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File Under: History
Fast Natural* is booming in the New York marketplace. Every few blocks you will find a shop selling fast natural wine and likely not knowing the difference between the private label they are selling and a farmer-grown, soulful wine. This isn’t the first time we have seen this dynamic (or the last); it is the natural wine version of “this Napa cabernet should be higher-priced and we can’t tell you which vineyard or star winemaker it came from.” Brands hide the ball all the time to sell juice.
Today, we have the beauty of a revitalized, young market thirsty for Natural and horrific misunderstanding of Natural due to lost history.
Joe Dressner (the late founder of Louis/Dressner Selections) was one of the people that made the natural wine tribe what it is today. In an excerpt below from his blog, Captain Tumor Man, he gave vital context to the Natural Wine Movement and clues to the future of Natural Wine the NY market today.
The manifesto doesn’t “define” natural wine, and it certainly doesn’t give you all the perfect answers so you can pass a test. However, it is filled with his humor, concepts, and references that give texture to where we are today and why Fast Natural wines exist. It was written in 2010.
The Official Fourteen Point Manifesto on Natural Wine by Joe Dressner*
1. Hold your wallet tight when someone tells you they love “Natural Wine.” All of a sudden it is popular to say you are making natural wines, that you are drinking natural wines, that you just love natural wines. Wines come in bottles, not slogans, and unless you are talking about actual growers, vintages or vineyards, you are blowing hot air. The Natural Wine Movement hates all sloganeering and please leave us out of your exhortations.
2. Years ago I asked a clerk at Brooks Brothers how to tie a bow-tie. She patiently answered that a Gentleman either knew how to tie a bow-tie or did not know how to tie a bow-tie. The same applies to Natural Wine. If you have to ask what Natural Wine is then please reintroduce yourself to the flavors, smells and textures of nature. The Natural Wine Movement can help you, but you must do most of this work yourself.
3. The Natural Wine Movement is not a movement with a leader, credo and principles. If you think there is a Natural Wine Movement sweeping the world, triumphantly slaying industrial wineries and taking no hostages, then you are one delusional wine drinker. The Natural Wine Movement thinks that you might want to lessen your alcohol consumption for a few months.
4. But wouldn’t life be simpler if we had just one big category of natural wine to direct the poor consumer who is faced with so many baffling options? The Natural Wine Movement believes that wine is complicated and turning wine into neat categories is what made America and Madison Avenue great, but not what makes one Romorantin taste better than another Poulsard. And that doesn’t even leave room for Counoise and Pinot Fin. Broad categories are great for soda, juice, low carbon footprint beverages, eating and drinking locally and romance novels. Leave Natural Wine alone.
5. The poor consumers facing so many baffling choices are not really so confused. They need to learn how to trust and explore their tastes. If they like crappy industrial wine, why slap them around? Let them learn and go with their instincts, eventually they will come around. The pointists and tasting notes crowd are obscurantists who wants them to believe it takes the training of a brain surgeon to appreciate wine. The Natural Wine Movement believes everyone has the right to drink and eat badly, to watch horrible movies, read crappy books and watch CSI Las Vegas, CSI Miami or CSI New York. Forensic evidence tells us that wine drinkers can mature and blossom and find nuance more charming than the world of Awesome and Mind Blowing!
6. Jules Chauvet used to say being determines consciousness. The Natural Wine Movement doe not expect the Wine Industrial Complex to be won over to natural fermentation, low sulphur and what-have-you. Even if it were, it would still be making unfathomable, undrinkable stuff. Stop condemning the Parkers, Rollands, Eisenmeyers, Wine Spectators, Cult Wineries with 16 Degree swill, Southern Wine & Spirits and the Andre Tamers of the world (actually, Andre Tamer is a very good importer of Spanish wine but I have a grudge against him, with good reason, and threw his name in here for no other particular reason). Honestly, they live in another world than we do.
7. Please leave us alone. Great natural wine is made in small quantities and there will never be enough to go around. Industrial Wine can satisfy thirst, I suppose, as can water, diet Sprite, Tomato Juice from local farmers and Gatorade. If everyone jumps on the natural wine bandwagon there will be a tendency to get bigger to satisfy demand and quality will be compromised. We will be overwhelmed by corporate types who want to cash in on the next big thing. We’ll have to form a new movement and find a new vague concept that hipsters all over the world will embrace (like Real Wine). The Natural Wine Movement likes to drink in peace and doesn’t want to become a marketing scheme for bloggers, wineries, retailers, distributors, importers with brain cancer, journalists and virtual reality television shows. We like being marginal.
8. The Natural Wine Movement abhors earnestness. Please don’t tell us your stories about leading a sulphur-free life and how wild yeast fermentation made you kinder to your loved ones and pets. Humorless activism to promote wine is an oxymoron. Getting smashed, eating well, and laughing with good friends are key to our movement. We actively campaign for the drinking age to be lowered to sixteen-year-old, like in good old France. We also enjoy being contemptuous of other people around us, somewhat randomly, particularly when we are on the second or third bottle.
9. Another thing we dislike is self-importance. The wine milieu is saturated with so many very important people it makes the mind dizzy. The Wine Spectator even organizes events for the very important to meet their very important peers from all around the world. The Natural Wine Movement does not attend these conferences. We don’t go to the Miami, Aspen, Boston, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Elmira or Washington Wine Week Celebration. We’re not important enough to attend and don’t want to become that important.
10. Sure, there are big shots even in our marginal milieu. Certain vignerons, certain importers, certain restaurateurs and certain major private drinkers. We do our best to rotate big shots, searching as far as the former Czechoslovakia for media darlings. We’re a democratic group based on the French principles of Liberté, Fraternité et Copinage! The Natural Wine Movement knows no lider maximo and is dedicated to the notion that we can all be René Mosse for one day! By the way, I’m not sure what Copinage means, but it sounds good.
11. Is there really a difference between Natural, Biodynamic, Real and Organic wines? There sure is, but is it really productive to blab about the differences? We like mystery and suspense and so do you or you wouldn’t be glued to your television sets watching CSI New York. The Natural Wine Movement hates precision, detail and facts. For instance, when someone asks a member of The Natural Wine Movement for the exact variety composition of a blend, we just make up some percentages. Often they don’t add up to 100% because no one really cares. We don’t care and you don’t care. If the terroir is expressive then the grape varieties are transparent. We are not in California.
12. So, can you make natural wine in the New World? Maybe and we’d love to try some examples. No doubt there are great sites and we’re confident that our colleagues in the New World will find their way over the next few decades and centuries. Planting the right variety on the right root stock and not having all those unsightly clones would be a good start. The Natural Wine Movement salutes the courage and audacity of our New World brethren.
13. Doesn’t this make us a bunch of fascists who want to dictate taste to everyone else? Not really, The Natural Wine Movement doesn’t look for converts. If you want to hang around with us, that’s wonderful, but we’re just nice people looking for a nice buzz. Ever meet Olivier Lemasson – I can’t imagine a softer-spoken, nicer guy. He has two young kids to feed and buying a case of Olivier’s wine would be of great assistance to him.
14. Who appointed me to speak for The Natural Wine Movement, you ask? I seized control three years ago in an epic battle with François Ecco and Arnaud Erhart. Since then, I have been the official public spokesman for me, myself and I.
*Fast Natural is my term for the co-opted brands and large farm sourced wines with natural placed on the label that are capitalizing on the natural wine movement. Natural Wines are wines of nature from farmers, while Fast Natural Wines are wines of business and scaleability.
*originally posted by the late Joe Dressner of Louis/Dressner Selections on captaintumorman.com, bolds are inserted by me.