Posted: Aug 30, 2019
NATURAL WINE CHALLENGES VITICULTURAL AND CULTURAL NORMS BY BEING UNAPOLOGETICALLY CONNECTED TO NATURE
In the current toxic environment –toxic for the planet, toxic for the heart- environmentalists, culture-lovers, humanists, progressives are not accustomed to good news of any kind. So at the risk of disappointing those caught up in the vortex of dread,
I would like to offer (cautiously) some cause for optimism.
Natural winegrowers from Alsace to Vermont, from Mendoza to Marsala are leading a raucously civil and rootedly cosmopolitan insurrection against all the forces conspiring to wrestle the planet to death. Their engagement in completely material, agricultural questions (without ever losing the spiritual dimension) have created a model for rural renewal and may hold a key for a reinvigoration of urban culture as well.
A dozen years ago, it seemed that the future was as bleak for the partisans of wine as an act of culture as it is for partisans of any cultural expression today. It appeared that eight thousand years of viticulture were going to be annihilated by the double whammy of chemically destructive industrial wine and the pseudo-artisanal version of the same, simply repackaged as a luxury product. And this was true from Chianti to Bordeaux to Napa. For any genuine, ecologically engaged artisan, the war seemed lost.
There was no comfort in any country from the various institutions supposed to protect authenticity: the AOC (Appe?lation d'origine controle?e) in France, the DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) in Italy, universities from Chile to Australia where agronomy was taught, government watchdog agencies like the FDA or the European Union's agriculture commission.
It was as if they'd all suffered the invasion of the winebodysnatchers. Almost all agricultural research was being dictated by the multinational agrochemical industry and its lobbies, including the drafting of ridiculously porous organic regulations on all sides of the Atlantic and Pacific that allowed for numerous chemical additives and manipulations. Journalists submitted, out of cynicism, laziness, or ignorance, to the viticultural aberration, and each year consumers and merchants become more accommodated to a bogus system.
It seemed unlikely that an unbowed, renegade winegrower could survive.
But not only did a handful survive, they succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of colleagues and newcomers to embrace agriculture as an act of liberty and as an ethical and aesthetic endeavor. Above all, given that most individual farmers in the twenty- first century were ending up isolated, burdened with debt, and excluded from the marketplace, the greatest miracle of the natural wine movement may be that it generated a spontaneous network of farmers' solidarity across the globe, which in turn created an alternative social and commercial urban network, from Sa?o Paulo to Paris to New York, largely populated by young people and economically viable.
By Jonathan Nossiter
August 29, 2019
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