Transparent, rather than natural wine
In Italy, uttering the word “natural wine” immediately opens up a can of worms. Perhaps because it is actually illogical and misleading to define just one type of wine in this way, seeing that in general we would expect it to be a natural drink. On the other hand, anyone who dedicates their life to eliminating pesticides in the vineyard and intervention in the cellar has their reasons. Also for natural wines we suggest the banal, though valid, idea that the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle.
The reasons on both sides
Some say: if we let nature follow its own course, the result is vinegar. For others, this is just an excuse to modify the wine, removing it from the spirit of the place and the authentic expression of the variety. It’s a complicated question: there is good sense on both sides. Therefore driving for an hour between Capodichino and Irpinia with a colleague from abroad, always alert to winemaking developments, specially Italian ones, stirs up some basic considerations that go beyond the search for a “right” wine.
Sustainable is ok, but it has to be good, too
At the end of this reasoning, we came back to one of our central ideas, closely linked to Civiltà del bere’s (and Italian Wine Chronicle’s) publishing decisions: fewer declarations of naturalness, more transparency. The race for (economic, environmental and territorial) sustainability and reduced intervention in the cellar that makes wine all the same, are more than welcome. On the other hand, also oxidation, very long maceration and sensory faults (which are not faults for some), risk standardising and masking the characteristics of the grapes and soil. In the end, we don’t want to forget the pleasantness, the hedonistic aspect, which is also linked to the culture and spirit of time. In twenty years’ time, our children are likely to be so used to the new “natural” taste that they will get no pleasure from tasting the wines that we fathers love today.
Natural wines are in vogue. Perhaps too much
However, fashions are even more dangerous, as Leopardi realised (Dialogue Between Fashion and Death). The question of natural wine is creating particularly sad side effects: large wineries that seek organic certification merely for commercial needs. Or even small wineries that convert to extreme naturalism in order to win over this valuable niche. Too often producers tell stories of sexual confusion, native yeasts, amphorae and concrete eggs just because they sell. It’s the storytelling, my dear. This is where good journalism comes in, to point out the differences with amateurs and promoters disguised as influencers. If something smells fishy, you need to take a closer look, if someone is hiding behind clichés, you need to press them to see whether or not they are sincere.
The winemaker is the key player
We have noticed a change in winemakers’ attitudes: if beforehand they saw themselves as a deposit for the mysteries of the wine cellar, jealously guarding their secrets in the face of the token nuisance, today we mainly meet enthusiastic professionals who can’t wait to give a detailed account of what they do (and it is up to us to make it digestible to readers, obviously). Why not be totally transparent about the production processes of a fine wine? Unlike industrial products, it is not the “recipe” that makes the difference. A winemaker is a player, or even a director. But the end result is linked to the complex and unrepeatable conditions of the soil-climate-man trio. Anyone who really believes in it, is calmly prepared to bare all, anyone who thinks of wine as a commodity, will be possessive of their recipe.
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