Dec 20: After a successful webinar in September about Wine Tourism, The International Association of Vines and Wine (OIV) conducted a very successful webinar last week with a focus on Natural wines, moderated by its Oenology Head of Unit, Guido Baldeschi, who discussed with 5 international experts with different profiles and wealth of experience in the wine sector, reports Subhash Arora
The webinar suggested that the topic of natural wines raised long debates, starting with the terminology, especially when comparing them to other types of wine. The opinions of the wine sector community differ as to the appropriate terminology. But Baldeschi clarified in the beginning of the 2-hour webinar that the idea was not to debate on the nomenclature.
Indeed, OIV had not taken any stand on it so far and he chose to simply compare and contrast Natural wines with Classical wines, aware that everyone might not agree with these terminologies- though the participants did touch upon it based on their emotional connect with natural wines during the course of the webinar.
This webinar was attended by over 1000 persons and was a contribution to the OIV's work on the subject. It is the role of our Organisation to provide a scientific point of view on this matter, by inviting the sector to a reflexion. Incidentally, India is also a member of this organisation where countries may be members only through their governments.
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The panel consisted of Christelle Pineau (France), Jacques Dupont (France), Natalie Christensen (New Zealand) and Luigi Moio (Italy). Christelle Pineau laid the groundwork of the webinar with a detailed background from a point of view of anthropology and highlighted the multiplicity of possible definitions even within the so-called natural wine movement; it was generally accepted that Georgia was where the concept had originated.
Jacques Dupont acknowledged people’s desire for purity and nature and to go back to the roots but he highlighted certain confusion in the minds of consumers to distinguish between natural wines and organic wines-the problem being that people didn’t know exactly what natural wine was.
From a southern Hemisphere point of view Natalie Christensen from New Zealand mentioned the growing interest in producing natural wine; as New Zealand is a very innovative country where people are chasing the unusual, especially because the country has a very young wine generation.
When questioned about a possible globalisation of taste and the fact that this could have led to the growth of natural wine, Luigi Moio answered that the power of wine is its diversity. “Of course we have international cultivars like Merlot and Chardonnay, but beyond that people are looking for more exceptional wines from different countries . The emphasis on terroir also provides even more diversity nowadays”.
Jamie Goode on his side considered that people want to break with stereotypes saying that “When it comes to natural wine the most important part of the story is not the variety but the place”.
Taste of Natural Wine
Baldeschi raised the question of the characteristic of taste and vivacity of natural wines.The notion of vivacity in connection with natural wines comes from the fact that we don’t block the living aspect during the winemaking and up to the bottling.
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For Luigi Moio, the natural wines can be often oxidised, something that he thought should be avoided.
Accompanying the tasting evolution Jacques Dupont believed that a wine critic should not be aware of the producer’s philosophy before tasting a wine and writing notes since blind tasting allows us to taste without ideologies. For him, if you want to produce high quality natural wine you need to have profound knowledge.
For the London based journalist, Jamie Goode, the notion of taste and default is fundamentally subjective but based on a common denominator, as “the thresholds differ among people”. He raised the question on how to decide whether a wine is faulty or not, if the mousiness or the smell of horse stalls are mostly a defect or a feature.
Ways of production
Regarding sulphites addition to winemaking, the winemaker, Natalie Christensen pointed out the risks or advantages of not using it. For her, without SO2 you could obtain new flavours that are muted by SO2 adding that producing without SO2 it is a risky business, but some say without risk there are no rewards.
As explained by Guido Baldeschi, Sulphur Dioxide has an antioxidant and antimicrobial role in wine and hence it allows wine to age. Directed at Jamie Goode, the question raised was on the relevance of the concept of vins de garde- aged wine for natural wines. “Natural production can deliver nuances of aging earlier in the life of a wine” he said. It was difficult to state this, because most of the natural wines were consumed directly, he said.
Luigi Moio has explained in his latest book The breath of Wine that there was nothing chemical in selected yeasts, and also that indigenous yeasts present in the grapes or in the cellar had no idea about its role during alcoholic fermentation. You need knowledge in microbiology, not to intervene, but to assist the fermentation processes, he summarised.
Appellation guarantees the origin
Natural wine also questions the notion of appellation. Originally, as recalled by Jacques Dupont, appellation systems intended to fight fraud but it doesn’t guarantee the taste, it guarantees the origin; nowadays people’s tastes evolve and we need to open the doors for wines with different styles.
Minimal intervention, maximum purity
The webinar successfully merged two different philosophies and approaches proving that multiple producers and stakeholders, from the natural wine movement or not, look into the same direction: minimal intervention to achieve the maximum purity. Beyond the production this webinar shed a light on consumers’ expectations as well as the different experiences when wine lovers enjoy a glass of wine. Thus the social aspects should be taken into consideration when it comes to the issue of natural wine.
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Finally, it is the passion for wine that connects people from all over the world, even in these difficult Covid-19 times that we’re currently passing through. Baldeschi thanked the five international panellists on behalf of OIV for their valuable contribution on this controversial but exciting topic of natural wines.
Beyond the philosophies, the desire for more purity benefits the wine-was the consensus. A very educational webinar but it was jarring to hear the dubbed voices of speakers in English. Even when Jacques Dupont was speaking in French, one could hear the interpreter speaking in English in her accent- a female voice coming out of a male was not really pleasant. It might have been more palatable with original language and subtitles in English for the mono-linguists.