Wine's naturalistic fallacy

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Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#1 Post by William Kelley »

Just published a free-to-read Tuesday morning provocation on The Wine Advocate site. Would be interested to hear everyone's thought!

The précis is that I argue that the notion that wines "make themselves", and that any producer signature amounts to "makeup" is mistaken; every wine is the product of intention, as producers make choices in the face of almost infinite possibilities (even if these are, in practice, limited by logistics and conventions). The argument by which the essay stands or falls is this one: "To acknowledge that terroir is a text to be interpreted and not a law that demands adherence is also to accept that any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice."

https://winejournal.robertparker.com/wi ... expression
Last edited by William Kelley on February 23rd, 2021, 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#2 Post by tcavallo »

An insightful take rather than a "natural wine" or "terroir" takedown, love it! I am always trying to impress upon people the million minute decisions that make great differences in the outcome of winemaking, covered very well here:

"Every choice, big or small, ramifies; and even negative choices ramify, so abdication is seldom an option."

"In theory, the winemaker is faced with an almost infinite variety of combinatory choices; in practice, the constraints of logistics and the conventions of tradition limit options to a more manageable range."

and I especially loved this:

"To acknowledge that terroir is a text to be interpreted and not a law that demands adherence is also to accept that any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice."
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#3 Post by Nick Christie »

Oh, it's a beautiful piece, William.

I think about this question most often when I've been at certain biodynamic places like Pearl Morissette in Ontario. Lots of attention to making some very unique wines, and yet (for me) their idiosyncrasies in flavors and mouthfeel are somewhat of a roller coaster for my own enjoyment :). And is that because I grew up on Old World wines so devoutly? If I were new to wines in my 30s, and had a massive variety of wine making diversity in my first 500 bottles of wine tasted/consumed would my own palate flexibility have a much larger degree of variance? Would I embrace 'quirky' wine making techniques more readily?

I do indeed think about this often. Both on the personal, anecdotal levels as well as what they mean for the artisanal world at large.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#4 Post by Markus S »

Haven't heard ramify used in a long time.

Decent article. Obviously, wine is made somehow. What you want to call it or do with it will be where the arguments lie.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#5 Post by Herwig Janssen »

All your article long , I was thinking about domaine Coche Dury . Today , the wines are more pure yes .
But where is the ( JF ) Coche nose ? Gone .
Now , it is much more difficult to recognise Coche wines made by son Rafaël blind . The wines are truly great but I preferred the old style . Some people called them overly oaked , even when no new oak was used ... you liked it or you didn’t . They had a distinct style , I loved it .

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#6 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

This tendency is exactly that: a tendency. It is reaching the end of the pendulum swing as you let us understand through the first paragraph of your article:
how tenable is any philosophy for wine production that seeks to minimize the importance of production itself?
This was a necessary movement to get the consumer mass out of the
bland, commercial conformity on a beverage
and it will leave a more knowledgeable and informed generation of vignerons to pass these experiences and changes on to the next. This will also have served a purpose to educate the consumers to other styles of wines that were not following the "commercial conformity".

So all in all, it was a good thing, it is a good thing but as almost everything else in life... let's stay away from the extremes.

Good article and proper timing too as we feel that this shift to the extreme is reaching its end.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#7 Post by ScottL »

William,

This is an excellent piece and I have too many--seemingly ever expanding in digression after digression--thoughts on this to share in one post. I wanted to start by thanking you specifically for doing some work in posts on this forum, Instagram, and your writing to try and demystify to the best of your ability a lot of the discussion around wine making techniques and how that translates to what one smells or tastes in the glass. As far as I'm aware you seem to be just about the only person working in wine who is calling attention to the difficulty in always attributing an aspect of wine (or a group of wines) to just one decision in winemaking (including stems, use of new oak etc etc).

I'm fully aware the background I'm about to bring in is not going to be popular on this board and I want to be clear I intend this in no way to be political or start a political argument but merely to make a point by way of background about human making. I have an extensive background in Marxist historiography and given Marx's focus on the way in which human's organize their production, and his brilliant thoughts on the subject I can't help but be reminded of many of those observations when discussing this "non interventionist" approach. As you identify the reaction against commercial or "highly interventionist" wine-making becomes almost a caricature to the point that it claims a position that is on it's face completely indefensible. No one drinks wine specifically because it is the product of nature; that's literally an impossibility. Wine--probably even more so than most food or beverage-- only exists due to a human being (or group of human beings) intermixing their labor with nature; and in fact, whether you are fully conscious of it or not the particulars of this human creation process are what make wine so compelling and beguiling. Because there are nearly endless (though not infinite) sets of inputs and decisions (and limitations given by your particular climat, equipment, knowledge etc etc), and the fact that you get one shot at producing a wine each year (with essentially very little ability to actually control for any one particular set of input)-- the wine maker's job seems utterly maddening. It also means, from my perspective anyway, while the natural setting is probably of significant importance, ultimately what you are buying when you buy a wine, is that producer's particular set of sensibilities and skills mixed with his vineyard holdings. How you assign the % of what is most important I guess I'm not sure, though I personally through experience feel producer matters most because unlike what the common convention suggests you are basically buying, to put it as simply as possible, that producer's palate. Essentially saying I like the wines that this person also seems to like. I remember attending a session with Jean Marc Roulot saying he produces wines he wants to drink and doesn't really care about anything else and I've seen similar sentiments come from other winemaker's I find compelling. It seems impossible to say "this expresses the natural soul of the vineyard or terroir" because without at least some human intervention there would be no vineyard, and therefore no "soul" to express. I actually find the idea that you are expressing "the soul" of the winemaker, much more compelling (though saying it is a mix of the two is probably ultimately most defensible)-- it is the blood, sweat, tears, and vision of the person interacting with his land, and his wine that is most visible or visceral in the glass and in the stories the winemaker's tell about their wines (even when they try to emphasize their lack of intervention). If I only wanted to experience pure nature, I certainly would not buy wine.

Anyways, I'm maybe just restating what you wrote, but my point is what makes wine compelling and so interesting--to me anyway-- is the limits and possibilities set by the material realities of its production and how I get to experience what amounts to almost a material history (of "place", of human making, of nature) through my sensuous enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the wine. To remove the human part of that is not only to literally deny reality but also strip the joy and humanity in sharing with one another in the results of our labor.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#8 Post by Alan Rath »

If I have William's basic premise right, it is that the winemaker's intervention, his stamp on the wine, is as important as the place it came from. Or, at least, that the winemaker's stamp is a critical component in setting a wine apart from its peers, and that the most "interesting" wines have that stamp. I have mixed feelings about that conclusion. There are most definitely wines which have a "stamp" that makes them more interesting, more enticing, more cerebral perhaps. But there are an equal - perhaps much greater - number where that obvious stamp obliterates the wine, masking it's intrinsic character with aspects not at all "native".

Personally, I find myself drawn more to wines that have a less obvious winemaker's "signature", though there are important exceptions: Jamet's Cote Rotie, for example, is clearly apart from its peers in style, which suggests something unique about the winemaking. Rougeard's Saumur wines the same. When you find that unique combination of winemaking signature and terroir, it is truly magical. The problem, as I see it, is those successful combinations are few and far between.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#9 Post by Rodrigo B »

Great article William

I continuously ponder over the producer vs. terroir debate you so eloquently wrote on.

