We are in the process of creating a website where winemakers can fully disclose their practices. This site will be accessed from a QR code to be placed on the label of the wine of interest. Winemakers will have the voluntary opportunity to register their wines and to discuss their winemaking choices.
Clark gave an impassioned keynote address at the 2013 Digital Wine Communicators Conference imploring bloggers and journalists to reach out to winemakers and invite candor rather than condemning "manipulation" and making openness expensive: http://bit.ly/1eKse7X .
It is commonplace for wine lovers to decry wines that are “manipulated.” Unfortunately, this word has two meanings:
1. treatment or operation with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner.
2. Shrewd or devious management by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one's own advantage.
Definition #1 embodies the essence of artisanality. Those are not grapes in that glass. Wineries pick ‘em, crush ‘em, ferment ‘em, press ‘em, age ‘em, bottle ‘em, and nobody minds. Those aren’t, per se, offending manipulations.
In definition #2, the essence of the charge of manipulation is a failure to disclose and explain, particularly when new technologies such as exotic membranes and enological oxygen are involved. More than ever before, consumers feel a need to evaluate and judge the way wines are made and decide what practices they wish to avoid or to embrace.
Alice Feiring was generous enough to provide me with her tentative personal list of proscriptions for Natural Winemaking, to which other practices of interest to the movement have been added.
Soil Food Web score
Extended hang time
Amelioration (water addition)
Diammonium Phosphate (DAP)
New barrel %
Non barrel oak adjuncts
Barrel wheat paste contact
Treatments and Practices
Organic certified winery
Stainless steel only
Residual sugar ("dry styles")
Non gravity (powered) racking
Diatomaceous earth filtration
Recycled paper labels
* Please contact us to nominate additions to this list
Each of these practices will be linked to a forum where winemakers and consumers can discuss its pros and cons
Eight Constituencies of the Natural Wine movement
Below are the eight constituencies of the Natural Wine movement as I see them, each with a few words describing its motivations. See which you identify with personally. It's okay to identify with more than one.
Non-Interventionist: Wine should not be casually fooled around with. Traditional winemaking is fine, but techniques that cheat or hide flaws are to be avoided if possible. "The best wine makes itself."
Environmentalist: Winemaking should not damage the environment. Concerns include erosion, petrochemicals, deforestation caused by barrel production, carbon footprint and recycling.
Conventionalist: "I don't want to drink anything I can't pronounce. Give me standard winemaking without all the weird stuff."
Traditionalist: Prefers time-tested methods, the older the better. Suspicious of all recent technological innovations, including use of chemistry, microbiology, genetic manipulation, and petrochemical agriculture. Older manipulations like refrigeration, isinglass fining, or chaptalization are acceptable because they have withstood the test of time.
Health Conscious: Wants to control food sources and protect the health of winery personnel as well. In addition to restricting the use of chemicals in vineyards and in wine, prefers moderate-alcohol wines and requires full disclosure of potential allergens and carcinogens. May have an aversion to the use of animal products in wine production.
Collector: Serious investment in age-worthy wines requires dependable microbial stability. Passionate about great wine that improves with time. "Don't take chances on my nickel." Nervous about experimental techniques and changes in processing, especially among established houses and wines intended for extended cellaring.
Authenticity Purist: Wine should be made from grapes alone, with as little addition and manipulation as possible in order to present a distinctive expression. More extreme than the Non-Interventionist: "If nature gave us a difficult vintage, let's taste it."
Terroiriste: Passionate about the unique flavors of a place. "Please don't obscure the wine's distinctive expression with excessive alcohol or wood, or employ practices that make wines all taste the same." May consider native microbiology as important to terroir as grape character