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Authentic Wine

Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking

Jamie Goode (Author), Sam Harrop MW (Author)

Available worldwide
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Paperback, 272 pages
ISBN: 9780520275751
February 2013
$24.95, £16.95
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“A great primer. . . . If you're new to the natural/organic/biodynamic wine debates, Authentic Wine is the place to start.”—Huffington Post

“This is one of the most engaging, thoughtful and enlightening books on contemporary wine. . . . A manifesto for an industry looking to shape its future.”—Wine And Spirits

Naturalness is a hot topic in the wine world. But what exactly is a “natural wine”? For this pioneering book, best-selling wine writer Jamie Goode teams up with winemaker and Master of Wine Sam Harrop to explore the wide range of issues surrounding authenticity in wine. They begin by emphasizing that wine’s diversity, one of its strengths, is currently under threat from increasingly homogenized commercial wines that lack a sense of place. Drawing on a global array of examples and anecdotes, Goode and Harrop examine complex concepts—terroir, biodynamics, and sustainability—in clear language. They also discuss topics including cultured and wild yeasts, wine “faults,” the carbon footprint of the wine industry, “natural” as a marketing concept, and more. Authentic Wine illuminates a subject of great interest to wine producers, consumers, and anyone wondering where the wine industry is headed.
Preface

1 Introduction
2 The diversity of wine: how a natural approach can help preserve wine’s interest
3 Terroir
4 Grafted vines
5 Biodynamics and organics
6 Sustainable winegrowing
7 When winemakers intervene: the chemical and physical manipulation of wine
8 The natural wine movement
9 Yeasts, wild and cultured
10 Ripeness and high alcohol
11 Wine faults
12 The carbon footprint of wine
13 Marketing authentic wine
14 Conclusions
Jamie Goode, a former scientific editor, is wine writer for the Sunday Express and a contributor to magazines including The World of Fine Wine and Wines & Vines. His website, www.wineanorak.com, is one of the world’s most visited wine sites. His first book, The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass (UC Press) won the Glenfiddich Drink Book of the Year Award. Sam Harrop is a Master of Wine, qualified winemaker, and independent winemaking consultant. He co-founded Domaine Matassa and Litmus Wines, and is a co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.
"A very good book. . . . One of the more balanced and detailed accounts dealing with the issue of sustainable winemaking."—Robert M. Parker, Jr. The Wine Advocate
“An ocean's worth of savvy detail about both the more (organic farming, the endless shades of sustainability) and less (reverse osmosis, acidification) happy nuances of making wine. This isn't the stuff of lush fields and cellar romps, but it is a rare chance to look under the hood of winemaking, considering all the pieces the industry would rather we not think about.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A compelling manifesto for natural wine. . . . As with Goode’s earlier book, The Science of Wine, the understandable, everyday terms used make this a genuine guide to wine science for the citizen.”—Brian Elliott Scotland On Sunday
“‘Authentic Wine’ performs the invaluable service of raising crucial questions and explaining complicated issues coherently.”—Eric Asimov New York Times
“It may have been a wet and dodgy year for wine but it's been a good year for wine books. The most compelling new book is undoubtedly Authentic Wine by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop.”—Huon Hooke Sydney Morning Herald
“Ambitiously comprehensive. . . . Illuminating.”—Beverley Blanning Decanter
"A very well written and useful book with a long shelf life. Once read, it is one to dip in and out of regularly."—Mary Gorman-McAdams The Kitchn
“The book does a masterful job of examining an entire spectrum of issues related to the natural wine movement. It takes care to look at many sides of each issue and does so rationally and thoughtfully.”—Palate Press
“A great primer that goes beyond organic, biodynamic and natural ‘labels’ and delves into the many practices winemakers use, and the benefits and drawbacks of each. Clear, straightforward explanations of everything from sulfur dioxide use to wild vs. cultured yeast fermentation. If you're new to the natural/organic/biodynamic wine debates, Authentic Wine is the place to start.”—Huffington Post
“Thought-provoking.”—The Times
“’What is meant by the term natural? Is wine different from other alcoholic beverages, and why? Is there such a thing as ‘fake’ wine? What is the appropriate use of technology in winemaking? What additions to wine should be allowed, and who gets to decide? And, practically, how can winemakers adjust their methods to make more honest, expressive, and interesting wines?’ These are the questions the authors post at the outset. With clear language, varied examples, and wide-ranging thinking, the authors not only answer the questions but, in my case, helped me formulate some answers of my own. Highly recommended as a balanced look at the sometimes contentious world of “natural wine.”—50statesofwine
"A veritable encyclopedia on modern winemaking and viticulture that addresses a number of technical issues in considerable depth."—Don Winkler I-Winereview Blog