To me it seems silly to claim there’s only one single way to express the TRUE terroir of a place. So much of it comes down to a producer’s preferences and decisions in the wine growing and making process that I always ponder how much of the wine’s uniqueness is due to location/terroir vs. producer.

In other word’s when one is drinking Jayer Echezeaux, one isn’t drinking the true expression of Echezeaux, bur rather Jayer’s expression of Echezeaux.

It’s like those panting classes with everyone painting the same subject. At the end of the day when you step back, all of the paintings are of the same subject, but they are expressed differently. Some may show the subject better or worse than others, but even then, there’s bound going to be a handful of paintings that portray the subject equally well, but are expressed in different fashions. It seems to me like no coincidence that we also note things like shape, structure, colour, clarity when we talk about wine as well.

How woefully tedious it would be if every Pinot Noir from Echezeaux or Richebourg tasted the same, all wines completely fungible.

I reckon we drink wine less for the connection to place, and more for the connection to people. Even if we are far removed and distant from those who produce the wine we consume, we are ultimately drawn to the fingerprint of those people who produced the wine, or patina as you’d call it.

I reckon liking a region, vineyard or cru can be seen akin to liking a genre in a book, or film, or whatever other media one may consume. Insofar as that within that genre that are various ways in which that work may manifest. One may have a noted preference for say historical fiction novels, but not all historical fiction novels may move or compel one to read them. It is those from authors with their own set of unique characteristics, quirks and idiosyncrasies (whatever those may be) that compel you to read those books.

I imagine wine being much the same. It’s not so much one’s fondness for say Echezeaux or Montrachet that compels and intrigues, but for rather one’s fondness for Jayer’s or DRC’s Echezeaux, or Ramonet’s or Leflaive’s Montrachet. Each of them imbued with the producer’s unique characteristics, or patina to use William’s word. Even if we are ultimately abstracted and removed from those who produce the wines we consume, I think the uniqueness we often associate with a given terroir is not solely due to the geography of where those grapes were grown, but equally important, if not more so, we are drawn to and compelled by the fingerprints, or patinas, these producers leave behind in their wines
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#10 Post by William Kelley »

Nick Christie wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 10:52 am Oh, it's a beautiful piece, William.

I think about this question most often when I've been at certain biodynamic places like Pearl Morissette in Ontario. Lots of attention to making some very unique wines, and yet (for me) their idiosyncrasies in flavors and mouthfeel are somewhat of a roller coaster for my own enjoyment :). And is that because I grew up on Old World wines so devoutly? If I were new to wines in my 30s, and had a massive variety of wine making diversity in my first 500 bottles of wine tasted/consumed would my own palate flexibility have a much larger degree of variance? Would I embrace 'quirky' wine making techniques more readily?

I do indeed think about this often. Both on the personal, anecdotal levels as well as what they mean for the artisanal world at large.
Thank you! I have gone through the same process of reflection, especially in the course of getting to know, and coming to love, Selosse's very idiosyncratic Champagnes.

I think one's point of entry into a region (or, let's say, a genre, to borrow from Rodrigo's post) is immensely important. Each wine we taste in a sense alters our palate, by expanding our frame of reference, but those formative encounters can be the most defining. If, to continue with the Champagne example, one starts out with tank fermented, reductive, quite high-dosage Champagne, the shock of coming to Selosse is going to be so huge as to be, for some, insurmountable. Whereas if one comes to Selosse via old Champagne from the 1950s, serious white Burgundy, or the wines of Jerez and even the Jura, they are going to be a lot more, in a sense, accessible. One of the things that makes Selosse so interesting is the way he has transcended categories and gotten away with it, but it is remarkable the extent to which our wine culture considers some practices to be appropriate in some regions and not others. I have friends who love classical Rioja but criticize Ridge Monte Bello for the American oak signature, for example. But what would they have said in late 19th-/early 20th-century Haro when Rioja was being invented?
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#11 Post by William Kelley »

ScottL wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 11:21 am William,

This is an excellent piece and I have too many--seemingly ever expanding in digression after digression--thoughts on this to share in one post. I wanted to start by thanking you specifically for doing some work in posts on this forum, Instagram, and your writing to try and demystify to the best of your ability a lot of the discussion around wine making techniques and how that translates to what one smells or tastes in the glass. As far as I'm aware you seem to be just about the only person working in wine who is calling attention to the difficulty in always attributing an aspect of wine (or a group of wines) to just one decision in winemaking (including stems, use of new oak etc etc).

I'm fully aware the background I'm about to bring in is not going to be popular on this board and I want to be clear I intend this in no way to be political or start a political argument but merely to make a point by way of background about human making. I have an extensive background in Marxist historiography and given Marx's focus on the way in which human's organize their production, and his brilliant thoughts on the subject I can't help but be reminded of many of those observations when discussing this "non interventionist" approach. As you identify the reaction against commercial or "highly interventionist" wine-making becomes almost a caricature to the point that it claims a position that is on it's face completely indefensible. No one drinks wine specifically because it is the product of nature; that's literally an impossibility. Wine--probably even more so than most food or beverage-- only exists due to a human being (or group of human beings) intermixing their labor with nature; and in fact, whether you are fully conscious of it or not the particulars of this human creation process are what make wine so compelling and beguiling. Because there are nearly endless (though not infinite) sets of inputs and decisions (and limitations given by your particular climat, equipment, knowledge etc etc), and the fact that you get one shot at producing a wine each year (with essentially very little ability to actually control for any one particular set of input)-- the wine maker's job seems utterly maddening. It also means, from my perspective anyway, while the natural setting is probably of significant importance, ultimately what you are buying when you buy a wine, is that producer's particular set of sensibilities and skills mixed with his vineyard holdings. How you assign the % of what is most important I guess I'm not sure, though I personally through experience feel producer matters most because unlike what the common convention suggests you are basically buying, to put it as simply as possible, that producer's palate. Essentially saying I like the wines that this person also seems to like. I remember attending a session with Jean Marc Roulot saying he produces wines he wants to drink and doesn't really care about anything else and I've seen similar sentiments come from other winemaker's I find compelling. It seems impossible to say "this expresses the natural soul of the vineyard or terroir" because without at least some human intervention there would be no vineyard, and therefore no "soul" to express. I actually find the idea that you are expressing "the soul" of the winemaker, much more compelling (though saying it is a mix of the two is probably ultimately most defensible)-- it is the blood, sweat, tears, and vision of the person interacting with his land, and his wine that is most visible or visceral in the glass and in the stories the winemaker's tell about their wines (even when they try to emphasize their lack of intervention). If I only wanted to experience pure nature, I certainly would not buy wine.

