I’ve been intending to write some sort of blog about wine and stuff for a long time now, and the shop seems to have settled into a rhythm which should allow me to spew out words on a fairly regular basis. I suppose that I’d better say something then… When I read that the Australian wine board was now permitting the addition of trace quantities of a laxative to improve the texture of the wine it was like something broke. By the time you’ve mechanically harvested an overcropped agro-farm, dosed the resultant wine slurry with enough sulphur dioxide to give satan a headache, added flavouring yeasts, used giant teabags of sawdust to flavour it, added sugar for more alcohol, added acid to balance the mess out, fined it, filtered it, reduced the alcohol with a massive machine, coloured it with mega purple and added up to 30 extra chemicals, can it really be called wine at the end?
Well, yes, and plenty of people enjoy the result, just as plenty of people enjoy processed cheese or Angel Delight.
I’m not so keen, and many people aren’t. There is a growing reaction to this – the natural wine movement. Natural wine is one of those storm in a teacup things that seems so vital and important when you’re in the middle of it and looks utterly inconsequential in the grand scheme of economic misery, environmental disaster, war and all the other cheering stuff that squats on the front pages. But anyway, for those of you who don’t assiduously read the wine blogs and Decanter magazine, natural wine is wine made with minimal additions – meaning that the winemaker has to be incredibly careful at every step. Some of these wines taste odd to a drinker not used to them– by not adding sulphur (an addition used since roman times) the wines can taste funky and weird, sometimes in an incredibly good way, sometimes less so…
There is a middle ground of course, where the wine in your glass is reliably good, isn’t full of crap and gives a sense of place, time and rootedness… It might not be on 3 for £10, but it doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank and it will satisfy you in a glorious way that only real wine can.