“Rich with history, case studies and scientific explanations, this is essential text for anyone in the wine industry.” ‘—The Oregonian
"Wine enthusiasts who would like to know just how much the average commercial wine is treated to technical intervention will find this work a treasure trove."—Michael Fridjhon, author of The Penguin Book of South African Wine Business Day (South Africa)
“You may not be sure exactly where you draw the line on the terroir and authenticity versus technologically manipulated ‘industrial’ wine spectrum. A look at the scientific take on biodynamics and terroir in ‘Authentic Wine’ may help you decide.”—Bloomberg News
“Authentic Wine seems to address a walk towards natural, or at least the paths that are developing to lead us away from highly confabulated wine. So, that's great. Work the pages, read and learn many trade secrets. The chapter on manipulations is particularly nifty and covers most of the techniques and ingredients that can twist wine.”—Alice Feiring, The Feiring Line
“This is one of the most engaging, thoughtful and enlightening books on contemporary wine. . . . A manifesto for an industry looking to shape its future.”—Joshua Greene Wine And Spirit
“Embraces the broadest discussion of wines of place within a treatise around the various environmental issues affecting viticulture and winemaking, as the authors draw together current thinking on how a sense of place in wine is achieved, including the place natural wine has in that tapestry. . . . This book has me nodding my head in agreement and shaking it occasionally in latent debate all the way through – which probably means it’s hit the mark for the authors. It’s a persuasive read in a calm, eminently readable style which makes the complex subjects hugely approachable and comprehensible. Given the importance of these subjects, that is great work. I can envisage readily-thumbed volumes of this sitting on the bookshelves of wine enthusiasts and professionals alike.”—Wine Wisdom
“You may not be sure exactly where you draw the line on the terroir and authenticity versus technologically manipulated ‘industrial’ wine spectrum. A look at the scientific take on biodynamics and terroir in ‘Authentic Wine’ may help you decide.”—SF Chronicle -Businessreport: The Chronicle With Bloomberg
“Author Jamie Goode examines one of the foremost issues in the wine world: organic/sustainable growing and intervention, or lack of it, in the winemaking process. It's not as geeky as it sounds; Goode is a scientist, but he deftly writes in layman's terms.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Overall, the book is quite pragmatic, realistic, balanced and informative. It's not a polemic; indeed, Goode and Harrop criticize the more ardent naturalistas at several points for adopting a hard ideological tone that simply drives most of the industry away. The authors are perfectly passionate about the fate of wine, but more interested in what kinds of improvements can be made than in some set of doctrines that have to be followed.”—Vinography
“Offers an admirably cool and authoritative analysis. . . . It's a serious book covering serious technical issues (Goode is a former science editor and Harrop a Kiwi winemaker) but it does so in a way that is very accessible without being patronising.”—Evening Standard
"Goode and Harrop are terroirists determined to protect and preserve wine as a unique part of civilized life. Authentic Wine is both stirring manifesto and a reasoned, practical guide. Vive les terroirists!"—Mike Veseth, author of Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists

“Jamie Goode is a rarity in the wine world: a trained scientist who can explain complicated subjects without dumbing them down or coming over like a pointy head. It also helps that he’s a terrific writer with a real passion for his subject.”—Tim Atkin MW

“It is not surprising that wine often stimulates the flow of bile - often exchanged between highly opinionated groups of wine writers, drinkers and kibbitzers, each with a different aesthetic and ideology. This book by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop mounts a passionate defense of "natural wine" from an utterly rational perspective. They make the case that we must choose to grow grapes and make wines in a natural way, allowing the wines to achieve the greatest expression of individuality, lest we drown in an a wine-dark (possibly over-extracted) sea of sameness.”--Randall Grahm, author of Been Doon So Long

"Praise for Jamie Goode's The Science of Wine":

“Mr. Goode has written one of the most enlightening and clearheaded wine books to appear in years. This is a wine book you’ll actually read and reread.”--Matt Kramer, New York Sun

“Lively and provocative.”--Eric Asimov, New York Times

“Goode’s readable prose makes even the most technical subjects accessible. For anyone interested in more than just drinking wine, this is a must read.”Wine Enthusiast

U.S. Wine Book of the Year, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Introduction

Some 9000 years ago, someone made a lucky discovery: that grapes contained within themselves the constituents to make a satisfying, mood-enhancing, food-compatible and usefully long-lived drink-wine. So universally appreciated was this near-magical liquid that it soon became a cornerstone of the shared lives of many societies. Wild grapes proved amenable to cultivation; vineyards were a sign of settling, evidence that people who had previously been nomadic were here to stay. In addition to its social role, wine also became infused with religious symbolism.