Anyways, I'm maybe just restating what you wrote, but my point is what makes wine compelling and so interesting--to me anyway-- is the limits and possibilities set by the material realities of its production and how I get to experience what amounts to almost a material history (of "place", of human making, of nature) through my sensuous enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the wine. To remove the human part of that is not only to literally deny reality but also strip the joy and humanity in sharing with one another in the results of our labor.
Thank you! And I very much agree that its humane dimension is one of the things that makes wine so compelling. Indeed, it's an irony of contemporary wine marketing that it's the producers' stories that sell; yet it's de rigeur to imply that those producers just watch as the wines make themselves. By pivoting to focus more on the concept of terroir vs the reality of production, you've also anticipated "part two", which will look at the cultural history of that concept and how "gout de terroir" went from meaning "tastes of dirt" to "tastes of the dirt". I probably should have addressed that better in this essay, but I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew during a Texas power outage. Anyway, thanks again for the kind words, and interesting reflections.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#12 Post by John Morris »

William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 10:39 am Just published a free-to-read Tuesday morning provocation on The Wine Advocate site. Would be interested to hear everyone's thought!
If your aim was to provoke, than I fear you have failed completely, because everyone here seems to agree with you completely, which is not surprising since your piece makes so much sense.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#13 Post by John Morris »

tcavallo wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 10:51 am and I especially loved this:

"To acknowledge that terroir is a text to be interpreted and not a law that demands adherence is also to accept that any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice."
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#14 Post by William Kelley »

Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 11:42 am If I have William's basic premise right, it is that the winemaker's intervention, his stamp on the wine, is as important as the place it came from. Or, at least, that the winemaker's stamp is a critical component in setting a wine apart from its peers, and that the most "interesting" wines have that stamp. I have mixed feelings about that conclusion. There are most definitely wines which have a "stamp" that makes them more interesting, more enticing, more cerebral perhaps. But there are an equal - perhaps much greater - number where that obvious stamp obliterates the wine, masking it's intrinsic character with aspects not at all "native".

Personally, I find myself drawn more to wines that have a less obvious winemaker's "signature", though there are important exceptions: Jamet's Cote Rotie, for example, is clearly apart from its peers in style, which suggests something unique about the winemaking. Rougeard's Saumur wines the same. When you find that unique combination of winemaking signature and terroir, it is truly magical. The problem, as I see it, is those successful combinations are few and far between.
My premise is more that all wines are, unavoidably, the result of how producers answer the myriad questions posed by wine production; so all wines bear a stamp. So, as I put it in the essay, any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice. The concept of "transparency to terroir", in other words, doesn't do justice to the complexity of what is actually going on.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#15 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Winemaking signature has always struck me as similar to cooking great ingredients - do you like your freshly caught lobster steamed and served with lemon wedges or poached in butter? Both are still going to taste like lobster, but they are very different styles. Is one any more legitimate than the other? Nope.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#16 Post by William Kelley »

Rodrigo B wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 11:51 am Great article William

I continuously ponder over the producer vs. terroir debate you so eloquently wrote on.

To me it seems silly to claim there’s only one single way to express the TRUE terroir of a place. So much of it comes down to a producer’s preferences and decisions in the wine growing and making process that I always ponder how much of the wine’s uniqueness is due to location/terroir vs. producer.

In other word’s when one is drinking Jayer Echezeaux, one isn’t drinking the true expression of Echezeaux, bur rather Jayer’s expression of Echezeaux.

It’s like those panting classes with everyone painting the same subject. At the end of the day when you step back, all of the paintings are of the same subject, but they are expressed differently. Some may show the subject better or worse than others, but even then, there’s bound going to be a handful of paintings that portray the subject equally well, but are expressed in different fashions. It seems to me like no coincidence that we also note things like shape, structure, colour, clarity when we talk about wine as well.

How woefully tedious it would be if every Pinot Noir from Echezeaux or Richebourg tasted the same, all wines completely fungible.

I reckon we drink wine less for the connection to place, and more for the connection to people. Even if we are far removed and distant from those who produce the wine we consume, we are ultimately drawn to the fingerprint of those people who produced the wine, or patina as you’d call it.

I reckon liking a region, vineyard or cru can be seen akin to liking a genre in a book, or film, or whatever other media one may consume. Insofar as that within that genre that are various ways in which that work may manifest. One may have a noted preference for say historical fiction novels, but not all historical fiction novels may move or compel one to read them. It is those from authors with their own set of unique characteristics, quirks and idiosyncrasies (whatever those may be) that compel you to read those books.

I imagine wine being much the same. It’s not so much one’s fondness for say Echezeaux or Montrachet that compels and intrigues, but for rather one’s fondness for Jayer’s or DRC’s Echezeaux, or Ramonet’s or Leflaive’s Montrachet. Each of them imbued with the producer’s unique characteristics, or patina to use William’s word. Even if we are ultimately abstracted and removed from those who produce the wines we consume, I think the uniqueness we often associate with a given terroir is not solely due to the geography of where those grapes were grown, but equally important, if not more so, we are drawn to and compelled by the fingerprints, or patinas, these producers leave behind in their wines
Your comments here make me think of the observation of a friend of mine, John Atkinson, who suggested that the domaine-bottling movement represented "a reterritorialization from vineyard to domaine". That's to say, the era of the négociants' dominance tended to subordinate producer styles to vineyard styles (with wines blended and even adulterated to make e.g. a Pommard "taste more like Pommard"), whereas the grower-bottling movement brought production-derived differences out of the shadows and into the forefront. As you intimate, today, the appellation cannot really be meaningfully be given without the producer as a qualifier: Jayer's Echezeaux, Ramonet's Montrachet—and, maybe even more emphatically, Dureuil's Rully, Guffens' Mâcon. Whereas 100+ years ago the producer and even the bottler was frequently omitted from the label: one sees old 19th-century bottles that are just labelled "Chambertin"!
Last edited by William Kelley on February 23rd, 2021, 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#17 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

My signature on the Cellartracker discussion forum is, "Terroir is not a flavor." It seems germane here. :)

There is something to be said for varietal, or site-specific, "typicity"; but it's not the end-all be-all. And that's said without even touching the third rail of "defining "typicity"."
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#18 Post by Jonathan Loesberg »

The pedant in me wants to note that the "naturlistic fallacy," is the fallacy of believing that nature has human feeling, that when it rains, nature weeps, etc. By extention it has also referred to criticism that justifies an artwork for reproducing what it describes. Thus an artwork about boredom should be boring and an artwork about incoherence should be incoherent. What you are describing really doesn't have much to do with that. Though I suppose, with sufficient interpretive energy one could justify the analogy, I don't know that I would be persuaded.

With regard to your argument as a whole, whereas as a matter of abstract philosophy, I agree with you, there is a family resemblance among the wines that the term natural designates, and an even more specific set of resemblances to the wines that get condemned for interventionist winemaking, so the terms, like points for those who can read them, do serve a communicative end, I think. I know that authors create their characters and that authors who say that their characters decide what they will do and not their authors' desires for them are somewhat deluded. Nevertheless, those authors usually create more compelling characters. Likewise, a winemaker who declares that he or she does only what his vineyard tells him or her to do is either speaking metaphorically or is similarly deluded. And, likewise, those winemakers generally make wines I prefer. One more thing. I do absolutely agree that the best winemakers all have their own style. And that concept is abstractly at war with thinking that non-interventionism is all one seeks. But not all styles are to all tastes. Christian Delorme definitely make wine according to his own lights and is to be admired for that. But his lights weren't mine and I never cared for the wines.

