Darling…Be Natural, take your clothes off ! Show me your Terroir.

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) I was recently reading a comment regarding the new documentary "Wine from Here" about Natural Wine in California. The title of this article was: "Wine From Here documentary proves terroir doesn't matter" (read here). In fact, I find that all these very interesting interviews put on the website that promotes the film www.winefromhere.com are telling a completely different story. What Paul Draper (Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains), Ted Lemon (Littorai, Sebastobol) and many others say shows us that natural winemaking enhances taste and pleasure because it enhances the major assets of each vineyard such as soil and grape varieties' expression. As Shawn Robinson (Renaissance, Sierra Foothills) and Mike Dash (Dashe Cellars, Oakland) put it : "Natural wines give more back in terms of individuality (...) the composition of the flavours is more complex" or "Natural wines are more interesting, distinctive, more complex ".

The sense of Place is not dead, The sense of Place has a new life. And Terroir is not dead, Terroir has a new life. Are natural wines the only ones to express the Place and the Terroir at their best? Not at all but they will help the producers who used to put too much "make up" and "clothes" in their wines to understand if their own place is excellent, good or bad. At a first stage, with a new "natural" approach, winemakers will get a better sense of their place. But the second stage will be about Terroir. What is terroir in fact? It is the meeting of Soil, Climate and Weather – that will shape the vintage- and of Savoir-Faire. So, if we consider for example France, Italy or Germany - where this notion is very important - each appellation is made up of a terroir or a multitude of terroirs. It took centuries to define those terroirs in these countries and it will take time to find all the terroirs that exist in the world. For sure, California can boast about great terroirs but will certainly find many others with a more "natural" approach. Like everywhere in the world.

So, in my view, the point of this documentary is not that terroir doesn't matter. In fact, Terroir matters and has never been so important since the "natural winemaking" approach started to develop. My point is not to say that Natural wines are the best. Why? Because, before saying that "natural" wines are the best, we should know what we are talking about...What "Natural wine" means exactly? Is "Natural" the best adjective to define these wines or should we prefer "naked", "organic" or any other name? My point is that after having put so much "make up" and "clothes" in wines, there is a time when we would like to see (and drink) them "naked" or "natural". And maybe some naked (or natural) ones will be impressive. In fact, this is already the case: Just try Littorai wines (young or some 10 years old) and you will understand that these wines are among the best in the world.

In fact, those interviews show that natural winemaking helps winemakers to get a better definition of "their OWN place in their OWN wine". As Gideon Beinstock, Winemaker at Clos Saron (Sierra Foothills) puts it: "I don't care if it's better or worse or different than Romanee Conti (...) but it does express the special life and the special meaning of this place." In fact, naturally working does not make your wine "terroir oriented", it just makes it "place oriented". If your vines are planted in a poor location, natural winemaking won't help you. Or, at least, it will help you to understand that your place is not as good as the one a few miles away. But winemakers need time to reveal the most beautiful terroirs as it also requires a savoir-faire that some "natural" winemakers are still learning. Soil, climate, weather and savoir faire make a terroir. Everywhere in the world. For too long, Make up and clothes have just hidden this to make standard wines. Darling, be Natural, take your clothes off! Show me your Terroir. (More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)