The Natural wine disconnect (the ideology and spirituality of wine and the importance of a good shit)

Above: The best things in life are free but you can’t leave them to the birds and bees. My good friend Giampaolo Venica employs chemical-free farming and vinifies his wines using ambient yeast exclusively. But he would never call his wine “Natural.” He just calls it “wine.” I took this photo of “Wasp with Ribolla Grape” at his winery in September 2010.

Who will ever know why Eric the Red (as Eric Asimov is known here) decided to write today about the “vitriol” and “hissy fits” that “Natural wine advocacy” can evoke and provoke among English-language wine bloggers and writers? Was it because he overheard some wine hipsters at The Ten Bells — my favorite wine bar in New York City — dissing someone for liking a “yeasted” wine? (Dagueneau or Bruno Giacosa, anyone?)

Or was he writing in response to top American wine blogger and marketer Tom Wark’s satire of the “denigration marketing” embraced by Natural wine proponents in a post this week entitled “Drink Natural Wine Or Get a Bad Rash”?

I like to call Eric the “Solomon” of wine writers (and am a big fan). And if he wrote today about the discord that Natural wine foments in this country, there must be a good reason.

Of course, the greatest denigrator of them all and the instigator of the Natural wine dialectic in this country — Joe Dressner — recently left our world. Joe attacked nearly everyone (myself included; click here for Eric’s pre-obit of Dressner who died in September 2011). But there are a number of people in line for his mantle, each vying — for their own self-interest, whether commercial or purely personal — to take his place as denigrator-in-chief. (Again, please read Tom’s post if you’re interested in that rigamarole.)

Above: A wine shop in peninsular Venice (Favaro Veneto), where Incrocio Manzoni and Malbech [sic] are sold for less than a handful of Euro per liter.

In my view, the misguided and misplaced vitriol of Natural wine advocacy in this country is due to a fundamental disconnect.

In North America, wine is a luxury product only recently embraced by consumerist hegemony. Many in the U.S. may see wine as a means to return to Nature but they rarely embrace it as a means of natural sustenance. Wine is a commodity, often a trophy, a conversation piece and “first world” amenity.

In Europe, wine is a daily nutriment and it remains imbued with ideological and spiritual meaning, at times visceral, at others intellectual. Its origins and roots (literal and figurative) touch the very heart of European society and ethos.

And while many English-language wine bloggers and writers (is there a difference or distinction between the two anymore?) have traveled to Europe and picked and stomped the grapes themselves, few touch upon the deep ideological and spiritual meaning and cultural value that European grape-growers and winemakers cherish so dearly.

Veneto winemaker Angiolino Maule makes Natural wine and stands apart as one of the Natural wine movement’s leading advocates because he believes that Natural wine can save the earth and our humanity by warding off the absolute denaturalization of our species through the inevitable, looming reification of our bodies through consumerism.

This is not stuff of marketing. It is a living, breathing, and often gasping attempt to fight what Marx called alienation or estrangement (please see my post Sensuous world: Marx, Gramsci, Pasolini, food and wine).

Above: The bottom line is that Natural wine helps you to shit good. Camillo Donati’s Malvasia Frizzante not only will help you take a good dump. It tastes friggin’ delicious.

The fact that it’s come to this — “vitriol,” “hissy fits,” and “denigration marketing” — is the very proof in the pudding that the English-language dialectic on Natural wine is misguided. Ultimately, the maliciousness that emerges from the English-language discourse on Natural wine is generated by commercial interests that counter the very nature of Natural wine. It’s important to note that the vitriolic exchange, btw, is unique to Anglophone vinography.

Why do Tracie P and I drink (and advocate) Natural wine? She would tell you that it’s because it aligns with the vino paesano — the country wine — that she discovered on one of her early trips to Europe after college graduation. No need to call it “natural.” To the folks who make it and drink it every day — as a nutrient, not a luxury — it’s simply wine.

Me? I drink and advocate it because it’s delicious and it helps me to shit good. Why does it make me shit good? No one really knows but it’s probably because there is still active yeast in Natural wine — a defect to some in the wine world, a miracle of nature to others.

Who doesn’t feel better after a good shit? It’s the greatest return to Nature and the best way to get the vitriol out…

11 thoughts on “The Natural wine disconnect (the ideology and spirituality of wine and the importance of a good shit)

  1. This has to be one of the funniest damn things I have read in awhile. You need a new tag like “From Philological to Scatalogical”

    Is it safe to assume that western writers are prone to penned Vitriolic exchanges while Italians relegate Vitriol to common daily verbal discourse?

  2. You could also take probiotics. But I reckon you prefer natural yeast.

    You would have relished the many movements concerting in harrmony at the Millessime Bio fair in Montpellier. At the end of the days, we all finished the bottles that were the most delcious ones, regardless of their provenance. Odd – there was no talk about whether natural wine is a trend or not. It is here to stay. But…the wine in the glass still has to be delicious. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? You would be the first to attest to that reality; don’t you often call yourself the “luckiest schlub?”.

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  4. I never noticed the physiological changes you so serenely describe but I do notice how I feel the next day or the next hour…happy when I’m drinking a good one, natural or otherwise.

    I also think there is a lot of “I know more than you do and am purer than thou” in our industry in general and no more so than in those in the know about natural wines.

    I think your point that wine is a part of everyday life in the old world is one to remember. I think that may happen in the long term. We’re not there yet but I’m hopeful.

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  6. Pingback: Au Naturel « grapes of cath

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