What do you mean that French doesn't have a word for winemaker? What is "vigneron?" The fact that it doesn't have the French word for "make" in it doesn't mean that that isn't what the word means?

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#19 Post by LasseK »

I love the article!

As a person that drinks a lot of "natural wine", but hates the term, this article perfectly describes some of my thoughts. It is as people sometimes don't understand that almost every part of winemaking is a choice. And as long as that is not accepted the discussions becomes too focused on certain things.

The best example for me is the discussion of adding sulfites. In the genre of "natural wine" i have never understood why this is seen as such a special no-go for many, when it comes to the perception of showing true terrior. It is not like other choices had not effect...
And what annoys me the most about it, is that it removes focus from what is important to me, farming the land we use for a luxury product, with care, while producing thrilling wines!
Last edited by LasseK on February 23rd, 2021, 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#20 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:04 pm What do you mean that French doesn't have a word for winemaker? What is "vigneron?" The fact that it doesn't have the French word for "make" in it doesn't mean that that isn't what the word means?
It depends which definition you take e.g. Merriam-Webster:
Winemaker: a person who makes wine, specifically : one who supervises the wine-making process at a winery
It doesn't relate to growing or tending the vines. But the web also provides the following definition: A producer of wine; a winegrower.

Whereas vigneron always included the work at the vineyard e.g. Larousse:
Vigneron: Personne qui cultive la vigne, fait du vin.

So it depends who you ask :).

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#21 Post by Jonathan Loesberg »

Phil T r o t t e r wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:17 pm
Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:04 pm What do you mean that French doesn't have a word for winemaker? What is "vigneron?" The fact that it doesn't have the French word for "make" in it doesn't mean that that isn't what the word means?
It depends which definition you take e.g. Merriam-Webster:
Winemaker: a person who makes wine, specifically : one who supervises the wine-making process at a winery
It doesn't relate to growing or tending the vines. But the web also provides the following definition: A producer of wine; a winegrower.

Whereas vigneron always included the work at the vineyard e.g. Larousse:
Vigneron: Personne qui cultive la vigne, fait du vin.

So it depends who you ask :).
Yes and no. Technically, the word for someone who manages the work in the vineyard is viticulteur. It is true, as a matter of usage, that both words usually mean both things. Nevertheless, you will find on some bottles that the winemaker refers to himself as a viticulteur/vigneron to distinguish himself from someone who does one or the other (are there feminines for these terms: viticulteuse? vigneronne?).

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#22 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:21 pm Yes and no. Technically, the word for someone who manages the work in the vineyard is viticulteur. It is true, as a matter of usage, that both words usually mean both things. Nevertheless, you will find on some bottles that the winemaker refers to himself as a viticulteur/vigneron to distinguish himself from someone who does one or the other (are there feminines for these terms: viticulteuse? vigneronne?).
That isn't the most common definition though. Viticulteur is used when the person works in the vineyard but does not also produce the wine. Vigneron is used when the viticulteur also produces the wine. A good link to this distinction here: https://www.avenuedesvins.fr/fr/blog/vi ... --b68.html

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#23 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

Ah and yes for vigneronne and viticultrice.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#24 Post by brigcampbell »

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:01 pm My signature on the Cellartracker discussion forum is, "Terroir is not a flavor." It seems germane here. :)

There is something to be said for varietal, or site-specific, "typicity"; but it's not the end-all be-all. And that's said without even touching the third rail of "defining "typicity"."
Had a discussion with someone just recently, they're free to identify themselves, and this person knows napa wines and said basically "I'm coming to the conclusion that barrel selection/toast levels are the most important factor". It's a interesting take in the face of terroir because french/american oak is anything but terroir.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#25 Post by LasseK »

I always questioned myself on the notion of terrior. I agree some places can produce better/different grape material than others. But at that point the winemaking choices is too influential.

When people geek out on Burgundy or other famous areas, they can set vineyards apart because, at some point, people set some common rules/norms for how wine should be made in that area.

But could you pick out your favourite white Grand Cru vineyard blind if the grapes had macerated for an extended period? No?
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#26 Post by Jonathan Loesberg »

Phil T r o t t e r wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:25 pm
Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:21 pm Yes and no. Technically, the word for someone who manages the work in the vineyard is viticulteur. It is true, as a matter of usage, that both words usually mean both things. Nevertheless, you will find on some bottles that the winemaker refers to himself as a viticulteur/vigneron to distinguish himself from someone who does one or the other (are there feminines for these terms: viticulteuse? vigneronne?).
That isn't the most common definition though. Viticulteur is used when the person works in the vineyard but does not also produce the wine. Vigneron is used when the viticulteur also produces the wine. A good link to this distinction here: https://www.avenuedesvins.fr/fr/blog/vi ... --b68.html
Well, my Petit Robert gives viticulteur as a synonym for vigneron. I have heard the words used as distinct and as identical. it does give vigneronne as the feminine but gives no feminine for viticulteur. Erich Rohmer gives viticulteuse (in an Autumny Story) but as an awkward nonce word. I'll accept yours since I have no good information to the contrary.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#27 Post by William Kelley »

Phil T r o t t e r wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:25 pm
Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:21 pm Yes and no. Technically, the word for someone who manages the work in the vineyard is viticulteur. It is true, as a matter of usage, that both words usually mean both things. Nevertheless, you will find on some bottles that the winemaker refers to himself as a viticulteur/vigneron to distinguish himself from someone who does one or the other (are there feminines for these terms: viticulteuse? vigneronne?).
That isn't the most common definition though. Viticulteur is used when the person works in the vineyard but does not also produce the wine. Vigneron is used when the viticulteur also produces the wine. A good link to this distinction here: https://www.avenuedesvins.fr/fr/blog/vi ... --b68.html
I think there are also nuances to do with social status in the French class system. If I'm not mistaken (and such things are complex), "viticulteur" is a bit humbler in its connotations, peasant vs proprietor if you like, but not in a pejorative sense. The Coche-Dury sign, for example, says "Coche-Dury, viticulteurs", and Jayer's label says "Henri Jayer, viticulteur à Vosne-Romanée" - that is how those producers prefer/d to describe themselves.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#28 Post by William Kelley »

Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:56 pm
Phil T r o t t e r wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:25 pm
Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:21 pm Yes and no. Technically, the word for someone who manages the work in the vineyard is viticulteur. It is true, as a matter of usage, that both words usually mean both things. Nevertheless, you will find on some bottles that the winemaker refers to himself as a viticulteur/vigneron to distinguish himself from someone who does one or the other (are there feminines for these terms: viticulteuse? vigneronne?).
That isn't the most common definition though. Viticulteur is used when the person works in the vineyard but does not also produce the wine. Vigneron is used when the viticulteur also produces the wine. A good link to this distinction here: https://www.avenuedesvins.fr/fr/blog/vi ... --b68.html
Well, my Petit Robert gives viticulteur as a synonym for vigneron. I have heard the words used as distinct and as identical. it does give vigneronne as the feminine but gives no feminine for viticulteur. Erich Rohmer gives viticulteuse (in an Autumny Story) but as an awkward nonce word. I'll accept yours since I have no good information to the contrary.
viticultrice is the feminine
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#29 Post by William Kelley »

Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:04 pm The pedant in me wants to note that the "naturlistic fallacy," is the fallacy of believing that nature has human feeling, that when it rains, nature weeps, etc.
Isn't that the pathetic fallacy?
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#30 Post by Marcu$ Stanley »

As soon as I saw the author and title of this, I knew it was going to be great, and it is. William artfully dodges direct engagement in the old "natural wines" fight, but of course this is directly relevant to that debate, as the the fundamental conceptual incoherence in the "natural wine" discourse is that a wine can ever be a purely natural product as opposed to a craft product. Here for example is a paragraph explaining "natural wines" from a recent Simon and Schuster book on becoming a sommelier which gives a good perspective on how the term gets used:
"she's a champion of 'natural wines', an imperfect but serviceable designation generally taken to mean wines to which nothing is added nor taken away during their making....This is exactly how wine was made during most of its thousands of years in existence. But the production of wine changed dramatically during the second half of the 20th century, when chemical interventions, additions of natural and artificial flavors and colorants, and other 'innovations' were introduced to the process"
This explanation, given in a fairly advanced book, is totally misleading and false about the nature and history of winemaking. It would even be more accurate to say that additions of natural and artificial flavors were typical of winemaking for thousands of years. More than that, it's conceptually incoherent, since winemaking is fundamentally about choices of how exactly you interfere with natural processes, add to or take away from them, during the making of the wine.

What's great about this article is rather than quarrel about the conceptual definition of "natural", it really tries to bring home the way in which winemaking is a complex series of unavoidable choices each of which has complex impacts and cannot be abdicated or left entirely to nature. So it's in its essence a craft or artistic process which bears the mark and interpretation of the maker, like a chef's relationship with food. The danger in modern winemaking is not the replacement of the natural by the artificial, but the craft or artistic by the industrial. This latter danger is very real. But as William points out toward the end of the article, wrongly conceptualizing the issue as "natural vs artificial" can in certain ways make the threat of industrialization harder to defend against. If I take his point there correctly, he is saying that trying to strip away the artificial can strip away craftsmanship and individual signature and encourage homogenization of wine under the label of "purity". That's a really crucial and important point.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#31 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Life is itself a series of choices - interventions if you will. If one chooses to pursue a completely "natural" life then I would expect them to have very short life span. ;)
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#32 Post by Wes Barton »

LasseK wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:17 pmThe best example for me is the discussion of adding sulfites. In the genre of "natural wine" i have never understood why this is seen as such a special no-go for many, when it comes to the perception of showing true terrior. It is not like other choices had not effect...
And what annoys me the most about it, is that it removes focus from what is important to me, farming the land we use for a luxury product, with care, while producing thrilling wines!
It's an important exploration zone. As noted above, this has been an important movement, to learn, to expand horizons. SO2 isn't neutral. It adds character, darkens fruit expression, adds structure, mutes aromatics, etc. Wines with no or low SO2 can be a glorious revelation, a new realm of expression. Of course, making an unstable or vulnerable wine is problematic or going too far. For a few years we made experimental no SO2 versions of a few (different each vintage) wines (using an isolated grape seed compound that served as an anti-microbial and anti-oxidant). Tasting these side by side, the no SO2 version was usually better by quite a lot, though one was a virtual tie in opinion and one was a clear loser.

So, there might be a lot of scare tactics, misinformation and hysteria on the side of the marketing, media and consumer, there's a Holy Grail aspect to producers.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#33 Post by Wes Barton »

Phil T r o t t e r wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:17 pm
Jonathan Loesberg wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 1:04 pm What do you mean that French doesn't have a word for winemaker? What is "vigneron?" The fact that it doesn't have the French word for "make" in it doesn't mean that that isn't what the word means?
It depends which definition you take e.g. Merriam-Webster:
Winemaker: a person who makes wine, specifically : one who supervises the wine-making process at a winery
It doesn't relate to growing or tending the vines. But the web also provides the following definition: A producer of wine; a winegrower.

Whereas vigneron always included the work at the vineyard e.g. Larousse:
Vigneron: Personne qui cultive la vigne, fait du vin.

So it depends who you ask :).
To put it bluntly, in the U.S. "winemaker" is a title, not an indication of what the person did.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#34 Post by larry schaffer »

Love the piece, William. And to me, it is 'spot on'. I love the concept of 'patina' in a wine - it's not fully 'definable' but you know it when you experience it.

I guess what this boils down to is that 'dogma' in wine is rarely ever a good thing - there will be exceptions to every rule. The basic definition of terroir - speaking of from a specific place, etc - is easy to 'understand' but very very difficult to 'achieve' because it simply is very difficult to truly be 'transparent' in the way wine is made.

As you point out, the myriad of decisions that winemakers are faced with - some requiring action and some requiring no action whatsoever - all come with 'consequences', and these 'consequences' may not come to fruition for months, years or even decades.

I can't wait to follow this thread and see what others have to say about it - as long as it doesn't get too philosophical, that is [snort.gif]

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#35 Post by Alan Rath »

William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 12:52 pm
Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 11:42 am If I have William's basic premise right, it is that the winemaker's intervention, his stamp on the wine, is as important as the place it came from. Or, at least, that the winemaker's stamp is a critical component in setting a wine apart from its peers, and that the most "interesting" wines have that stamp. I have mixed feelings about that conclusion. There are most definitely wines which have a "stamp" that makes them more interesting, more enticing, more cerebral perhaps. But there are an equal - perhaps much greater - number where that obvious stamp obliterates the wine, masking it's intrinsic character with aspects not at all "native".

Personally, I find myself drawn more to wines that have a less obvious winemaker's "signature", though there are important exceptions: Jamet's Cote Rotie, for example, is clearly apart from its peers in style, which suggests something unique about the winemaking. Rougeard's Saumur wines the same. When you find that unique combination of winemaking signature and terroir, it is truly magical. The problem, as I see it, is those successful combinations are few and far between.
My premise is more that all wines are, unavoidably, the result of how producers answer the myriad questions posed by wine production; so all wines bear a stamp. So, as I put it in the essay, any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice. The concept of "transparency to terroir", in other words, doesn't do justice to the complexity of what is actually going on.
Yes, your first point kind of goes without saying. Grape vines/wines don't plant themselves in rows, prune themselves, green harvest themselves, crush themselves, rack themselves, etc. ;) All choices, big and small influence the final wine in bottle.

