The Natural Wine Movement (and my Back-Label Dilemma)

As I\’m sure you all know, there\’s no such thing as the \”Natural Wine Movement\”, except in the sociological sense, ie in the same way that there\’s a \”Risky Sports Movement\”, a \”Recycling Movement\”, a \”Real Ale Movement\”, etc.

There\’s not really a Secret Inner Ruling Council (even though I leaked the agenda from the last meeting here!), no membership cards, no statutes, no articles of association, no head-quarters, no offices, no rules, no nothing.

What there is, is quite a few associations of natural wine producers, mostly in France and Italy. They actually do have rules and criteria for membership, and if a winemaker agrees with them, then he or she can join the association. Here\’s a list of the ones that I know about:

– Association des Vins Naturels
– La Renaissance des Apellations
– Productores de Vinos Naturales
– VinNatur
– Simbiosa
– Vini Veri

What there also is, is a whole lot of people who share an interest! People of all sorts, from all over the world, and from all walks of life. These people include:

– Producers (associated or not). There must be a few thousand, producing an average of say 5 to 10,000 bottles a year. Mostly artisans, tiny part-timers with no webpage, selling only locally to friends and neighbours; some small viable businesses, with proper labels, distribution and sales networks; and even some bigger ones bordering on industrial style wineries. And there\’s a whole grey area of traditional long-standing producers of fine wines who may or may not be \’natural\’ depending on your deifnition!

– Traders (importers, distributors, wholesalers). Difficult to work out how many there are, as some carry both natural wines, organic wines and conventinal wines in their portfolios.

– Retailers (winestores, restaurants, winebars). Again difficult to work out how many there are for the same reason, though I believe that more and more such places are opening up. Seems to be the only sector growing this days in the midst of a recession!

– Writers, journalists, bloggers. I don\’t think many actually focus exclusively on natural wines, though recently over the last year or so, more and more conventional wine writers have started mentioning natural wines – usually negatively and/or focussing on side issues.

– And lastly, consumers, with every kind of day-job under the sun, but who at night come out and indulge in their passion for natural wines. The most inportant category of all, because without consumers, the rest of us would have nothing to do! There must be thousands of them, and increasing in numbers every day.

All these people have one thing in common: we all love to drink, enjoy and talk about natural wines. We all know what kind of wine we\’re talking about, don\’t we, even though there\’s no legal or official definition. Maybe some of us would like to have an official definition, and maybe some of us like it the way it is now, and maybe some of us don\’t care one way or the other. I personally don\’t! Life is short! Let\’s just all get on with it and stop fretting. I mean, seriously, who\’s got the time and resources to actively attempt to get some
legislation passed on this? I think talking about this issue over a glass or two of natural wine is about the only effort I\’m going to make in that direction! Cheers!

No Pedantic Definitions

It would be far too boring (both for me and for the readers of this post) to draw up my own list of forbidden substances and processes, in yet another personal definition of natural wine! Instead, I\’ve decided to abide by Joe Dressner\’s 14-Point Manifesto, which you can read here (on Cory Cartwright\’s Saignée blog).

It\’s anything but boring! In addition I\’ve added a 15th Point:

\”I have the right to delete, add to or modify any of the above-mentioned 14 Points, based on how I happen to be feeling at any given time. So there!\”.

Also, I\’ve decided to publish the information on the wines that I produce, with details of what I do and don\’t do to each wine. On this blog (and on my future webpage), on printouts, and on the back-labels. That way, the consumers can all decide for themselves of the wine in question is natural or not, or just how natural it is on the scale of naturalness.

Which brings me to the main point of this post.

Below is a draft of the back-label that I\’ve been working on. It would be great if you could give me some feedback on it. I\’d be especially interested in your thoughts on the inclusion what the wine DOESN\’T contain and what HASN\’T been done to it. Is this legitimate? Is it disrespectful or denigrating? Is it legal?! Is it a good idea? Does the consumer have the right to know both what\’s in a product and also what\’s NOT in it? Whatever! Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

– – – – – – – – –
I consider this bottle of wine to be natural wine because of the Ingredients.

It contains the following:
Fermented organic grape juice
And it doesn\’t contain the following:
Traces of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides
Industrial enzymes
Industrial bacteria
Industrial yeasts
Flavour enhancers
Sugar, fruit juice, fruit extracts
Added water
Wood chips
Tannin powder
Sulphites or other chemicals
I also consider this bottle of wine to be natural wine because of the Processing.

I did these things to it:
Crushed the grapes
Pressed the grapes
Racked the wine from one tank to another
And I didn\’t do these things to it:
Heat up the wine
Cool down the wine
Filter the wine
Clarify the wine
Use reverse osmisis
Use spinning cones
Use cryo-extraction
Use sterile filtration
Use any other agressive techniques
I believe that all the above information is legitimate and relevant, and that the potential consumers have the right to know about the ingredients and processing of the product they are about to buy.

(Fabio, grapegrower, winemaker and marketer)


7 responses to “The Natural Wine Movement (and my Back-Label Dilemma)”

  1. C.M.Poulos Avatar

    I do like to know everything I am consuming so I do like the label, probably how wine was made in the first place.

  2. Ahh…my friend Fabio.

    At our core, we are kindred souls in the approach towards wine. Have been so for many years.

    If you list you need to clarify of course.

    The issue of course is how you get the info to the consumer, not what is on the label.

    Considering the length of the list and the size of a bottle, obviously they are not the same.

    We can discuss in London if you’d like.

  3. […] driven by misplaced ideology. That’s why it was so refreshing and interesting to come across this article by a pro-naturalist winemaker, Fabio Bartolomei, who admits that the natural “movement” is really blurry and hard to define. It appeared online […]

  4. Adam Lee/Siduri Wines Avatar
    Adam Lee/Siduri Wines


    Here’s where I think you might run into problems (at least here in the United States, not sure about other countries) on the back label:

    Traces of Pesticides, etc. — You’d probably have to test for it and show that specific Pesticides are not in the wine (didn’t blow in from other areas, etc).

    Industrial Yeasts/Bacteria — Again, you’d probably have to test for it. And, a recent NZ study showed that the most prevelant yeast in an uninnoculated fermentation came from the barrel (the same yeast was found in those barrels in France) so that might not be the case. Same goes for bacteria.

    Acids — Doubt you could list that the wine doesn’t contain acids because it does, of course. It may well contain more acid than a wine which has acid added to it.

    Sugar — Same thing….the wine does contain some sugars.

    Sulphites — occur natural during fermentation…so they’d have to below 10ppm to say that the wine doesn’t include them (and they do act as a preservative which would effect that).

    There are probably others on the list as well.

    In all of these cases, I would think you could say that you didn’t add them — but you couldn’t say (correctly) that the wine doesn’t contain them.


    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  5. […] wrote a piece, Even a “natural” winemaker can’t define “natural wine,” in response to one of our posts by winemaker Fabio Bartolomei: Fabio’s last two lists–“It does/doesn’t contain the following” and “I did/didn’t do […]

  6. Brova. My kind of wines.

  7. sam doncaster Avatar
    sam doncaster

    I am curious, how can the wines not carry traces of fungicide ?
    Are fungicides not applied to the vine ?
    What wine grape varieties do not require the application of fungicide ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *