And this likely is my culprit, because 99% of the natural wines I’ve ever tried have been in bars and restaurants
I was myself deep down this path and started the winery based on these principles. To me, beside the funk, VA and bad wines, what ended my love affair with many natural wine producers was the glou-glou nature of them all. Fast to bottle (because they have no cash flow and the wines won’t last aging), they all started tasting the same, like fruit juice with vinegar in them. Never paired with any food, either.
I wanted to make wines that can age and are food wines. I still adhere to some sort of low-interventionist approach as a basis, but I protect them (and filter some of them if they need it). Dogma is dangerous in wine. Some need a little help, others don’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I think you might have hit the nail in the head here. Virtually all of my natural wine experiences have been in various restaurants and their tasting menu wine pairings. Almost without exception, they have almost taken pride in how difficult the wines are and how they must be enjoyed within a certain timeframe. They have been cloudy, mousy, dirty and generally simply undrinkable. Off the cuff I’d say I’ve had 50-60 different wines, and I can think of 1 or 2 that I enjoyed.
I clearly need to give them a second chance.
Well noone really knows. There is no official natural wine certification. But broadly:
Grapes farmed organically or biodynamically.
No additives. Which means no added sulfites.
Unfined and unfiltered.
And for many probably no intrusive flavours thats not coming from the grapes. 100% new oak would probably be a no go for many.
But again… there is no official rules here. The term is truly stupid for many reasons. But for better and worse it has become the standard.
The biggest problem is that “natural wine” is a catch-all term with no real definition. Some people think Chateau Musar is one of the original contemporary natural wines, others don’t think it is a natural wine in any way.
According to some definitions, Gonon is easily a natural wine. Lots of others think it isn’t (some say it isn’t a natural wine because they use a little bit of sulfites, others say it isn’t a natural wine because it tastes like a classic St. Joe, not like some natty non-interventionist).
Basically I think that wines that are made with fruit sourced from vineyards treated with minimal inputs and are vinified in a very traditional, non-interventionist way, fermented spontaneously, do not much or any new oak, are bottled unfined and unfiltered with no or (preferably) a little bit of SO2 are natural wines. This means tons and tons of wines you’ve tasted can be categorized as natural wines. Basically any wine that could be found in RAW WINE is a natural wine in my books.
Charter of Quality | RAW WINE ← read “the charter”.
But then there are those zealots who consider any wine with a tiniest bit of added SO2 as a non-natural wine. They certainly are entitled to their opinion, but I really don’t pay attention to them.
Fortunately this does not apply to all.
I’m bored to death with the simple glou-glou bistro wines, but fortunately I can just skip those and concentrate on the more interesting ones.
And it sounds you are still producing many wines that could be described as “natural wines”. They are just not from the most extreme end of the spectrum.
I love this approach Adam. I also feel there is a new generation that looks towards the “natural wine” scene for inspiration but adjusts to make less faulty and funky wines. Atleast in Europe.
The problem is actually in English.
The original term, vin nature, meant “bare wine”, “naked wine” or “unaccompanied wine”, which is much more appropriate. “Natural wine” would be vin naturel, so the term was mistranslated.
The term “natural wine” sort of creates this dichotomy between the other wines, implying they are then “unnatural wines” - which is even more stupid when the whole natural wine thing is a continuum, not a thing that either is or isn’t. You can have very conventional wines that are made in a non-interventionist fashion in one end, and super-funky, volatile and hazy glou-glou wines in the other. These wines, and all in-between, are still all natural wines!
It sounds like my definition of natural wines was too narrow then. For example, I love Musar (I started trying and buying them thanks to your vertical tastings btw), and it sounds like I actually enjoy some wines you would consider “natural”. In my head, lacking a better definition, I only considered the dogmatic natural wines as truly “natural”, and in those I haven’t found many good ones. I’ve also mostly tried them in places where the dogma takes precedence over quality and flavor.
Well there you go. I learned something new
In Denmark we decided to translate it directly from English
This sounds pretty much like a friend of mine. Even if he has probably the biggest stash of Musar in Finland, he never forgets to tell us he hates natural wines (and invariably lets it show if somebody is pouring a natty wine in a tasting).
However, me and my other friend never forget to tease him whenever he either pours a natural wine himself or finds some natural wine excellent in a tasting. Just like you, he seems to think that only if a wine is a funky, hazy and volatile bistro wine, it can be a natural wine, because he usually replies that “This isn’t a natural wine, because I love it!”
The French did it too. Nowadays both vin nature and vin naturel are used. I have no idea which one is more common.
And therein lies the challenge - on first exposure, some of these wines may be ‘so distinct’ that they are enjoyable for being ‘different’. The question is whether or not you want to go back to the same profile again and again.
Just to correct myself a bit it is not actually a one to one in Danish, but it has the same issue as the english term.
I guess that could be said for many types of wine though. But i get your point
Kinda funny, but I went from “I hate natural wines” to “hmm I think I have 5-6 cases of natural wines in my cellar” in a matter of 15 minutes.
Seeing the comments about natural wines I have to say that many of us been through a similar ride in many ways.
The movement have really pushed the awareness and focus on good farming. The best natural wine producers, at least these days are the ones who don’t label themselves as natural winemakers (mostly) and are pragmatic.
The sameness reminds me of industrial wines (though I personally appreciate someone trying to push the bar and failing) and we are left with good winemakers make good wines and regardless of industrial or natural there is a lot of horrible wines out there too.
I love everything about these statements. Pragmatic is certainly the way to go regardless of the types of wines you are trying to produce (I don’t like ‘dogma’ in any aspect of life).
And ‘sameness’ can apply to any style of winemaking - including natural winemaking.
I actually had a mousy Gonon once! A 2012. Just checked CT. I was not the only one. Kinda irrelevant info i guess
But overall the natural wine term spans over so many wines from all over the world in many styles and expressions.
Saying you don’t like them is like claiming you don’t like pizza because you keep buying them from the same shitty place and fully denies the existence of other pizzerias. There is a lot of bad pizza out there too.
The Raw charter is pretty much spot on in my view, but it makes for a broad church, indeed I imagine a significant percentage of the wines discussed on this forum would fit the charter.
I am willing to drop one of the lines for the wines we sell (and always to have non organic producers who prefer to use tiny amounts of synthetics over copper).
As the owner of a shop selling wines that almost all fit within the Raw Charter the main thing for me is to know the wines and to offer good advice. It seems some people choose wines blindly and then write off or criticise the entire genre.
Anyone is welcome to buy Alice Bouvot’s reds from me, but they will get a warning (we give every wine a ‘feral factor’ 1-3, 3 being super funky.
Indeed some of the biggest fans of funky wines we have as customers are those in the profession of making and selling wines that certainly don’t fit the Raw charter at all!