I have read many arguments in favor of and against using the term “natural wine” to qualify, well, natural wine. And I have always thought the term was relevant for the simple reason that this is the term most of the people concerned use – wine producers, importers and drinkers. Clearly, no other term is more popular when we want to talk about those wines.
I thought this was obvious and didn’t bother writing anything about it. That is until I read “On Language and Dogma” by Keith Levenberg. I thought no one had defended the relevance of the term “natural wine” with so much pertinence and eloquence. And I felt I needed to relay his words:
Like many schools of thought, the idea of natural wine is based on a collection of principles of varying levels of importance and relatedness to one another. Together, they sketch out an ideal, and the fact that some may hew closer to that ideal than others doesn’t make the definition meaningless, any more than the definition of the color blue is rendered meaningless by the fact that some shades of blue are more or less blue than others.
The realities are these. There exists a set of wines made according to a particular ideal. There are enough similarities between them, in execution and in result, that people who find themselves enjoying one of those wines will surely enjoy a good number of the others. In addition to being enjoyable, these wines are interesting, and some people who like to drink them also like to talk about them. To talk about them, they need a vocabulary for doing so, words for describing the set and the ideal. The word that has stuck is “natural.” If some people don’t like that word, it’s incumbent upon those people to propose another word to describe the concept, and get it to stick. But it has to stick among the people who are actually interested in talking about it, not among the people who only participate in the discussion to protest that the thing being discussed doesn’t exist and isn’t worth talking about.
This is what I call to the point. And I say with pleasure: cheers to “natural wine”!