I was more addressing what seemed to be your point that some of what you consider to be the "best" or most interesting wines have quite a strong winemaking stamp, or did I misinterpret your thoughts? My own experience says that can be the case, but that it's far more the case that the strong winemaking stamp is a detraction, not an addition. So, for me, the highs can be higher, but the average is lower. It's why I find myself gravitating toward producers with less of an (apparent) winemaking stamp. It's also partly that most of the truly great "stampers" are pretty well known, and command a price premium, so there is a strong economic factor as well in my own case.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#36 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Some of those light "stamps" might be a necessity since producers are working with less heralded dirt in growing the raw materials.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#37 Post by Rodrigo B »

Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 4:24 pm
William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 12:52 pm
Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 11:42 am If I have William's basic premise right, it is that the winemaker's intervention, his stamp on the wine, is as important as the place it came from. Or, at least, that the winemaker's stamp is a critical component in setting a wine apart from its peers, and that the most "interesting" wines have that stamp. I have mixed feelings about that conclusion. There are most definitely wines which have a "stamp" that makes them more interesting, more enticing, more cerebral perhaps. But there are an equal - perhaps much greater - number where that obvious stamp obliterates the wine, masking it's intrinsic character with aspects not at all "native".

Personally, I find myself drawn more to wines that have a less obvious winemaker's "signature", though there are important exceptions: Jamet's Cote Rotie, for example, is clearly apart from its peers in style, which suggests something unique about the winemaking. Rougeard's Saumur wines the same. When you find that unique combination of winemaking signature and terroir, it is truly magical. The problem, as I see it, is those successful combinations are few and far between.
My premise is more that all wines are, unavoidably, the result of how producers answer the myriad questions posed by wine production; so all wines bear a stamp. So, as I put it in the essay, any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice. The concept of "transparency to terroir", in other words, doesn't do justice to the complexity of what is actually going on.
Yes, your first point kind of goes without saying. Grape vines/wines don't plant themselves in rows, prune themselves, green harvest themselves, crush themselves, rack themselves, etc. ;) All choices, big and small influence the final wine in bottle.

I was more addressing what seemed to be your point that some of what you consider to be the "best" or most interesting wines have quite a strong winemaking stamp, or did I misinterpret your thoughts? My own experience says that can be the case, but that it's far more the case that the strong winemaking stamp is a detraction, not an addition. So, for me, the highs can be higher, but the average is lower. It's why I find myself gravitating toward producers with less of an (apparent) winemaking stamp. It's also partly that most of the truly great "stampers" are pretty well known, and command a price premium, so there is a strong economic factor as well in my own case.
I’d say that the characteristics of the wines you note you gravitate towards are “stamps” of those winemakers. A “stamp” doesn’t necessarily mean big, bold, strong, or clearly overt, but rather that in one form or another the wine gives you a sense that it is tied not only to a place, but also to the individuals who crafted it.

I think the point is that in terroir, the sense of place is intrinsically tied to the people that produce the wine. William succinctly put it a few posts back: “today, the appellation cannot really be meaningfully be given without the producer as a qualifier: Jayer's Echezeaux, Ramonet's Montrachet—and, maybe even more emphatically, Dureuil's Rully, Guffens' Mâcon.”
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#38 Post by Alan Rath »

Rodrigo B wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 4:51 pm I’d say that the characteristics of the wines you note you gravitate towards are “stamps” of those winemakers. A “stamp” doesn’t necessarily mean big, bold, strong, or clearly overt, but rather that in one form or another the wine gives you a sense that it is tied not only to a place, but also to the individuals who crafted it.

I think the point is that in terroir, the sense of place is intrinsically tied to the people that produce the wine. William succinctly put it a few posts back: “today, the appellation cannot really be meaningfully be given without the producer as a qualifier: Jayer's Echezeaux, Ramonet's Montrachet—and, maybe even more emphatically, Dureuil's Rully, Guffens' Mâcon.”
Assume we've all stipulated (I hope) that *every* wine has its winemaker's stamp on it, big or small. There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level. Maybe there are some wines (I guess the natural inclination would be to say Grand Cru Burgundies) that can absorb that heavier stamp, and still show the source, particularly with age. In my experience, the sense of place can be more or less apparent, depending on the winemaking choices. Is Ramonet's Montrachet the best representation of its source? or is it more a great representation of winemaking? Isn't that the question? Assuming someone believes the Ramonet version to actually be the "best"; I don't drink at that level, so I have to recuse myself from that conversation [wow.gif]
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#39 Post by William Kelley »

Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:13 pm There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level.
I think—and this was really the argument of the piece—that this is a false choice. We notice some winemaking "artifacts" because we have been trained to recognize them, and we ignore others that have become (to repurpose your formulation) part of the "background". But this is all about context. Most of Chablis is vinified in stainless steel; most Meursault is vinified in oak barrels. Meursault vinified in stainless steel would taste very, very different, and by contrast Meursault vinified in wood would reveal a strong "winemaking stamp". To prove the point in the other direction, Chablis vinified in wood often tastes totally disorienting (even Raveneau and Dauvissat, remember, ferment in steel before they age in mostly used wood).

So, to my mind, it is really a fruitless task to start trying to parse where the terroir ends and the winemaking begins. It's more interesting to talk about how compelling a producer's chosen aesthetic is—with, certainly, a strong case to be made for understatement, elegance etc by all means. Is this mere semantics, you might ask? And I would reply that, no, I see producers making less characterful, personal wines because they are so anxious to efface any kind of winemaking "signature". Herwig has given one example above, for his palate, and I can think of others. This is a very personal thing, which is why I permitted myself to use to first person in my essay, but I am happy to learn about the winemaker as well as the vineyard when I drink a bottle of wine, and I don't believe these are mutually exclusive. To be clear, I am not saying it's great if Nuits-Saint-Georges tastes like over-oaked, but rather that I'm happy for it to taste, diversely, like Chevillon, Mugneret-Gibourg, or Mugnier.

To take approach, and to make things more concrete, which are the producers you have in mind where you feel that the winemaking takes a backseat to the site?
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#40 Post by RichardFlack »

Nick Christie wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 10:52 am Oh, it's a beautiful piece, William.

I think about this question most often when I've been at certain biodynamic places like Pearl Morissette in Ontario. Lots of attention to making some very unique wines, and yet (for me) their idiosyncrasies in flavors and mouthfeel are somewhat of a roller coaster for my own enjoyment :). And is that because I grew up on Old World wines so devoutly? If I were new to wines in my 30s, and had a massive variety of wine making diversity in my first 500 bottles of wine tasted/consumed would my own palate flexibility have a much larger degree of variance? Would I embrace 'quirky' wine making techniques more readily?

I do indeed think about this often. Both on the personal, anecdotal levels as well as what they mean for the artisanal world at large.
This is a key point I think. Do we want, for a particular wine, a roller coaster or a reasonable predictability (given the vintage character)?

Maybe it depends on the situation. In a restaurant for example I want some confidence a wine is what I expect. For my cellar I may take more chances but only within limits.

Champagne is an interesting case of the basic point (consistency). The premise of the grandes marques is consistency of a ‘brand’. But grower champagnes, which are all the rage (perhaps rightly so), are based on a different premise.

As may be apparent, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I have always thought that a key element of biodynamic is simply lavishing full attention to what’s happening in the vineyard. (Burying rams horns in the vineyard, or whatever, not so much).

