When I find myself touring the length and breadth of Italy, I often take the opportunity to visit some local wineries. I check the maps, check the producers’ sites and everything there is to know about the region, the typical gastronomy products. I plan my trip also based on the choice of wineries and the route to take to reach them.
I exclude from my path all the wineries that mention “natural wine”.
How wine is made
To make wine there are many steps and many variations. But to put it simply, wine is made more or less like this:
Grapes are taken, squeezed into a container, left there until it becomes wine.
This is how they explain it to us in kindergarten when they teach us what the harvest is. Simple explanation, easily understood. A child’s explanation. Obviously it’s not that simple, there are other steps and many variations. Making wine is a process full of choices and risks, each choice is dictated by many factors including the perfect knowledge of the grape being used. The grapes are all different from each other and have different ripening times and processing methods to get the best out of them.
The intermediate steps for making wine
Among the three phases listed above, there are other intermediate steps of fundamental importance to obtain the wine we have set out to produce.
Because wine is produced. Wine is NOT natural.
Natural means “which is in nature, which is according to nature”. Wine is not. Try to leave grapes on the vine, let it wither, drop it to the ground. You won’t get any wine.
Try putting grapes in a bucket: you will not get wine even in this case, at most, in both situations, you will get enough alcoholic rotten grapes to get drunk some bird passing by.
The fable of natural wine
When we say the word “natural” we are reminded of bucolic landscapes, the sun, the trees and the singing birds. “Natural” is a word that always has a positive meaning and we are therefore unconsciously led to consider everything natural as positive.
Yet even the black plague is natural, as is hemlock. It would also be natural for an asteroid to set the whole world on fire.
The “natural wine” is just a marketing gimmick.
What natural wine producers do
The producers of natural wine (a term that already makes people laugh like that, if it is natural do you produce it?) Do not use chemicals in the vineyard, do not do herbicide treatments, do not use systems to combat plant diseases. Some even use honey to heal the “wounds” of pruning. Which is a bit like preventing winter ailments with lemon and ginger tea. In theory it works … but at that point it is also worthwhile to make a prayer so the circle of superstitions is closed.
Who makes natural wine lives the spring praying that nothing strange happens to the flowers, he spends the summers praying that nothing strange happens to the grapes, he lives the autumn praying that nothing strange happens to the plants, the grapes and at his cellar, he spends the winter hoping that nothing strange will happen inside the bottles.
Making natural wine means hoping that everything happens by chance as nature never planned. Nature has never thought of making wine, why should it give what it does not want just because man wants it?
The charm of bullshit
Human beings are fascinated by bullshit. The bigger it is, the more we are led to believe it. When the idiocy is obvious, words like “natural”, “organic” or even the very effective phrases like “the lobbies don’t want to let you know” come to the rescue.
We are led to believe that everything that is unconventional, unconventional and that in our abstruse reasoning is opposed to the “system”, is also automatically right, true and worthy of being defended in every way. There are even those who go for goji berries just because “medicine doesn’t want you to know that goji berries are good for you”.
In reality, the medicine says that fruit is good, that goji berries are also good and the medicine adds that you can eat as many as you want, so when you have a disease goji berries will not cure you a thing. Medicine and scientists cannot openly say “you are an idiot”, they are too polite. So they pretend not to have heard the shit that some gurus shoot and continue on their way made of tangible evidence.
Natural marketing undoubtedly fascinates and, given the success of blogs, newspapers, broadcasts and the ever-increasing sales of supplements and herbalist stuff, it seems that the market is destined to grow.
The fermentation of natural wine
Wine is the product of fermentation. In very simple terms and simplifying as much as possible: micro organisms eat sugar and transform it into alcohol.
These micro organisms can be yeasts or bacteria. Here we are in micro biology, stuff for strong brains. There are billions of different types of yeast and bacteria, some of which have not yet been discovered. Each type of yeast or bacterium that likes to eat sugar produces something different when it has breakfast.
They turn sugar into alcohol and also produce other chemicals. At best, these chemicals are the ones that give wine the fruit and flower smells, balsamic or mineral notes. In the worst case … no one knows what can happen.
Who ferments the wine?
Among the billions of different types of yeast and bacteria, how do we know who made our “natural” wine ferment?
If we have provided the inoculation of our selected yeast, we are sure that he will eat all the sugar. And we have selected this yeast based on the wine we want to obtain, based on the characteristics of the grape, the season, temperature, conservation methods. The selected yeast has known characteristics and its metabolism is also known. So with a selected yeast we know what will happen to our wine.
If we have not inoculated any selected yeast but we have left everything to itself because “natural wine is made like this”, we cannot know which organism will win the micro biological war and obtain the right to eat all the sugar. In the air, on the skin of the berries, on the plant, on the machinery, on the tractor, there are fungi, yeasts, bacteria. We don’t know who will be the real producer of our wine.
Having no idea what’s going to happen doesn’t seem like a good start to doing anything.
The temperature of the wine
The cellar must have a constant temperature. Both the cellar where the wine ferments and the one where the bottles are stored.
Because during fermentation each yeast (and we know the yeast that is producing the wine) lives and “works” best in a temperature range. Above it it can ferment too fast or it can even die. Below he falls asleep and nothing ferments.
Those who make natural wine do not worry about this trifle. We leave everything to chance, if there are 30 degrees in the cellar, we kill everything, so much so that some gonzo will buy us the wine only because it says “natural”, we find it, right?
Sulfur dioxide. That big bad girl
Sulfur dioxide is used in wine as an antiseptic. It is used to prevent colonies of mold and bacteria from rotting our wine, because nature is a bitch and when something can rot, nature will attack it and make it rot. If natural wine were truly natural, it would be rotten grapes.
Sulphites are also naturally produced by yeasts during fermentation. So whoever writes “without sulphites” is a charlatan. Sulphites, even in minimal quantities, are always there. You can write “no added sulphites”, it means that they have not been added manually with all conceivable consequences. Not adding a preservative in a delicate process like fermentations is tantamount to rolling the dice and hoping that something good will come out by chance.
Is sulfur dioxide bad for you?
Yes, above certain quantities it is harmful. In fact, by law there are very specific limits. Using a little sulfur can still annoy someone, but is it better to have a slight annoyance for sulfur or drink rotten grapes?
Other chemicals and biogenic amines
Our brave natural winemaker brings to the table the product of the accidents that happened in his cellar. What’s inside what he calls wine?
We do not know. We have no idea what ended up there, what reproduced inside that liquid and we don’t know what we are throwing into our body.
Ever heard of biogenic amines?
They are chemicals produced by the activity of certain bacteria. If we don’t check the temperature of the wine and even who is doing the fermentation, there is a good chance of finding ourselves drinking stuff like cadaverine and putrescine. Does the name remind you of anything?
Are we sure we want to drink toxic substances just to follow the “natural wine” trend?
Conventional wine, made by following every step in order to direct the natural processes right where we want, results in a wine that may or may not be liked, but at least it is certainly free of toxic substances. Conventional wine is made by people who study how to get the best out of their grapes and their territory.
Natural wine (which does not exist) is a receptacle for bacteria, it smells like rotten and who knows what else. Wine that came out of chance and with a beautiful word on the label: “natural”. Yes, in fact there is a lot of nature in there. After all, putrefaction is a perfectly natural process, isn’t it?
The natural wine scam will continue for many more years and we will get over it. Sorry to see so much grapes wasted just to follow a trend.