Guest Post, Donald Edwards – Missing the wood for the trees
Guest Post – There are so many great wine blogs out there in the blogosphere. These guest posts are an effort to introduce you to my fellow wine bloggers, people who’s blogs I enjoy reading and who I’ve meet up with over a glass or two. This week’s post is from Paris based, English blogger, Donald Edwards, on a subject that is a “tiny” bit controversial in the wine world…
This is a plea for calm, there have been too many angry words spoken on the subject, far too many self serving blog posts where authors try to argue down to the finest philosophical minutia that their particular taste in wine is the only correct and applicable one.
In a sense this reminds me of the issues inherent in much of moral or religious philosophy. The person doing the arguing has made up their mind in advance, and is thus trying to justify what they believe to be the case. So building an argument backwards towards fundamental principles. Now anyone who’s ever read any religious philosophy will be well aware of the almost laughable logical paradoxes that get thrown up. Remind me again what the three different sorts of eternity are again.
I am of course talking about natural wines. A term I’m going to use, then discard, as I prefer authentic as a moniker. Yes there is no strict set of rules regulating exactly what can and can’t be done in the production of authentic wine. Of course there isn’t. It’s merely a group of growers (supplemented by cavists, restauranteurs, and some writers) who are all seeking to express their little patch of land in as authentic a way as possible.
Many of them hold very strong views regarding their stewardship of the land, they care for their soil and are working to pass on the land to their children in better shape than they found it, as such most are organic or practice biodynamics. Some, where necessary will spray, it’s one thing having solid moral principles, but one can’t always eat them for breakfast. It is exceedingly rare to find any new oak in their wines, principally because the taste is so dominant. Rather like covering everything you eat in tomato ketchup. Don’t get me wrong there is a time and a place for ketchup (bacon sandwiches) just as there is for new oak (I can’t imagine some of the top Bordelais wines without it, mind you I can’t afford any of the top Bordelais wines, so it’s best I keep working on my imagination).
Now much of the ire that is directed at the natural wine scene is on account of two little words. Pet Nat, or petillant naturelle, these are the sparkling wine that have been made in the old style, bottling them while the ferment is still active so that the primary fermentation leaves a degree of dissolved carbon dioxide in the bottle. I love them, I love their unreliability, I love their quirkiness, I don’t really mind that some of them dance merrily over the convention and recommended levels of volatility and oxidative character. I appreciate that they’re not for everyone. However, and this is a massive however. They are a tiny part of the authentic wine world. What’s more they’re perishingly easy to avoid.
Josmeyer, Nikolaihof, Jean-Charles Abbatucci, Clot de L’Oum, Gerard Gauby, Larmandier, Jean-Michel Deiss, Phillipe Pacalet, Marcel Lapierre. They’re all authentic growers, they all approach the problem of how to get the very best out of their terroirs with integrity and a huge degree of intelligence. Yet more often than not they’re excluded from the authentic wine argument because their wines are already on the lists of the great and the good, their wines don’t conform to stereotype that detractors wish to promote.
So let’s all calm down, pour a glass of something and let’s try to focus on whether we like it rather than tearing chunks out of each other over levels of active sulphur.