, I told my folks that baseball practice went long. That’s what provoked the spanking. I lied to my father’s face. It wasn’t baseball practice. I just wanted to hang out at my buddy’s house, knew I didn’t have time to, did it anyway, then tried to lie my way out of it.

In most cases it doesn’t take more than one good punishment for lying to drive home the point that lying is wrong. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us know that lying is wrong and most of us don’t do it any more.
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Time to get a life?

Time to get a life?

 

Left, right, center — in Washington, it pays to keep track. But the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies didn’t. That misstep has bubbled into a controversy with a Sonoma County winery at its center.

The placement in a press release of the word “California” to the right of the word “Champagne” — instead of the left — has French Champagne industry lobbyists up in arms.

The Champagne Bureau, the French industry’s U.S. lobbying arm, has objected to the committee’s announcement that “Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne, California” is to be served with the dessert course of the 2013 Inaugural Luncheon on Jan. 21.

Quelle horreur!

“Champagne only comes from (the region of) Champagne, France,” the bureau’s director, Sam Heitner told The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress. He vowed to write the committee to set it straight.

“Because at the end of the day, we want everyone to know where their wine comes from,” Heitner said.

The Internal Revenue Service tax code permits some American wineries to describe their sparkling wines as champagne only if the word is used after its appellation, or where its grapes originated.
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Natural wine?

Natural wine?

Arguments rage over the status of natural wine.

 

Natural wine? Who could possibly object?

With a desire for healthy, sustainable food stimulating trends like the farm-to-table movement and Slow Food, natural wine is positioning itself as the perfect accompaniment.

But according to some experts, the unregulated use of the term “natural” is misleading gullible consumers as well as polarizing the wine trade.

“These are all things that don’t exist – natural wines, the tooth fairy and Father Christmas,” says Robert Joseph, a wine trade veteran who is one of the most prominent naysayers.

Natural wine does not exist as a legal category in the European Union, despite flourishing movements in Italy or France – the two biggest producers in the 27-nation bloc.

“At present, the compound noun ‘vin naturel’ (natural wine) has no definition on the national level,” said Aubierge Mader, a spokeswoman for France’s fraud protection agency (DGCCRF).

Yet hundreds of wines today are advertised and sold as “natural,” appealing to consumers on a variety of levels.

“I think consumers also respond favourably to the image of ‘natural’ wines as being not just more authentic, healthy or artisanal, but also… read on