Is the term “natural wine” relevant?

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”!

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6 Responses to Is the term “natural wine” relevant?

  1. Tom Wark says:

    The fact that a term has been adopted to describe a set of wines in no way means that the term adopted is at all appropriate. The use of the term “Natural Wine” is a perfect example insofar as everyone who makes these wines, champions these wines and drinks these wines know that they are not “natural” in any way. But marketing is marketing, and inaccuracy and deception is often sacrificed for the sake of the benefits that come with inaccurately and deceptively marketing a product.

  2. Martin Carel says:

    And yet, both inside and outside the natural wine circles, the term “natural wine” is sticking around, even for those who don’t care about (legitimate or deceptive) marketing. And that is, I think, a proof that the term is relevant.

  3. fabiorenzobartolomei says:

    Yes, time to move on. There are many much more interesting and more relevant issues to focus on around natural wine.

  4. Tom Wark says:

    Martin, the fact that the term is used is merely indicative of the fact that the term is used. It says nothing about its validity or appropriatness. The term is clearly relevant. But of what? We know the products it describes are not “natural”. And we know there are better and more discriptive terms for the products. This is undeniable. The term is used to attempt to bestow a kind of positive image to the wines, not to describe them. The worst part of it all is that the term is used in part to suggest that other wines are not “natural’. Poor form and not a little unethical.

  5. fabiorenzobartolomei says:

    The English languge is a funny old thing, isn’t it? It has many many words that mean more than one thing, and even word that mean the exact opposite of what one would expect. Thankfully humans speak languages very well and with context and common sense we all understand each other perfectly.

  6. Ruth says:

    I actually thought it was a good description of the term – in so much as many variations to natural wine as there are to the color blue. I am interested in knowing why tom would say that these wines are not natural?

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