Natty By Nature
Something is happening in the wine world. I recently read an interesting article on “The Daily Beast” by one of my favorite women in wine: Jordan Salcito. Salcito was interviewing Master Sommelier and wine world heavy-hitter Bobby Stuckey. In the article Stuckey made some controversial statements that sent the natural wine world players in a tizzy.
“The natural wine movement is the Fox News of wine. (Sommeliers are) defending wines because they have a good story. People get pissed when I say that to a natural wine person. But I’m like, hold on, let’s think about this. The wine you gave me isn’t sound, isn’t delicious.”
Marissa Ross, wine writer for Bon Appetit and natural wine enthusiast was one of the those who clapped back at these comments. The reaction posts have since been lost in the black hole of social media 24-hour stories, but the gist (and I am missing Ross’s charming filterless monologues that leave me in awe of her balls) is that Stuckey is stuck in a world of the old school with a very closed mind.
But let’s back it up a little, to understand the controversy, we need to understand what exactly natural wine is and what it means.
Natural wine is the result of organic or sustainable farming, during which there is little to zero intervention in the winery. During the fermentation process (which occurs naturally), no additives are used, and virtually nothing is added or removed. Essentially this means that the product is a living wine.
One of the biggest draws to this “less is more” approach is using fewer sulfites. Sulfites occur naturally in almost all wines, but more are often added during the winemaking process to keep them stable and predictable. Natural winemaking techniques look to eliminate that process of adding too many additional sulfites, as they can often affect the wine’s flavors by subduing their brightness. Although some may argue this creates a more unpredictable wine, it can also lead to fewer hangover symptoms. (Note to self- try this in the name of research).
Another characteristic of natural wine that is up for debate of pros and cons is “funk.” The term “funk” in regard to wine often refers to Brettanomyces, or a barnyard smell. Sometimes this funk can mean faults by traditional terms such as volatile acidity, but this does not mean they are not drinkable and delicious, they are more a means of personal preferences. Typically, with natural wines, if there is an initial “funk” to the wine upon opening it, a little decanting or aerating will blow off the funk and let the real flavors shine through.
Natural wine tends to take on a more carefree approach than what we are used to seeing. There is something so charming about the light chuggable reds, the funky and expressive pet nats, and don’t even get me started on my obsession with orange wine.
There will always be the classics, the traditions, the truest expression of our favorite grapes. To understand the uniqueness of these natural wine stars, you must know the classics- to know that Martha Stouman’s Post Flirtation Carignan/Zinfandel blend is so special in its pomegranate, peppery, acidic magic, you must understand what traditional carignan and zinfandel expressions taste like. It is only adjacent to the classics that we can truly appreciate these cool kids. I personally geek the hell out anytime someone nails something out of the box.
There is a space where the old school masters and new school rule-breakers can coexist- one doesn’t work without the other!
There’s room for everyone in the sandbox.
Pair with: “Feel Me Flow” Naughty By Nature