The Battle for Wine and Love

I finished reading The Battle for Wine and Love by Alice Feiring today. This book is a must-read on the topic of natural wine and although I ended up learning a lot more about Alice than I intended to, I thought the book made some good points. It certainly helped me think about what we want to portray in our documentary.

The author makes clear that she enjoyed natural wine from the beginning, at a time where she didn’t really understand anything about the winemaking process or about what makes a wine natural. Her palate guided her towards more natural wines and I thought that was encouraging. There are lots of arguments for keeping the winemaking process more natural. But in the end, if the taste is not appealing, most of the argumentation breaks down. She was not the only one either with a similar story. Other people we’ve talked to intuitively seek natural wine for its taste. Which is good.

It’s intriguing to me to hear that all wines taste the same. The author goes:

for the most part, wine is being reduced to the common denominator […] There will be scientists and consultants, who help create cookie-cutter wine for the mass palate.

This mass palate usually involves lots of oak, fruit bombs, and sugar. I’m not savvy enough to nod knowingly when she elaborates on this mass palate, but it certainly makes me curious. A part of me wants to go buy cases of Cabernet and Chardonnay from Napa and figure out what this commercial wine tastes like.

The author also emphasizes the battle for tradition being waged in the Old World. For instance, the obsession with regularity across vintages appears ludicrous:

The wines […] failed to get the DOC (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) mark of approval. This meant they could not use the term Chianti. […] The reason cited was lack of color! But they were told unofficially […] that if they added a color-fortifying agent the wines would pass!

Her section about Champagne was also very instructive to me — I’ve never been a Champagne drinker. She brings attention to the tradition being carried on by corporate brands with soulless vineyards sprayed over with pesticides and plowed so much that erosion becomes a problem.

It was a useful read, if a long-winded one.

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