For me wine making, from vineyard to bottle, is always a mixture of nature , art, and science. For great wine, these all need to be in balance. Natural wines perhaps get this out of balance sometimes.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#41 Post by Rodrigo B »

Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:13 pm Assume we've all stipulated (I hope) that *every* wine has its winemaker's stamp on it, big or small. There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level. Maybe there are some wines (I guess the natural inclination would be to say Grand Cru Burgundies) that can absorb that heavier stamp, and still show the source, particularly with age. In my experience, the sense of place can be more or less apparent, depending on the winemaking choices. Is Ramonet's Montrachet the best representation of its source? or is it more a great representation of winemaking? Isn't that the question? Assuming someone believes the Ramonet version to actually be the "best"; I don't drink at that level, so I have to recuse myself from that conversation [wow.gif]
I don’t think the winemaker’s stamp need necessarily be big for it to be apparent. As you noted, plenty of winemakers make wine from multiple sites that are blended together. Yet I’d still argue that many of those are able to retain the characteristics of both the broader appellation or region and the winemaker, which I think you and I are on the same page on.

Your point on which “stamp” one notices first, whether it’s the winemaker’s stamp or the terroir or regional stamp is certainly a valid one and touches on the debate of which is more important or influential: location/terroir or producer. Though that’s not what I was getting at. Rather, it is to say that there are wines that can do both, irrespective of which order you notice those stamps. And I’d argue that those—wines that leave you with both a sense of place and those who made it—are the most interesting wines, to me at least.

Discussing who makes the best example of a particular cru is probably a topic for another thread. I too don’t drink Ramonnet and Jayer to be able speak to that end. I merely noted them as well-known examples of wines that have a clear “stamp” of both place and winemaker.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#42 Post by Mike Grammer »

Enjoyed the article very much, William, and the discussion so far. My immediate thoughts swing to an analogy--maybe not as far-fetched of one as it seems on first *blush* because it's a different kind of art. A movie can have great actors and have a great story. But doesn't it take a great director to turn it into a great movie?

At a different fundamental base, I have a feeling that the winemakers whose products I would likely enjoy the most are those who have the most respect and reverence for the materials they have been given to work with. That does *not* mean that they should not play a part, and an important one, in the final product in the bottle, but that part starts with this idea of being a.....talented servant?....to what comes to their hands.

One of the most enduring conversations with a winemaker I have had was a short one with Byron Kosuge who works (or worked) in Paul and Kathryn Sloan's facility at Small Vines. He expressed his philosophy to me basically this way. That, unlike the usual job in which somebody does the same task many times a day and thousands of times a year.....in winemaking, if you're lucky, you get about 50 chances to get it right. Each harvest becomes a precious thing in that way. I really found myself resonating with that thought process, a way of looking at it that I had never considered before.

For sure, you don't need to bounce across to this thread, but I had a little of this thought process, maybe, when I posed this question

viewtopic.php?p=2959790#p2959790


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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#43 Post by Alan Rath »

William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:41 pm
Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:13 pm There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level.
I think—and this was really the argument of the piece—that this is a false choice. We notice some winemaking "artifacts" because we have been trained to recognize them, and we ignore others that have become (to repurpose your formulation) part of the "background". But this is all about context. Most of Chablis is vinified in stainless steel; most Meursault is vinified in oak barrels. Meursault vinified in stainless steel would taste very, very different, and by contrast Meursault vinified in wood would reveal a strong "winemaking stamp". To prove the point in the other direction, Chablis vinified in wood often tastes totally disorienting (even Raveneau and Dauvissat, remember, ferment in steel before they age in mostly used wood).

So, to my mind, it is really a fruitless task to start trying to parse where the terroir ends and the winemaking begins. It's more interesting to talk about how compelling a producer's chosen aesthetic is—with, certainly, a strong case to be made for understatement, elegance etc by all means. Is this mere semantics, you might ask? And I would reply that, no, I see producers making less characterful, personal wines because they are so anxious to efface any kind of winemaking "signature". Herwig has given one example above, for his palate, and I can think of others. This is a very personal thing, which is why I permitted myself to use to first person in my essay, but I am happy to learn about the winemaker as well as the vineyard when I drink a bottle of wine, and I don't believe these are mutually exclusive. To be clear, I am not saying it's great if Nuits-Saint-Georges tastes like over-oaked, but rather that I'm happy for it to taste, diversely, like Chevillon, Mugneret-Gibourg, or Mugnier.

To take approach, and to make things more concrete, which are the producers you have in mind where you feel that the winemaking takes a backseat to the site?
William, first, I greatly enjoyed your essay, and find it an argument that shouldn't get much disagreement, in a general sense. I'm only following the discussion into some nooks and crannies. Your first paragraph describes more what we've come to agree is the "standard" for certain regions; if Chablis and Burgundy switched their winemaking approaches long ago, maybe we would have come to accept *that* as the standard. I will most definitely agree with the last sentence of your first paragraph, all wines that I like quite a lot, though I have a preference for Gibourg and Mugnier over Chevillon. That's actually a really interesting example, since (to my tastes) Chevillon always has a distinct flavor profile different from those other two, pretty much across the portfolio. Perhaps it's something about how they farm, or the native yeast in their winery, or fermentation temperatures, or something else entirely. But it's there as a winemaker's stamp.

As for examples? I would give the wines of Bernard Moreau of 10-15 years ago, and of Mongeard-Mugneret in the same vein even today, as wines where the oak treatment too often masks the underlying terroir, especially when young. Or, in a different sense (again, for my tastes, and no doubt an unpopular opinion given their desirability), Fourrier, whose wines I find overly ripe, to the point that they tend to mask their terroir.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#44 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Interesting Alan. I would have never figured you for much of a Gibourg fan. Given the examples you cite, I feel like your personal, stylistic preferences are being substituted for transparency, with styles you do not enjoy being labeled as stamped.

I actually find the Fourrier style to be quite transparent, and Chevillon as well. They are transparent in quite different ways to my taste.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#45 Post by Kevin Porter »

I find so little to argue with here that I am torn between admiring the brilliance of the argument and the beauty of the writing, and dismissing it as syllogistic.

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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#46 Post by Kevin G. »

Fantastic article, William. I admire your depth of knowledge and i envy your command of words.

Several years ago, i published a couple of articles on Lars Carlberg’s website that traced a similar argument. At once, terroir diminishes the physical and intellectual labor of winegrowers and wine sellers while also facilitating the language of differentiation that winegrowers and wine sellers rely on to market their products.

https://www.larscarlberg.com/human-natu ... dle-mosel/

https://www.larscarlberg.com/first-as-t ... ural-wine/
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#47 Post by Alan Rath »

William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:41 pm
Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:13 pm There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level.
I think—and this was really the argument of the piece—that this is a false choice. We notice some winemaking "artifacts" because we have been trained to recognize them, and we ignore others that have become (to repurpose your formulation) part of the "background". But this is all about context. Most of Chablis is vinified in stainless steel; most Meursault is vinified in oak barrels. Meursault vinified in stainless steel would taste very, very different, and by contrast Meursault vinified in wood would reveal a strong "winemaking stamp". To prove the point in the other direction, Chablis vinified in wood often tastes totally disorienting (even Raveneau and Dauvissat, remember, ferment in steel before they age in mostly used wood).
I want to come back to this, because there are no bright lines, it’s a continuum. Where the line of separation is for one person (if there even is one) will be very different for someone else.

