“Any aesthetic involves artifice, not nature. A landscape or a bird’s song – no matter how beautiful, are not aesthetic phenomena – while a painting of a landscape or a musical composition that echoes the bird’s song are. That’s because human involvement is a necessary component of anything artisanal or artistic, including wine.”
To me, this quotation by wine writer Paul Lukacs is a good comment to the sometimes simplified discussion around natural wines so present in the wine world today. Natural wines is turning out to be one of the biggest dividers between wine lovers, creating vivid discussion and often extreme positioning. I, as often, find myself navigating between both sides – perhaps it´s my diplomatic Swedish nature in combination with my zodiac sign, however, to me if a wine is good or not is the main point, since we don´t consume wine as a necessity, but for pleasure.
The interesting aspects of the natural wine world is the will to experiment, to open up for a diversity of expression. It is fascinating to try new things, whether it is an aged Barbera or a sparkling rosé from Georgia made in Amforas. Things that go outside of the box, unique things you never knew existed. But uniqueness does not equal interesting by default, neither is uniqueness something to be found only in one type of production, free from human interaction. Lukacs again:
“Equating high quality with only one form of production is a mistake. Some wines made by large commercial corporations taste wonderful, while some made by small scale, hands-off vintners are flawed. The assumption that only artisanal producers are able to make appealing wines is nonsense. It also is (…) a kind of snobbery, one based on a false because falsely romanticized understanding of history.”
Many great producers, big as small, care a lot about agriculture and health impact without being extreme, and high quality wine making usually does not need a lot of additives since the product is well produced. Saying that only natural wines are “real wines” (words actually heard during a seminar) – is to me like saying that only a person living naked in a cave is a “real person”. It´s very categorical and to me also contradictory – people in the natural wine world often talk about art and the aesthetic experience of wine, but at the same time refuse to touch the subject of culture. There is something romantic about seeing nature as a symbol of purity and innocence, but in its extreme form it transmits the idea that nature is good and culture is bad, echoing the dualist religious thinking of original sin.
But from the moment man started cultivating the earth, can we actually talk about naturality? Cultivation is a work by man, and so is winemaking. As the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi said:
”Now in these things, a very large part of what we call natural is not; rather it is rather artificial: as if to say, the fields worked, the trees and the other plants educated and arranged in order, the narrow rivers under certain terms and addressed to certain course, and similar things, do not have that state or semblance that they would have naturally. So that the sight of every country inhabited by any generation of civilized men, even considering the cities, and the other places where men are reduced to being together; it is something artificial, and very different from what it would be in nature”
What I am trying to get at is this: wine is NOT a natural product. Actually, the reason why I am passionate about wine is because it represents a meeting between nature and culture. To me, that’s the magic.
Nature in all it´s glory, but culture & civilization is not that bad in the end.
S.M. Peale (1822) Fruits and wine