Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


Remy Charest on Clark Smith and Postmodern Winemaking

Over at Palate Press Remy Charest has written an interesting piece on Clark Smith:

This is a writer who extolls the virtue of biodynamics “because of its impenetrability to conventional scientific investigatory practices”, but then goes on, on the very next page, to denounce “natural wine nonsense” and criticize the proponents of natural wine (notably Alice Feiring) for not providing a clear definition of what natural wine is.

He also insists that “a complex natural ecology” is essential in providing “distinctive and soulful character” to wine (and other foods), yet will advocate that bringing a wine’s alcohol content down by 3% or using cultured yeasts and other additives is a way to create a wine that better expresses terroir.

One example of this is the “Faux Chablis” he makes under his own Winesmith label. To create this Napa Valley chardonnay, Smith takes Napa chardonnay grapes at what he deems to be optimal maturity… and then takes out a significant amount of alcohol to bring out the “lemon oil” character that, he claims, is the true signature of Napa terroir in chardonnay grapes.

To me – and many others – this kind of statement is an obvious contradiction. If chardonnay grown in Napa results in high alcohol at maturity, then high alcohol is a signature of terroir. If that results in an unbalanced wine, then doesn’t that mean that the grape is simply not suited to the place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to plant fiano or roussanne in Napa Valley, grapes that would likely yield a better balance of acid and alcohol and flavour at maturity, in the valley’s climate?