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Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking

Jamie Goode
Sam Harrop
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Authentic Wine
    Book Description:

    "A great primer. . . . If you're new to the natural/organic/biodynamic wine debates, Authentic Wine is the place to start."-Huffington Post"This is one of the most engaging, thoughtful and enlightening books on contemporary wine. . . . A manifesto for an industry looking to shape its future."-Wine And SpiritsNaturalness is a hot topic in the wine world. But what exactly is a "natural wine"? For this pioneering book, best-selling wine writer Jamie Goode teams up with winemaker and Master of Wine Sam Harrop to explore the wide range of issues surrounding authenticity in wine. They begin by emphasizing that wine's diversity, one of its strengths, is currently under threat from increasingly homogenized commercial wines that lack a sense of place. Drawing on a global array of examples and anecdotes, Goode and Harrop examine complex concepts-terroir, biodynamics, and sustainability-in clear language. They also discuss topics including cultured and wild yeasts, wine "faults," the carbon footprint of the wine industry, "natural" as a marketing concept, and more.Authentic Wineilluminates a subject of great interest to wine producers, consumers, and anyone wondering where the wine industry is headed.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94969-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop
    (pp. 1-8)

    Some nine thousand years ago, someone made a lucky discovery: that grapes contained within themselves the constituents to make a satisfying, mood-enhancing, food-compatible, and usefully long-lived drink—wine. So universally appreciated was this near-magical liquid that it soon became a cornerstone of the shared lives of many societies. Wild grapes proved amenable to cultivation; vineyards were a sign of settling, evidence that people who had previously been nomadic were here to stay. In addition to its social role, wine also became infused with religious symbolism.

    Remarkably, wine has survived various social upheavals, the end of dynasties and empires, and industrial...

  5. 2 THE DIVERSITY OF WINE: How a Natural Approach Can Help Preserve Wine’s Interest
    (pp. 9-18)

    Hugh Johnson’s quote comes from a time when the wine world looked rather different from how it appears today. Then, wine was very much a matter of the classics: chiefly Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Mosel, and Port. The Rhône, so popular with “collectors” today, was considered alongside France’s “country wines.” Italy and Spain had a token presence on wine lists, and in the New World, perhaps only the Napa Valley of California was seen as significant. Critics had very little influence at this stage. Yet Johnson was able to say that wine “would not be so fascinating if there were...

  6. 3 TERROIR
    (pp. 19-36)

    We begin this pivotal chapter with an abrupt, provocative comment: most writing on terroir is simply nonsense, and many winegrowers take terroir far too seriously. But at the same time we believe that it is one of the most important concepts in wine. In fact, we go so far as to call it the unifying theory of fine wine. Our attitude seems a bit paradoxical: on the one hand, we are claiming that terroir isn’t important; on the other, we are saying that it is. Here we’ll try to explain why we are taking this seemingly absurd stance.

    First, though,...

    (pp. 37-48)

    With their slate soils and steep slopes, the Erdener Prälat, Urziger Würzgarten, and Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyards of Germany’s Mosel region are some of the most spectacular and scarily steep vineyards anywhere. The vines themselves are unusual: they are individually trained with their own stakes, and the majority are planted on their own roots. In the modern world of wine, this is quite uncommon.

    In discussions of naturalness, one of the most remarkable and common vineyard manipulations in wine regions everywhere is often forgotten: the fusing of two different species of grapevine. BecauseVitis viniferais susceptible to a tiny root-munching...

    (pp. 49-84)

    In certain regions of the world, a quiet but influential viticultural revolution has been taking place. Over the past couple of decades, increasing numbers of winegrowers have been adopting a special form of viticulture called biodynamics. This supercharged version of organic viticulture, with its range of sometimes bizarre preparations, adherence to a celestial calendar, and an underlying philosophy that speaks of mysterious life forces, is currently growing in popularity in the vineyards of Europe and is gradually gaining converts in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, the United States, and South Africa.

    The Saahs family of Nikolaihof in Austria’s Wachau was the...

    (pp. 85-110)

    Sustainability is a buzzword at the moment: everyone seems to be using it. But it’s also a word in search of a meaning because most people can’t define exactly what they mean bysustainable. One attempt to illustrate the notion is graphic, with three circles representing the environment, social issues, and profitability. Where these three circles intersect, we have sustainability. It’s also a controversial notion. For some, sustainability is a cop-out, a sort of toothless sop for people’s green consciences without forcing them to do anything too radical. For others, it is a moral imperative.

