On December 15, 2020, the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) hosted a webinar called Natural Wine: Beyond Philosophy, which aimed to shed light on this complex issue from a scientific perspective and bring thoughtful impetus to the subject.
Image from: China Wine Information Network
The roundtable webinar was moderated by Guido Baldeschi, Head of Oenology at OIV, and featured five international presenters, all with diverse backgrounds and extensive experience in the wine sector.
At the beginning of this webinar, Christelle Pineau sketched a detailed background from an anthropological point of view and highlighted the many possible definitions even in the so-called natural wine movement.
Jacques Dupont points out that people desire purity and naturalness, a return to their roots, but he also highlights a certain confusion among consumers when it comes to distinguishing natural wines from organic wines. The problem is that people don"t know exactly what a natural wine is.
Natalie Christensen, from the southern hemisphere, mentioned that people are increasingly interested in producing natural things; New Zealand is a very innovative region where people chase the unusual, especially because it has a very young wine generation.
When asked if the globalization of tastes has led to the growth of natural wines, Luigi Moio replied: The beauty of wine is its diversity! Of course, we have international varieties such as Merlot and Chardonnay, but beyond that, people are looking for better quality, more regional wines. And the emphasis on terroir has made today's wines more diverse.
Jamie Goode argues that people need to break out of their stereotypes, pointing out that when it comes to natural wines, it's not the variety but the origin that matters most.
How does it taste?
For Luigi Mauio, natural wines tend to oxidize easily, which is something he believes should be avoided.
Along with the evolution of tasting, Jacques Dupont believes that wine critics should not consciously understand the philosophy of production before tasting and writing wine reviews, because blind tasting is what allows us to taste wine without ideology. For him, if one wants to produce high quality natural wines, one needs to be knowledgeable.
For London-based journalist Jamie Goode, the concept of taste and defects is largely subjective, as different people have different thresholds. How can you tell if a wine is defective? If a ratty smell is present, it's mostly a defect, while a stable smell is mostly a characteristic.
The way of production
Regarding the addition of sulfites in the winemaking process, experienced winemaker Natalie Christensen points out the risks and benefits of not using sulfites. For her, new flavors can be obtained without sulfur dioxide. She adds that producing a product without sulfur dioxide is risky, but it is also said that without risk there is no reward.
As explained by Guido Perugia, sulfur dioxide has antioxidant and antibacterial properties in wine. Therefore, it allows wines to age. On the question of the relevance of aged wines to natural wines, Jamie Goode says:Early in the life of a wine, natural production can bring the nuances of aging. For him, this is difficult to articulate because most natural wines are consumed straight away.
In his new book "The Breath of Wine", Louis Guimoyo explains that there is no chemical component in the selected yeast and that there is no knowledge of the role played by the grapes or the native yeast in the cellar in the alcoholic fermentation process. Is there any truth to the criticism of modern techniques? He concludes that you need microbiological knowledge not to interfere with the role of the native yeast, but to assist in the fermentation process.
Origin and consumer expectations
The emergence of natural wines has also challenged the concept of appellation. The original system of control of origin was designed to combat counterfeiting, but it does not guarantee taste, only origin; today people's tastes are evolving and we need to open the door to different styles of wine, says Jacques Dupont.
The webinar also revealed the expectations of consumers and the different experiences wine lovers have when enjoying a glass of wine, and that the social aspect should also be taken into account when it comes to natural wines. Maximum purity with minimum intervention. Beyond philosophy, there is a desire for purity, which in itself can be beneficial for wine.