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A Small Counter-revolution

A number of readers have asked about the various positive references I have made in recent posts to natural winemakers (here and here). “Isn’t all wine natural?” is the inquiry. Well, no. Far from it — even in France and other Old World nations with a long tradition of viticulture. An article from the website of Tribeca’s Chambers Street Wines, a pioneeering vendor of wines made in a traditional manner, describes what you are too often drinking when you consume modern, industrially produced wines:

Chambers Logo.jpg

Grapes are mostly grown in sterile vineyards, where herbicides, pesticides and fungicides eliminate plant, insect and microbial populations. The vines themselves are modern clones, chosen for certain characteristics, such as disease resistance or high yields, which reduce the genetic variety of the vineyard and can radically change the nature of the wine. Commercial fertilizers are applied that feed the vines a chemical soup on the surface and then run off to pollute local waters. Machine-harvested grapes are then brought to the winery, often containing bunches that are unripe, rotten or dirty, which are hopefully sorted out before the crush. The grape must (juice) is then sulfited to prevent spoilage and to kill off unwanted wild yeasts. Then selected yeast strains are added to start the fermentation process. These yeasts are selected to create certain flavors or characteristics in the wine. “…the ICV D47 wines were fruity and floral, compared to the QA 23, which were predominated by tropical fruits and spices.” Nutrients and enzymes are added to increase viscosity, “mouthfeel”, and to assist the selected yeasts. Roto-fermenters and other mechanical manipulations are used to extract the maximum color and concentration, and sugars are added to increase alcohol production if necessary. The resulting product has the desired aromatics, a dark color with supple mouth-feel, an intense palate (with gobs of lush hedonistic fruit) and, well, not usually much of a finish… Wines made in this style tend to taste very much the same, no matter where they are made or with what grape.

The age-old French drinking toast is SantéTo your health. It is needed more in certain circumstances than in others.

Addendum: I am put in mind of a witty English pre-dinner prayer from the days, not that long ago, really, when it was hard to get a good meal in England:

May the Lord protect us from the food that we are about to eat. Amen.

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