Remarkably, wine has survived various social upheavals, the end of dynasties and empires, and industrial 'progress', and remains with us today. Of course, many of the wines we currently consume, dominated by bold, sweet fruit flavours, would be unrecognizable to drinkers of just a century ago. Yet there are still plenty of wines around that taste much as they would have done hundreds of years back. This is because, here and there, wines are still made in ways that would be familiar to a winegrower from past times. Still others are helped a little by cellar technology, yet manage to retain a sense of place that connects with history. Thus, wine carries with it an important tradition. In new world regions where there is a relatively brief tradition of quality wine production, there exist both wines that reflect the personality of the place they come from, as well as those that could have been made almost anywhere.

What is natural? What is authentic?

One of the keys to wine's enduring appeal is the belief that it is a 'natural' product. But how do we define natural? We could start by agreeing that in its most basic form, all wine is natural in that it is not a synthetically producing beverage. Instead, grapes contain- within and without- all that is needed to make wine. One could therefore argue that the more manipulations or additions that a wine undergoes, the less natural the resulting wine, although this is an overly simplistic view.

In truth there is no such thing as natural or unnatural wine; rather, the 'naturalness' of a wine is most usefully measured on a continuum, from least to most natural and takes in many aspects of both the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of the raw ingredient: the grape.

To illustrate this point, let's consider the analogy of a garden. If a garden is totally 'natural', it is untended and the only plants growing there will be those that establish themselves. The result will not be completely devoid of appeal, but it won't be a garden in the traditional sense. After several generations it will likely become woodland or scrubland. The term 'garden' itself implies some sort of human intervention, in terms of selecting which plants to grow, tending them, and keeping a degree of order. Of course, the gardener does not make anything grow himself; she or he acts merely as a facilitator of this growth. But part of the appeal of a garden is that it allows us to enjoy space that is dominated by plants and nature, even if it is nature at its tamest and most controlled.

The analogy with wine isn't perfect, but it's a useful one. Consider the winemaker (or winegrower, if, like some, you have a natural aversion to the term 'winemaker') as the gardener. A gardener could be said to be taking a natural approach if they eschew the worst-offending chemicals and don't introduce anything non-living into the garden-the extreme example would be planting artificial flowers. But you could also talk in terms of degrees of naturalness, such as you can with wine. Does a garden gnome, or a water feature, or a bench make the garden unnatural? There are all sorts of gardens, from formal Regency-style English gardens, to botanic gardens, to a more functional vegetable garden. In a way all of these are natural, and some are more natural than others.

If we are fundamentalist about naturalness, then there's no such thing as natural wine. But if we accept the idea of a continuum of naturalness, and the usefulness of establishing just how natural some wines are when compared with others, then it is possible to make a range of choices in the vineyard that will shift the wine in one direction or the other along the naturalness continuum. It is important that a line is drawn somewhere along the continuum from least natural to most natural, because otherwise anything goes-and in winemaking 'anything goes' translates into a huge problem, as we'll discuss in later chapters.

The fork in the road

The issue of naturalness and authenticity is one of the key current debates in the world of wine, and one that is set to get more heated over the next few years. Why? Because wine is now at a metaphorical fork in the road, and from here it can go one of two ways. The first route is to continue down the road taken by new world branded wines: huge volumes, a reliance on technology and marketing, reliability at the cost of individuality, an emphasis on sweet fruit flavours, and a loss of sense of place. The destination? Wine gradually becomes indistinguishable from other drinks, and the grapes are seen simply as the raw ingredient in a manufacturing process. It's easy to see how wine is being pushed down this route by changes in retailing practises and demand for branded, homogenous wine. Marketplace-driven consolidation has hit the wine industry, and threatens to weed out the players who can't manage large volumes with low margins forcing them to retreat to the heavily-saturated and competitive fine wine niche or bow out completely. The middle ground, once flush with diversity, has rapidly eroded and those still in the game are seeing their routes to market dry up. This is a real concern because many of the most interesting wines have come from this middle ground: mid-sized producers with perhaps dozens of hectares, rather than hundreds, who make the sorts of wines that we fell in love with and which persuaded us that wine is interesting in its own right. Nowadays, a small group of large drinks companies dominate the world wine market. The accountants and managers rule the roost. Their products hit price points, are made in huge volumes and don't offend anyone; neither do they excite. They are consistent from vintage to vintage, made to reflect a style rather than a sense of place.