    In this chapter we argue...

  10. 7 WHEN WINEMAKERS INTERVENE: Chemical and Physical Manipulation
    (pp. 111-140)

    Even the most fundamentalist supporters of the philosophy of terroir—and the role of natural winemaking in seeing that this terroir is expressed in the final wine—would agree that the winemaker has a responsibility to watch over the wine as it develops and to intervene where necessary to ensure that the wine reflects the true potential of its site. To put this another way, doing nothing and watching a wine spoil because of some avoidable fault results in that wine failing to express its terroir. The human aspect is therefore important in any definition of terroir or typicity, because...

    (pp. 141-168)

    In the classic European wine regions, most particularly in France and Italy, there exists a loose coalition of producers who have gathered under the banner of “natural wine.” It is not an official organization, and there are no rules on membership. “Members” gel by virtue of working towards a common goal—that of making wines that are as natural as possible—and are linked by means of sharing the same importers for export markets, being stocked by shops specializing in natural wines, or participating in the same tastings.

    The interest in “natural” or “real” wines is growing, and this movement...

    (pp. 169-182)

    Have you ever tasted freshly crushed grape juice? It doesn’t taste much like wine. Even grape juice from the world’s most famous vineyards still tastes like grape juice: it bears little relationship to the complex, thought-provoking, and sometimes very expensive liquid that it will become by the time it is bottled.

    Yeasts are the primary agent of this transformation from sweet fruity juice to final wine. These unicellular microscopic fungi are responsible for alcoholic fermentation. As well as transforming the sugar in the grape must into alcohol and carbon dioxide, the complex chemistry that occurs during fermentation also involves the...

    (pp. 183-200)

    One of the themes of this book is that wines made as naturally as possible tend to be more expressive of their origins. When winemakers work with a light hand, wines have the potential to show a sense of place. Conversely, too much intervention in the winery can obscure the varietal and regional origin of a wine. Examples of this are the use of too much new oak and overextraction. But one of the chief ways in which varietal/regional character—terroir, if you will—can be lost is poor work in the vineyard.

    If grapes are in poor hygienic condition...

  14. 11 WINE FAULTS
    (pp. 201-218)

    A common criticism of natural wines is that they’re prone to develop faults. In particular, most scientifically trained winemakers consider that practices such as working with low sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels (or, indeed, no SO2at all), using indigenous yeasts, not adjusting must acidity or adding nutrients, and avoiding filtration are recipes for all manner of wine problems. So it is important to discuss the topic of wine faults in the context of making wine more naturally. Indeed, one of the motivations for intervening—both by adding things to wine and by using technical innovations in the winery—is to...

    (pp. 219-234)

    The issue of global warming (or, more correctly, climate change) is a huge current concern for the wine industry. Carbon dioxide is one of a number of greenhouse gases that perform an important role in the atmosphere. These gases allow solar radiation to warm the planet, and then they act as a sort of gaseous insulating layer that stops some of this heat from escaping. Without the greenhouse effect, surface temperatures on earth would be some 30°C lower, and life as we know it wouldn’t exist. But human activity has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, largely as a result of...

    (pp. 235-246)

    Wine is a wonderful gift from nature. The vine sends its roots deep into the living earth. They struggle in search of water and nutrients, in communion with the unseen but vital world of soil microbes. Above the ground, the vineyard teems with life. A large community of grasses, herbs, and wildflowers supports a complex array of insect life, and the vine, with its verdant canopy, sends out its flowers and produces a crop of grapes. The attentive grower watches over this process and almost feels the energy of life in the air, tending the vineyard sensitively and with a...

    (pp. 247-250)

    People have a hunger for the authentic. Consider the crowds who flock to view the work of a now long-dead painter, such as Vermeer. His thirty-four surviving paintings are distributed among a number of different galleries, and many people travel specifically to see them. With today’s technology it would be possible to produce copies of all of them at a level at which only an expert with the help of technology would be able to tell them from the original. Yet if you were to set up a display of accurate copies of all thirty-four, we suspect that few would...

  18. INDEX
    (pp. 251-259)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-261)