Further Thoughts on Natural Wine

by Al Drinkle

A recent article in Avenue Magazine has prompted me to expatiate further on the contentious topic of “natural” wine. Typical for Calgary, we’re several years behind on this movement but the aforementioned article is indicative of the mainstream’s curiosity of something that a few devoted importers, sommeliers and retailers have been supporting for years. Long preceding the local discussion of this enigmatic category, Metrovino has been a destination for countless “natural” wines which weren’t selected because of any laughably amorphous definition of “natural,” but because we loved the wines and respected the tenets by which they were brought to fruition. Good “natural” wines should be sought on their own merits, not by piggy-backing the hype of the movement, and I wish it went without saying that the bad ones shouldn’t be embraced for any reason at all.

My concern regarding the discussion surrounding “natural” wine is essentially threefold:

1. There is no definition. Colleagues of mine have argued that at least the important parameters are well-enough defined that wine professionals can discuss “natural” wine without sifting through the myriad tenets of the ethos. I would be happy to accept this (in the same way that I accept that we can’t have an impregnable definition of what constitutes film noir, for example) except that,

2. Its votaries increasingly use to the term in reference to undeserving products when it’s convenient or advantageous for them to do so. Accepting the lack of a categorical definition for “natural wine” shouldn’t permit the arbitrary or erroneous abuse of the term in regards to conventional wines that grace the lists, shelves and portfolios of those who claim to be unyielding partisans of the movement.

3. The dogmatic thinking of far too many proponents and disciples of “natural” wine is alienating, elitist and irrational. Claiming that “natural” wine (absent definition or not) is good and that everything else is patently evil is devastating to the movement, as is the willingness to drink and promote reprehensibly foul-tasting “natural” wine based solely on ideology.

I don’t have an answer for any of this. I can only say that I wish that the natural wine movement was more about honesty and deliciousness and less about arbitrary tendentiousness.