For a vision of where the wine industry might currently be heading, it is worth looking at what has happened to the beer industry in recent years. The big companies and suits moved in. The marketeers realized that product quality wasn't the selling point, and instead focused on building brands and selling the concepts underlying the brand to consumers rather than talking about the taste of the beer. The result was product homogenization. Does the wine industry want to tread the same path? There's a real danger that if wine is treated solely as a manufactured product, and blended and tweaked to fit the preferences of specially convened panels of 'average' consumers, that wine itself will become moribund as a sector. Diversity based on regional, cultural and winemaking differences will be lost, and, once that continuity with the past is severed, it may be lost forever.

The other route involves a re-tracing of steps and a celebration of what it is that has made wine different and special: a respect for tradition, a sense of place, an acknowledgement that diversity is valuable and not just an inconvenience. Wine embedded in the deeper culture. Here, the destination is the rediscovery of 'natural', authentic wine. This is wine with a vital connection to the vineyard it came from; wine that is unique to a particular distinguished site. 'I believe in the concept of "naturalness" as it is at the core of the concept of terroir,' says renowned Australian winemaker and wine scientist Brian Croser. 'Terroir is at the core of the fine wine endeavor and ethic, as it defines the quality factor which is enduring and cannot be competed away by technology. I maintain that the finest, best balanced and most unique wines will be made naturally from great expressive terroirs. Not only will the absolute quality across many vintages and tasters aggregate to the best (compared to manufactured wine) but the very ethic itself adds a halo that is in accord with the human spirit trying to reconnect to nature in a largely disconnected life. The spiritual and intellectual needs are in accord with the satisfaction derived from the personality and quality of fine wine.'

In addition to this, the consumer climate is changing. There is a growing awareness of environmental issues around production and packaging of food and drink, as well as the provenance of products. Consumers are willing to pay more for organically produced food because they believe this is better for them and many claim that food grown with reduced pesticide input in a way that respects the environment actually tastes better. Consumers are also buying into the concept of food miles, and are concerned about the carbon footprint of the food and drink that they buy. It may be that before too long, green issues such as these will have a major impact on the purchasing behaviour of almost all consumers, and not just a highly environmental aware subset, as is currently the case.

With this in mind, our two-pronged concept of authentic wine-that wine made naturally is more interesting and tastes better, and that natural wine production is more sustainable and respectful of the environment-may also prove to be an effective marketing strategy for wine, which is currently stuck in a price reduction rut.

These are the issues that we will be covering in this book. We want to take a broad ranging and intelligently critical look at the way naturalness and authenticity apply to wine. We begin by looking at how more natural approaches in the vineyard can have a positive effect on wine quality. We'll discuss the issue of terroir-the possession by wines of a sense of place-which is a complex and controversial notion, but one that sits at the heart of fine wine. We argue that there is a moral imperative for winegrowers to work in a sustainable fashion, even if they decide that organics or biodynamics (a specialized form of organic farming popular among winegrowers) is not a feasible approach for them. Shifting to the winery, we will discuss the natural wine movement, and attempts to make wine with no additives at all, as well as a gradual shift among many growers to try to reduce winemaking inputs to the bare minimum. We'll also take a thorough look at exactly what is added to wine, and why. We will also cover attempts to reduce the carbon footprint of wine, before closing the book by examining whether naturalness can be a helpful marketing angle for the wine industry.

We realize that readers will be coming to this book from different perspectives. Some may be believers in natural wine (whatever this is) and will be looking for a defence of the natural wine position, coupled with a thorough exploration of those wine producers who would align themselves under the natural wine banner. Others will come from a sceptical position, having already decided that it the term 'natural wine' itself is a nonsense, with no real meaning and lacking a useable definition. We hope that whatever position you come from, you find our exploration of issues of naturalness and authenticity as they relate to wine useful, even if this isn't quite the book you were expecting. The reality is that the topic of naturalness is a highly complex one, bringing together many separate ideas, and it isn't easy to pull out a seamless, tidy narrative. But we firmly believe that this is an important discussion to have.

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