‘Natural’ doesn’t come into it; these are works of craftsmanship; even, occasionally, art. Does a winemaker, then, have the right to sell me something that ignores, or flouts, the winemaking conventions that I rely on?
Is ‘natural’ a self-justifying word to cover any sort of accident? Or is ‘alternative’ a more accurate description?
Of course, the producer may have a lab and state-of-the art chemistry and simply choose not to intervene. There are highly reputed (and very expensive) ‘orange’ wines.
But I’ve also tasted ‘natural’ wines that remind me of Italy 50 years ago. Tipping grapes in the tub on the ox cart, breaking them up with a cudgel on the way back to the farm and leaving the rest to nature rarely had good results.
The sales pitch for ‘natural’ wines usually tells you that conventional wines contain a lot of non-grape juice gunk. Fish guts: horror. Egg whites: poison. Sulphites: allergens. Colouring: dishonest. Sugar: cheating.
There seems to be a high ground – is it moral, ethical, fashionable, hygienic? – shared by ‘naturalists’ and vegans. Then again, if you read the list of preservatives and allergens on any supermarket packet, you may want to give up eating altogether.
I’ve long since given up reading any of the wine magazines, so I wasn’t aware that on top of the oh-so-precious-and-superior “organic” and “biodynamic” categories (where quite ordinary wines get a few extra dollars on the price tag) we now also have a bunch of even-more-precious-and-ecologically-correct “natural” wines. I don’t object to winemakers persuading a few gullible punters to pay more for otherwise indifferent plonk, but I object to the quasi-religious preaching that always seems to accompany it.