Trained? Of course! Without experience and knowledge most people can’t distinguish and describe the simplest of differences in wines. I hope you’re not claiming that experience is irrelevant.

Let me make a stretch and give an analogy: if you’ve ever been in a dining room with a piano player, it can be a very pleasant experience, or really annoying, and of course anywhere in between. If the piano is just right, matches the din of the room, the music is appropriate, it can be fun, and an enhancement of the experience. Or it can be too loud, music that doesn’t match the environment, and nothing more than a distraction that detracts from the experience.

That’s how I feel about winemaking. It can be an enhancement, or a distraction.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#48 Post by Cris Whetstone »

Thanks for the article, William. It distills many of my thoughts over the years in a more coherent and expressive way than I ever could. I've often been very frustrated with the tenor expressed when it comes to winemaking and "intervention" over the years. I think many lost sight of what a huge intervention any production of wine is in the backlash against the extravagances of techniques that became popular in the mid-90's to early aughts. All wine is made probably with 90% of it's technique in common. The rest is twiddling knobs and dials on the margins. In such a system twiddling them less is just a decisive and imparts as much as pushing techniques to their extremes.

Planting a vineyard is a massive intervention but there is often the general attitude that each vineyard is some perfection of nature that is to be cradled and directed into making some purity that doesn't exist in nature without man's tastes. All the varieties we are used to drinking are a product of our domestication. Vineyards are places where we destroyed the natural flora and fauna in order to plant a very specific vine. Being a vine we have to train it grow in such a way so that it will support the fruit we want from it. And on and on.

The only non-interventionist wine would be those from some historic vines growing in a forest somewhere without the hand of man being involved. There the grapes were free to fall from the side of the tree they grew next to into the bottom of a broken, fallen log. The juice from the crushed grapes could have gathered and momentarily created the greatest elixir ever until some animal or insect was attracted to it. But maybe those critters were disturbed by the influence of that log on the fermenting juice and argued that the truly glorious beverage was on the next slope over where the grapes freefell into a depression into the rock it grew above rather than fermenting in wood.
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#49 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 10:39 am Just published a free-to-read Tuesday morning provocation on The Wine Advocate site. Would be interested to hear everyone's thought!

The précis is that I argue that the notion that wines "make themselves", and that any producer signature amounts to "makeup" is mistaken; every wine is the product of intention, as producers make choices in the face of almost infinite possibilities (even if these are, in practice, limited by logistics and conventions). The argument by which the essay stands or falls is this one: "To acknowledge that terroir is a text to be interpreted and not a law that demands adherence is also to accept that any winemaking style that seems to be more “transparent,” offering a less obviously mediated expression of grape and place, is in fact only a subtler and more deceptive form of artifice."

https://winejournal.robertparker.com/wi ... expression
I don’t trick or deceive others.

Implying that “naturalistic” process is a more subtle version of artifice, can only be argued regarding the marketing of wine.

As opposed to the making of wine.

Every winemaker at the beginning of vintage, is like a downhill skier atop the hill. You’re going down the hill one way or the other. What route you take is a combination of choice, logistics, training, gear, and conditions. But whatever that route is, the run is in the bottle. If you go down without skis or poles...that’s still your run, and some people may love that version. And some may go down on a snowmobile. Some are people are impressed by that.

The artifice is in the talking about what a great skier you are after the run is over.

But the run is in the bottle, and the bottle will tell you what the mountain was like just as much as it will show exactly what type of skier someone is as well.

All the rest of it is talk.

That said, if you hang to 30 Brix, cold soak for 15 days, water back 15%, add a bunch of enzymes, hammer through ferment with a high tolerance commercial yeast, slap 50 gallons of Mega-purple into the back end of ferment, then hit barrique for 7-14 months, fine with egg whites, gelatin, and casein, then add a custom blend of finishing tannins, RO the alcohol down to 14.0%, and drop in a coconut before bottling...then it’s likely that any story you tell about your run will be marketing horse manuer. And the terroir of your wine will definitely be about the winemaker...
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Re: Wine's naturalistic fallacy

#50 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 8:00 pm
William Kelley wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:41 pm
Alan Rath wrote: February 23rd, 2021, 5:13 pm There are lots of examples of producers who make wines from multiple sources (or terroirs, if you prefer). In some cases, tasting through those wines you can perceive noticeable differences across the wines, and in some cases you first notice the winemaking stamp, then the source differences at almost a more background level.
I think—and this was really the argument of the piece—that this is a false choice. We notice some winemaking "artifacts" because we have been trained to recognize them, and we ignore others that have become (to repurpose your formulation) part of the "background". But this is all about context. Most of Chablis is vinified in stainless steel; most Meursault is vinified in oak barrels. Meursault vinified in stainless steel would taste very, very different, and by contrast Meursault vinified in wood would reveal a strong "winemaking stamp". To prove the point in the other direction, Chablis vinified in wood often tastes totally disorienting (even Raveneau and Dauvissat, remember, ferment in steel before they age in mostly used wood).
I want to come back to this, because there are no bright lines, it’s a continuum. Where the line of separation is for one person (if there even is one) will be very different for someone else.

Trained? Of course! Without experience and knowledge most people can’t distinguish and describe the simplest of differences in wines. I hope you’re not claiming that experience is irrelevant.

Let me make a stretch and give an analogy: if you’ve ever been in a dining room with a piano player, it can be a very pleasant experience, or really annoying, and of course anywhere in between. If the piano is just right, matches the din of the room, the music is appropriate, it can be fun, and an enhancement of the experience. Or it can be too loud, music that doesn’t match the environment, and nothing more than a distraction that detracts from the experience.

That’s how I feel about winemaking. It can be an enhancement, or a distraction.
And a large determination in the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the piano is dependent upon the mood, and tastes, of the guest. And in almost two decades of restaurant work, I don’t believe that I ever met a guest who felt that their annoyance at any particular piano player was not the general feeling. But some like it loud and some don’t. And some like it loud when they’re in with friends and not when they’re in with their family.

So often here it’s pointed out that wine is subjective at every level. While we have very generalized semi-consensus on some aspects of wine, it’s rare to find actual consensus as we get more specific.

I used the analogy of skiers simply to point out that you have to go through a basic process, growing grapes and fermenting juice to have any wine. But winemakers have to choose a path/style. To say, I make wine in a “naturalistic” fashion is just talk.

But if you do choose to make wine with less technological support, it will be a different outcome from someone who is making wine in highly technical way.

And for those who want to say doing nothing is the superior way to make wines...that’s a marketiing opinion. And if you find a group of people who believe you and like the smell of mouse pee in an armpit...rock on. If I was 26 and 90+% pf my wine experience was manufactured wines like Santa Margherita and Zabaco Zin, I might think funky wine was pretty cool. I kmow I used to like some pretty bretty stuff from more rustic European producers when I was 26.

The opinion isn’t the wine. So much of this particular argument is trying to justify a “right” position. But there isn’t one, it’s just opinions and bottles. Vino veritas, opinions...less so.
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