Renowned Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier has added his own comments to the natural wine debate by denouncing natural winemakers as out-of-touch hippies making defective wines.
Interviewed in the current issue of Decanter, Chapoutier tells John Livingstone-Learmonth the practice of natural winemaking – that is, using no sulphur dioxide to stabilize the wines – is a con.
‘It is a connerie. It is rubbish. It’s like making vinegar, bad vinegar. How can anyone allow toxic yeasts to develop so that these inhabit the wine?’
Moreover the Rhone producer (pictured), who also makes wine in Australia, Portugal and Alsace, considers those who follow the practice, ‘hippies from another world’.
‘It is extraordinary that people defend products with defects on the grounds that in the past growers were making wines with defects, so that is good, or natural. Those old wines had defects because people lacked the tools and means not to make fault-free wines.’ he states.
Natural winemaking has a long history of attracting fiercely opposing views. In a recent column in Decanter, Andrew Jefford suggested that although the method could produce an undreamt-of ‘landscape of aroma and flavor’, it was also teetering on the edge of ‘charlatanry’. (NB: Now there’s a word you don’t hear every day!)
Oh dear. He’s going to piss some people off with this one!
I’m in absolutely no position at all to question Michel Chapoutier. I’m never made a bottle of wine in my life, but I know there are plenty of winemakers out there doing a great job making "natural wines”…..and they’re not all hippies! I know first-hand because I’ve tasted the juice, and it was completely without flaws, and amazingly quite delicious!
Granted, natural wines are going to be a little shock to the system for a lot of people, since the wine industry has started conditioning the general public to believe all red wine is supposed to be a highly extracted, fluorescent purple, sweet, high octane fruit bomb! Natural wines (for the most part) taste like the purest possible expression of a grape. Call me crazy, but I like that.
Like everything, you should try to get your hands on a bottle of natural wine and you be the judge!