Natural (only) wine drinkers are to the wine community what vegans are to foodies and what cross-fit is to exercise; obnoxious, hyperbolic, overly-pedantic snobs who lack the contextual wherewithal and self-awareness to know that they are being obnoxious, hyperbolic, overly-pedantic snobs.
Fashion is curiously particular
Style is a fluid art and what trends in music, decor, gastronomy and language has its own timeline of staying-power.
Some trends blossom and die off quickly, while others manage to perennially transcend generations that leave a lasting mark on our culture.
We tend to keep or borrow some things from prior generations, like vinyl records from the 70s, but cast off others, like bellbottom jeans.
Just like every other commercialized product, wine is not imperious to the ebbs and flows of fashion.
Certain growing regions, styles and grapes varietals rotate on and off the pedestal of popularity; nothing stays popular indefinitely or forever. Take for instance the movie Sideways, which committed an act of genocide against Merlot, destroying the reputation and production of the grape in the U.S. while elevating Pinot Noir as king to the everyday consumer.
Then came an enthusiasm for blends, though most never took the time to understand that so many wines are such, even if the label indicates it’s a single varietal.
It was popular and comfortable for people to simply say, “I like blends.”
Malbec came into the spotlight as greatest thing to happen to the wine industry during the recession, as wine consumers looked to find more value in what they drank without lessening the frequency in which they imbibed.
Then there was a brief flirtation with the intrigue and exploration of orange wine, which developed into the discovery of the lesser known regions and varietals with an almost competitiveness as to whom could talk about the strangest grape from the most obscure parts of the globe.
Now we are are in the era of the natural Wine Obsession.
With the growing popularity of organic food consumption and organic viticulture, the consumer’s need for everything organic organic is a major contributing factor to the rise of the natural wine frenzy.
The problem is, too many people, specifically those of a younger generation, hold themselves hostage to the false dogmas of a misdirected concept that at it’s core is an ill-defined sub-sect of the wine industry.
There is an emerging attitude of piousness and exclusivity about only drinking natural wines, forsaking all else that is vinously based. And while people think that are hip and cutting edge by doing so, they are shutting themselves off to the entire spectrum of wine.
I know Somms who refuse to work with producers who reduce grape yields to increase concentration, because that’s not natural.
Or if they prune their vines, because that’s not natural.
Or if they cold stabilize, because that’s not natural.
Or if any intervention is applied, whatsoever, because intervention is not natural. Or if any sulphur is used… You get the idea.
All of this begs the questions, what is natural wine anyways?
What does natural really mean? Isn’t the very nature of wine in and of itself, natural?
It seems to me to be a very loose, ill defined, nebulous concept with a, make up the rules as we go, kind of attitude. Ask fifty people to define natural wine and you’ll get fifty diverging opinions for your answer.
There’s no standard or dictums.
It seems pretty simply; just don’t put chemical in your vineyards or apply any additives to the must and thee you go.
If you need to do execute this technique or that in process, who cares?
It’s not so much that natural wine is a problem, more-so the people that push the agenda and concept of natural wine on everyone else.
This attitude is exactly the kind of reverse snobbery that alienate people from exploring wine in general.
It’s divisive and and ineffectual. Wine is wine; it should be free of dogma, judgment and classism. It should be as simple as some people make great wines, others don’t; naturally, organically, biodynamic, or whatever voodoo that they do, do…
It doesn’t matter what route they take to get there, so long as they are doing it well and honestly. There are plenty of great wines and producers in all categories and conversely plenty of terrible wines is all categories, so it’s an even playing field.
Natural wine drinkers need a reality check
Wine is a journey, not a religion, and too many people are treating it that way.
My way is the right way, yours is the wrong.
So many people eagerly drink flawed and horribly made wine simply because it’s natural. And that’s not to say that all natural wine is categorically flawed or terrible, though my experience suggests that so much of it is, but why not lose the attitude and do some soul searching on the concept of what’s natural.
Maybe natural wine will be a passing fancy or maybe it will flex a little staying power and continue to be the next hip thing; lets just hope the attitude associated with it gets lost along the way.
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