Everybody's talking about natural wines – thanks, Saignée!

How do you celebrate a year of blogging? With a month of blogging, of course.

A special month of blogging, I mean. Like the 31 days of Natural Wine put together by Cory Cartwright of Saignée, one of the most interesting wine blogs around. He asked a number of other voices of the online wine world to contribute their thoughts on natural wine, every day of that feast of a month.

Alice Feiring, Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi, Amy Atwood from My Daily Wine, Brooklyn Guy and a bunch of others have been contributing, and it’s quite an interesting bunch of reads. Everything from a visit to Nicolas Joly, the biodynamic pope himself, to discussions of sulfur in wine, to a very… honest tasting of the latest Bonny Doon wines by Mr Saignée himself.

The series brings forward all sorts of questions about the concept of natural wines – a rather vague category that includes, depending on who you speak to, everything from sustainable winemaking to biodynamics and no-sulfur wines. In French, the moniker “vin naturel” has been more closely defined by the likes of Thierry Puzelat, Marcel Lapierre and such as no-sulfur wines (rather often made with carbonic maceration). In the US, that would be closest to “organic wine”, although the fact that sulfites must be totally absent from certified US organic wines (even the naturally occuring sulfites), making it an even more extreme category. Translating “organic wine” back to “vin bio”, in France, leads to another category altogether. And don’t get me started on the various “sustainable” winegrowing and winemaking programs established in the US and New Zealand, among others. (This Wine Business article will give you an idea of the concepts and regulations involved.)

What’s right or wrong with these categories? I’m certainly in favor of any move towards more careful, ecologically-friendly wine-growing and towards making wines whose ingredient list is limited to grapes, period. But I don’t think adding a little sulfur is a heresy, or that one single approach has all the answers. It does make for a very interesting discussion, though… More than enough for 31 days.

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