jamie goode's wine blog: Spring, natural wine and the power of blogs

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring, natural wine and the power of blogs

A few late night thoughts.

Just had the contract through for my next book, which will be on the subject of natural wine. It's a collaborative project between me and consultant winemaker Sam Harrop, who will help ground the theory in a more practical basis. It's a brave (or crazy?) project. So I'm devoting a lot of my thinking time to this subject at the moment.

Interesting to see new media making an impact, with political blogs are in the news at the moment (see this news item). The message is, of course, more important than the medium. But new media are allowing important messages to get through to people in ways that weren't possible before.

Governments can exercise a degree of control over TV and newspaper journalists. For example, they can reward 'on message' journalists with enhanced access, and withdrawing priveleges from those who rock the boat. A lobby journalist can be given an inside line on a regular basis, which guarantees them good material, if they behave tamely. People outside the club - political bloggers - have their flaws, but they can be more independent and act like good journalists: saying things that people don't want them to say.

Perhaps this is a naive reading of the situation, though. A legitimate concern with blogs is that they just spread misinformation and unfounded gossip. There's less comeback with bloggers, who aren't accountable and who sometimes don't have much grasp of journalistic principles and ethics.
We've had a couple of days of rain after some beautiful spring weather. Still, it's a lovely time of year. Had a really nice walk on Hounslow Heath today with RTL (pictured, some rather wet blossom). It has been a great Easter break so far. Now, back to watching the third round of the Masters.


At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's less comeback with bloggers, who aren't accountable and who sometimes don't have much grasp of journalistic principles and ethics.


At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Gavin Sherry said...

Jamie, there are many producers doing natural wines but following is a list of those who might still have interesting and useful things to say and who you might not be familiar with:

* Claude Courtois (Les Cailloux du Paradis - Sologne)
* Julien Courtois (La Clos de la Bruyère - Sologne, son of Claude)
* Emmanuel Houillon (Pierre Overnoy, Pupillin)
* Henry-Frédéric Roch (Prieuré-Roch, Roch being "the other name" on the DRC label)
* Jean Foillard (Morgon)
* Marcel Lapierre (Morgon)
* Anselme Selosse (Jacques Selosse, Avize)
* Jerôme Prévost (La Closerie, Gueux)
* Olivier Collin (Ulysse Collin, Congy)
* Emmanuel Giboulot (Beaune)
* Agnes and Réné Mosse (Mosse, St Lambert du Lattay)
* Alain Verdet, who started working organically in the 70s in Burgundy and has since retired (his son runs Domaine/Maison Aurélien Verdet, Arcenant)
* Olivier Humbrecht (Zind Humbrecht). This is a famous domaine but they have only recently converted to a strong focus on natural wine making. Their wines are remarkably different after this change -- whether the change is good or bad is debatable. Olivier Humbrecht one of the most articulate people on the topic.

Some topics which interesting me with natural wines: is reducing the amount of sulfur in the wine making produce always a good thing? Copper use in the vineyard, is it actually natural, especially when there are alternatives? Is it that natural wines reveal aromas not seen in wines of the same grape variety made 'unnaturally' or are these aromas just the result of oxidative handling? Can you make 'natural' wines in hot humid climates? Do natural wines suffer more from transportation and handling? Can a natural wine be sealed under a screwcap? How about a DIAM? Are natural wines even natural (all wine wants to be vinegar)? Is natural wine more or less suited to food? What kinds of food? How does this differ from 'unnatural' wines? Perhaps Hervé This would be worth talking to about this. All other things being equal, are natural wines better for your health than their alternative? Finally, a counter point from two or three prominent producers who have not been influenced by the natural wine movement but produce amazing wines. Domaine Rousseau would be the first that comes to mind.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Andrzej Daszkiewicz said...

If you want to have a lot of good material to think on, don't forget to talk to Ales Kristancic from Slovenian Movia. And his neighbour across the Border, Josko Gravner, has a lot of opinions on these matters as well.

At 2:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And please remember - natural does not equal traditional. Re Gavin's comment - surely the best closure for low sulfur and natural wines is the screw cap? It is certainly a lot more natural then Diam, which seems to be an combination of glue and radiation. And as natural a process as glass perhaps?

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Gavin Sherry said...

Screw cap would seem obvious but most of the natural wine producers I speak to (those I listed) see cork as a natural product and the only choice for a natural wine.

It's something of a leading question. I think that a natural wine maker's insight into closures can reveal a lot about their character. I've been told by people, some of whom I listed above, that screw caps lead to toxins and heavy metals in the wine (which shows very little familiarity with the closure) and yet the same producers are very heavy handed with copper in the vineyard.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Gavin and Andrzej
thanks for those useful comments - much appreciated

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Plamen said...

Gavin Sherry set of question is very good. I find natural wine far more resilient against transportation that one would expect. The common bottle shock effect I've noticed is a strange sweet aftertaste which disappears after the wine settles down.

Jamie, I'm very much looking forward to your book.


At 2:44 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Can I add Domaine du Merchien to the natural, and traditional, winemakers list. English owned, 'tween Toulouse and Cahors highly recommended by Paul Strang. Whilst these wines arent to everyones taste as the grape varieties in the Quercy region are not mainstream, my experience of the Domaine's 'natural' wines is no headaches at all! They also use real corks!

The overall question for me is by what 'rules' can a wine be classified as 'natural' and be able to/have the right to call itself 'natural'?

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Plamen said...

>> The overall question for me is by what 'rules' can a wine be classified as 'natural' and be able to/have the right to call itself 'natural'? <<

I do not think we need to have a set of rules because as soon as the rules are set, the wines would become mainstream, the supermarkets would jump in to exploit the concept and in result the natural wines would be just another marketing gimmick.

My opinion is that, it is far better to just have a definition which serves as a guidline but not as a concrete set of rules.

Regards, Plamen

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

'rules' in quotes or guidelines = same thing to me. I am sure many truly traditional winemakers consider their wines to be 'natural'.

The guidance needs to be clear though. Like you, Plamen, I would not want supermarkets or mainstream winemakers to be able to jump on a band wagon.However for the smaller producer this could be one way to gain a marketing advantage if the difference in taste, quailty, etc is there

We now have two 'natural' wine bars in London. By what 'rules' do they choose the wines they buy and sell?

I know for a fact that Merchien considered the bio dynamique route as one way to show they produced 'natural' wines but its too expensive for them as a small producer. You can meet them at the Real Food Festival at Earls Court in May.


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