The wine anarchists embrace rigour

It wasn’t so long ago that natural winemakers were the rebels of the wine world. Now, says Simon J. Woolf, a significant group is embracing the strictest of standards.

Bianka and Daniel Schmitt, winemakers, Rheinhessen
Bianka and Daniel Schmitt, winemakers, Rheinhessen

The recent announcement of an official Vin Méthode Nature label in France stirred up a familiar hornet’s nest — should natural wine be regulated or not? Doug Wregg, sales director of UK importer Les Caves de Pyrene, is uncomfortable with the attempt at codification, saying: “For me, natural wine is much wider than organic farming plus less than 30 ppm of SO2. It is about this thing called ‘spirit’.” But many of natural wine’s detractors have long argued that its vague definition, frequent spurning of existing certification schemes and acceptance of colleagues largely on an honour system lay it open to ridicule. 

Natural winemaker and president of the VinNatur association Angiolino Maule wouldn’t disagree. “For too long, the natural wine world has been based on self-declaration or self-certification but that’s never been a sustainable, valid approach,” he says. “It leaves the possibility for abuse wide open.”


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