Sunday, April 17, 2011

Natural Wine

Anyone who pays attention to the food they eat knows the suspect nature of the word natural. It does not allow artificial ingredients, but the food can be augmented. Natural means to me the item in its pure form, in all of its glory, or lack thereof. Natural wine should mean the same. It does not. A recent post from Alice Feiring prompted me to address this issue here. I have resisted because it is a massive, and massively confusing, topic that can cause eyes to glaze and move on. She has wording posted ( Even the writing is unnatural. Ask most people on the street about what natural wine means to them and I'm sure it wouldn't involve sugar or concentrated fruit juice. An article by Kerry Newberry in Oregon Wine Press (August 2009) titled 'What is Natural Wine?' offered a number of possibilities but admitted it was a bit of a moving target. She cited Artisan & Vine, a London wine bar focused on natural wines that defined them as, "wines made using organic or biodynamic, low-yielding vineyards; minimal or no added sulphites and indigenous yeasts." That doesn't jibe with the gibberish cited by Ms. Feiring. But, as I said, people paying attention know that natural is not the most stringent of designations. Take a quick look at USDA organic certifications for food. "100% organic" speaks clearly. "Organic" requires 95% of ingredients to be organic. "Made with Organic Ingredients" only requires 70% to be organic. Confusing? Damn right. Now try bringing the same basic issues to the world of wine; a topic that perplexes and overwhelms already. On a shelf in a grocery store in Oregon a few years ago I counted 15 different certifiers on about 40 bottles. Good luck keeping up with all of their fine print. More on this subject to come, I promise.

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