There is no history of ‘natural’ wine, for it is the history of winemaking itself. There is, however, a clear history of ‘unnatural’ wine, or spoofulated wine, as importer Joe Dressner called it. It wasn’t until the 1940’s, with the sudden and widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, that unnatural wine was born. After the war, the same chemicals used to make TNT and other munitions were redirected to the fields, and chemical companies convinced scores of vigneronsthat these additions would produce a larger, healthier, more reliable crop. Most of the prized vineyards of Europe were greatly damaged, some would say permanently compromised, by these innovations, and the new ‘natural’ wine movement developed, in large part, in response to this destruction, as a return to traditional farming methods, an effort to bring life back to the soil.
Our concept of ‘natural’ wine does have a history. For many winemakers, it began with knowledge of low-intervention winemaking techniques championed by vignerons like Marcel Lapierre, Jules Chauvet and Henri Jayer, but for us wine drinkers and retailers in the US, these wines, and the awareness that they were somehow different from the rest, came from conscientious wine importers, like Joe Dressner, Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenthal. Back in the ‘90’s, they didn’t call it natural wine; it was small-production, organically farmed, un-manipulated, low-tech wine, and it simply tasted better than the elaborately concocted alternatives. By this point, it was about more than just chemicals in the field; now there were micro-oxygenation machines, over-powering strains of yeasts, Mega-Purple for color, alcohol adjustments and additives used to create a consistently marketable product. These importers made it clear to us that this was not really wine, and they cultivated in us a taste for the simple, unique agricultural products we continue to seek out and enjoy.
This Sunday, July 14th, we’ll pour flights of fresh, fruity French reds from producers who exemplify this authentic approach, those who made us fall in love with these wines decades ago. Come taste the wines of Lemasson, Puzelat, Bonhomme, and Dinocheau and decide for yourself if they are not more alive, interesting, and straight up delicious than their ninety-eight point competitors.
TONIGHT: Thursday Night Flights!: Italian reds and Spanish whites. Scintillating Sicilian & southern Italian reds, and outrageously refreshing, organically farmed whites from the Penedes, the Basque country, and Castilla la Mancha. Flights $12 from 5-9 and wines by the glass until 9pm.
SATURDAY 7/13: VINS DE SAVOIE – French Alpine flights – there’s something special about that mountain sun - $15 from 2-6 and wines by the glass until 9pm.
SUNDAY 7/14: LOIRE VALLEY REDS: Pure, unspoofulated vins de soif, including a few of the classics imported by Louis/Dressner. Flights $15 from 2-6 and wines by the glass until 8pm.