I'm not sure opposites attract. Most of my friends seem to connect over similar palate, I mean my close friends 'get' the wines I love. Even my one friend who's a rabid right winger--extremely close, love her dearly--but when her sort were not drinking French, she shopped the Loire, We're animals and sniff out like-smelling creatures in friendship and in love. Or at least I do, maybe I'm peculiar that way. That said...... ...the Wine Spec Critic who lives on the property of a famed super Tuscan producer and I have a friend in common. Anthony is a fanatic about natural wines and presently on a European tour with Krall. For weeks he's been spreading seeds, as he says, converting the uninitiated to natural wines one at a time. (with a high success rate). In this missionary role, he was eager to see Suckling when they were both in the same city. After lunch at Terroir (London) the txts came in. Gramenon--Suckling's choice. Puzelat La Guerriere (cot & gamay) my choice. ++ It was love. Anthony said that Suckling loved the Gramenon and less convinced about the Puzelat. And seemed to like the Overnoy (post show) well enough. But more than that he seemed shocked that these 'natural' wines were so good. "Look out for the blog post," Anthony warned. Sure enough first came the Tweet. JamesSuckling: I am getting in to organic, naturel, bio wines...cool and real...even more today. Not just an excuse now for bad winemaking in open sandals! There was a burst of reponse. One from Eric Asimov. He asked Suckling what rock he'd been hiding under all of these years. I @sucklinged him, that he should tread carefully, if word gets out that he was into natural wines, he might have to find another job. But I realized I was nervous. And others were nervous as well. The last thing I want is a commercialization of the wines. And yes, I view the Spectator as the middle of things. People follow Suckling because he likes those suede-loafered Italians. What if he blogged the wines, and his readers ran out to pinch them from the shelves, but they hated them? Meaning there were fewer bottles around for those of us who truly love them? That was the problem. Look, I'm glad that friends like white truffles, but if I'm at a table and they take the truffle to be polite, I want to shoot them. A question dangles: Can someone who fancies the huge, vanilla and cherry also cozy to wines of translucence? If fell in love with Harlan Estate or Colgin or Screaming Eagle or Charley Horse, my readers and friends might fear someone is pumping Ecstasy into my espresso. (Wine and Ecstasy, not a match made in heaven.) When it comes to wine, Eric Asimov and I have a great deal of overlap, yet has a more generous, accepting scope than I. Also, to his credit, he is not as quick to react. I just bet he had saner (or less combative) and more nuturing parents. However he became he and I became me--well--conjecture is easy, but I really do find Eric a sane voice. So I decided to ask him what he thought of the situation and why he Tweeted JS back. Eric wrote to me: <
So here's the thing: How does a major magazine like the Wine Spectator ignore a significant movement such as the natural wine movement?
Let me posit a possible answer: these winemakers make a mostly modest living. They party, but don't schmooze the press. The flavors of many of the reds and whites can't be plugged into the flavorama machine. But to even know of this world, one who works at a mainstream magazine would have to go out of the comfort zone of office visits and those wineries with marketing budgets. Those within the constraints of an office job just don't often find the new arrives with a knock at the door. Without a friend saying ...psst...like Anthony did with James, it's quite difficult. How would the Spectator, if they covered and loved the wines, explain to their advertisers. We love the natural wines but we take the money from you---the advertisers who might be far from natural--well, you see, it could be a problem.
While some natural wines squeak through and get recommended, (mostly thanks to Mr. Molesworth and Bruce S.), there's not enough wine of this sort of vin naturel to go around, so it's always a little scary when the wines get coverage. The risk is that they might fall into unappreciative, unsuspecting mouths and end up down the drain (instead of on our shelves). I still find myself scratching my head how Suckling could have called out the 2001 Bartolo Mascarello as tasting like two dogs in a room, but, I concede. He hated it, I loved it.
Back to the matter at hand, with the Spectator coverage, or other "Big' coverage, Chandon de Brialles sells out. Clos Roche Blanche sells out. Notably when the New York Times wrote up a pineau d'aunis a few years back, Astor Place sold out. And the wines were then returned. Thee poor wine drinkers were expecting BIG, HUGE. The Eric Nicolas Rouge Gorge was peppery and red zinger tea and delicate. Out of the mainstream, out of the generic context.
In spite of having had a mother who said (and still does) "Put on a sweater, I'm cold," I have learned the lesson well that my experience is not someone else's. It is stunning how many decades it takes to come to this simple truth. Some people will never like these 'natural' wines. Some people could use some coaxing and others actually take to these wines immediately, like a lizard to a rock and sun.
The first time I offered Frank Bruni a true vin naturel he doubled up with laughter. The wine was Patapon--in spring 2004? Or the summer. But it was not long after he arrived here from his post in Italy. Frank's was the most heart warming reaction ever and I knew then I adored him completely. The reaction reminded me of the time I walked into a room filled with twenty tons of mint tea. The experience was new, thrilling, and every pore on my body was open and, vibrating. I couldn't stop laughing with the feeling of 'new.' How often as adults do we get a new and charming experience that makes us feel innocence?
I suppose if that had been Mr. Suckling's reaction I too would have been charmed. But from his blog post, yes, he did indeed blog, he seemed to be less enthusiastic than in his original Tweet. But he also wrote how he clued Anthony in with something like, "Well, child, you see....many of the great wines in the world are made organically and naturally, just the best don't advertise it."
Anthony who, like Eric remind me of the child on the card Ten of Cups--admirably undefended-- posted to Suckling, 'Anyway, the people waving the flag are people like me, consumers who have detected something markedly different from conventional wine, and wish to help spread the word.'
If JS is serious about this stuff, maybe I'll start seeing him show up at ViniVeri, or La Dive and maybe like Ivan Boesky, he'll go through some sort of great transformation and start to wear those sandals of which he spoke and seek out wines only made in amphora. Or maybe even he will show the world it is indeed possible to love Masseto and Ca de Noci at the same time. Anyway, he's Anthony's friend, and so, I'll take him to Ten Bells anytime. I've a few wines I want to show him.