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Nice reply and I would also loooooove to know what the red's were.

My first thought when reading Lettie's article was that just because something is poorly understood, doesn't mean it is without definition.

And I love how you could feel Mr Smith's anger towards natural wine. I bet it adds some real emotional content to his vino's.


I guess I see this as more of an addition than to a response, but thanks. Lettie's question to me was a terrific one. An obvious one, sure, but one I neglected to answer directly in Naked Wine so I really appreciated her asking.

Mr. Smith protests too much. Of course he could tell the difference. He actually makes fine wine, but if he pushed it a little, I think he could make some of the best wines in California.



Can you please explain how sulphur became your criterion, out of all of the many other factors at play?

Lettie is certainly benighted, but you don't make a persuasive case other than setting forth your belief. All well and good when talking to like-minded sorts, but of no use more broadly speaking - and I wish and hope you would believe that you have something to argue for, with substance, not just to pontificate about, ex cathedra.

For instance, to take a case that comes to mind, Drappier make a non-sulphured version of their Non Dose Blanc de Noirs. After a year-ish, it's shot. Yes, when it's young, it's more complex than the sulphured version, but the lack of sulphur leads it to oxidize quickly.

This is an event that strikes such wines, very oftentimes.

Others no, but to ban sulphur seems extreme. Oughtn't wine to age?

Thank you kindly for your response.


Dear Ewil7,

I'm not sure if it is that we've become a culture that expects only opinion, but my opinion is not really expressed here about sulfur. This is the result of the extensive research done in writing the book Naked Wine.

But in short, reread the piece, not as my opinion but as fact. The movement as such started over 30 years ago and what I'm reporting is how it began, what it became and how it came to be what it is today. Ask most winemakers about sulfur and they'll say it's their dream to make a wine without. As I also said, adding sulfur at bottling is not the same thing as adding it through the process, which usually means you must add yeast. Sulfur in the legal doses is nasty and toxic. But in small doses it is also healthful. There's also a huge difference between elemental sulfur used for sulfites--and petrochemical substance--and this latter is the most used and not at all studied. There's a huge difference as well between 20 ppm or less or the legal dose for organic (europe) or biodynamic of 100pom as well as the doses for conventional wine is 350ppm in the US. So you see, this is a complicated issue.

Many wines that are unsulfured do indeed age beautifully. Maybe not the Drappier....but I'm very surprised. Are you storing it well enough? Unsulfured wine really does need a good cellar temperature for aging.

You'll get a lot of info in Naked Wine, I hope you get around to reading it.

Thanks for your comment and I hope this helps explain some of the matters. If you ask me what natural wine is to me, it might differ somewhat. People might have a different personal take on what kosher is to them, but if you ask what kosher is historically and religiously, they'll be able to tell you. --Alice


As William James would have said, truth is what works. As Gramsci would have said, truth is always revolutionary (meaning, in part, that truth is always "turning"). Americans' obsession with "incontrovertible fact" doesn't take into account that truth (as James and Gramsci would have agreed) is always relative. I think that one of the great issues with natural wine is how it translates from the Mediterranean temperament to the Anglo-Saxon (Lettie and Tom both seem to fall in the latter category, no?). Great post, Alice. Thanks for writing it.


Good one, Dr. J.! Thanks for the comment.


The statement "truth is always relative" contradicts itself, but eh.

I don't get all the vexation. There are some people who want to put as little external stuff and manipulation into the grape-growing and vinifying process as possible. They take such an approach for a variety of reasons, use a variety of methods, and achieve a variety of results. Their production represents a small percentage of the Global Wine Ocean.

Yet some people get really exercised about it. They start thrashing around in rhetoric, pointing fingers at definitions, sniffing out ironies, huffing and puffing about this and that, and it really gets to be tiresome. All because a few indie do-it-yourselfers are questioning the System.

Why anyone would be anything but supportive of them is beyond me. Questions are good. Experimentation is good. Having competing alternatives is good. Hooray for the Beaujolistas, the Abe Schoeners, the Angiolino Maulers of the world! There's plenty of room for them in a just world.

If you pooh-pooh them and their wine, you're a killjoy and a bore.

And that's the truth.


(posted on behalf of Brigitte A)

Summertime,/And the livin' is easy… Ms. Teague tried to present anecdotal impressions and information as "Actual Facts." As a result, her opinion piece makes no original, valid, nor significant contribution to the subject.

Do Bianchi: certification could resolve the temperament issue you very justly raise. But, put in Gramscian terms, the natural wine movement still isn't ready for the revolutionary potential of it.


Rather than call these styles of wine "natural" wines, they should call them "reduced sufite wines". This is much more accurate and avoids confusion and ambiguity. I also ask, why would these wines want to be called "natural"? If a drink is labeled as having natural fruit juice, it means nothing. In fact, it means that it is a mass produced product that is teying to look healthy. P "Natural" has no meaningful definition in the food world, so it seems a poorly chisen term for these wines. Of course, it is not nearly as marketable as the term "natural", as has been demostrated by the vast number of foods put out by the industrial giants of General mills, Neatle, ConAgra, Monsanto, etc.


D-- If only it was that simple. A perfectly industrial wine can be made with no sulfites and in deed it's happening. Take Bisol prosecco--they are industrial, conventional ag, processed wine and makes a wine without sulfur. Other wines in Italy and S. Africa also have industrial strength no-sulfited wines. A natural wine is much more than that, organic, no flavor or texture shaping chemical, additive or process, it just ALSO eliminates the final additive that others believe necessary.


Alice, I just think that 'natural' is not thhe best term. If I see a food product labelled 'natural' I know that it is marketing jibberish and that product is not what I would expect of something natural...because there is no regulation or teeth to the term as applied to food. It is purely for marketing.

Another reason why the term 'natural' should not be used is that Biodynamic and organic wines are natural, as is any wine that has minimum intervention. Tryi to say that natural wines must use no sulfites is hijacking the word and insinuates at there is something unnatural about wines that use low levels of SO2.

I think one of the most unnatural things that can be done in the vineyard is grafting. Absolutely nothing natural about that, is there? If a wine is called 'natral', in addition to no added sulfites, it should be grown on it own rootstock as well. At makes perfect sense, doesn't it?


Please pardon my iPad typos


I'm not usually one to comment...but you need an editor.


Robert, You are absolutely correct, everyone needs an editor.


D--natural is not the best term, but no one has come up with a better one. Organic wines are allowed additives that are 'organic,' so they are not defacto natural. In Europe they can also be processed. Biodynamic wine (as per Demeter rules) allows a high level of sulfur and one can petition for additions. Never the less, if not for the high sulfur, it would be close. No nomenclature for this kind of wine is safe. It comes down to the drinker, do you like it or not. It's what's in the glass that is important. No?


(Posted on behalf of Brigitte A)

Not only, Alice. Words and names matter too, as they bear taste and identity. The question is not to come up with a better term, but maybe one day with a new one… like Neo in the Matrix Revolutions J While so far, this appropriation by a few of a pre-existing and collective symbolic content, with no contractual commitment in return, resembles "the One."

Cutter Knox

This is why I've always referred to them as 'minimalist' wines, rather than natural. The latter opens up too many needless arguments over semantics, whereas the former conveys more of an attitude and desire without being bogged down with the semantical minutiae.

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I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.

And, if you'd like a signed copy of either THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE OR HOW I SAVED THE WORLD FROM PARKERIZATION or NAKED WINE, feel free to contact me directly.