We recently published an excerpt from Alice Feiring’s new book Naked Wine. Here’s a quick conversation we had with her about the book and other things going on in the wine world.
Why call the book “Naked Wine?” Were you concerned about the using the term “natural?”
Whatever word you choose, you’re going to offend someone else. I don’t care what you call it. Stop pulling out your hair, simmer down and just enjoy the wine. Naked is just the name of the book. It came from Jules Chauvet, “a wine should be naked and new.” I keep Chauvet in my bathroom as reading material.
Any interest in making your own wine again?
I’d like to work the vendange again. I would want to work alongside someone else. I wouldn’t want to make wine again unless I grew my own grapes. The only way to do it is if you act like a negociant. Fewer people are willing to work with grapes that don’t cost a lot of money. Carignan - you could make money off of that. People could do field blends - but why? It’s hard for someone to grow their own grapes and make wine and do it inexpensively. Everyone wants to make an important wine.
Frog’s Leap, is organic. Why doesn’t he put out an inexpensive $12 wine? There’s an idea that if you put out a cheap wine then you are a cheap winery. There’s no reason California can’t put out a good wine at a good price.
Are you feeling more favorable to California wines lately?
There’s been a major move in America to make some exciting wines. It would be good if they weren’t so expensive. For people to drink real wines they need to be affordable. There were nights this summer where I only drank American wines. First time since 1980 where I did that.
And those lucky Americans were?
Ryme Cellars, Edmunds St John, La Clarine Farm, Arnot-Roberts and Coturri.
Joe Dressner recently passed away. You’ve written about what a great influence he had on you.
When I was writing the Food & Wine Official Wine Guide in 2001, most of the wines I really liked came from Joe. He didn’t send journalists samples, you had to come and taste them. He was the first person that showed me the affect of wines made with wild yeasts. It opened up that door for me. Through him I met his growers which was phenomenal. Joe really taught me so much, it was a tremendous treat talking with him. That first light bulb that went off.
What do you think of the Olivier Cousin situation?
If it gets the right attention it’s going to be a great thing. I think that france is perched on a wine revolution and its time to blow up the AOC - the whole system. Even the revered domains are ready to bail. Just put France on the label. That will shake up things a great deal. It’s absurd and very hard to understand who is behind the AOC and what mediocrity exists.
What’s the most important thing you learned making your own wine? How amazing simple it is to make a natural wine and have it come out good as long as you have healthy grapes. I had an easy experience. Beginners luck. But I have less sympathy for people who mess with their wines. Completely and utterly unnecessary. It’s amazing all the tricks you can buy.