A letter from Nicolas Joly on 'natural wine means nothing'
Back in May The Drinks Buisness interviewed Nicolas Joly where they quoted him as saying, "The term natural wine is nothing more than a drawer in which to put all the winemakers who didn’t make enough effort to convert to organics and biodynamics.”
This struck me as a case of jaundiced tabloid journalism as a chunk of the Renaissance consider themselves natural winemakers, and who strive to reduce or eliminate sulfur and also work biodynamically.
Something was fishy.
So I got around to ask Nicolas to clarify. I publish the email below. He once again raises the important issue (almost dirty little secret) that the prevalent use of petrochemical is not the same as using elemental sulfur. And of course, he brings up a very important issue: if you farm using a chemical model, you can't really claim to be 'natural,' and the importance to recognize a charter of 'natural' philosophy.
Hello Again Alice,
I think Drink Business misunderstood my comment which I thought was very clear .
Vin Nature means nothing in itself as any one using chemicals can mention is wine comes from nature itself.
So behind that name (which definitely needs a charter of quality) lies both.
Some people who are organic or biodynamie, who do not want to be controled and some people who cannot, or do not wish to move to organic or Bd use a name which will extend their market.
What I mentioned not clearly enough ( altough I thought it was clear ) is that the people who want to have a flag and stay behind this name, must by all means underline the charter of quality which is behind that flag .
Life inhabitate nature; so Plants and animals comes from nature event the one saturated with chemicals! Wines comes from nature even the ones full of technologies.
Genetic comes from the change of a natural sequency of DNA so it is also link to nature and can pretend to bear that name.
So, for me that name, if it is chosen as a brand, needs a precise definition to be a reliable flag, otherwise it is meaningless. This is especially important at a time where there's a rush to catch the organic or BD market to give a precise definition of what it means for a group.
This is what I told to Isabelle Legeron who is indeed serious when she makes a Selection of wine growers. But a transparency toward the consumer is a necessity otherwise it is " tout et n'importe quoi!"
Also on sulphur this is never treated more in depth : .
Most wine for being exported needs an antioxydant .
First option a very tight filtration ( 1/3 of a micron ) which I think are very significantly disturbing and diminishing the wines even if it has a capacity to partly rebuild itself ; like agressing a painting and having it restored. I cannot use it .
The other option is to use an Antioxydant. There are 3 types :
1-Sorbate of potassium legal and dangerous in my mind ( it can be used on a wine where it is writen free of sulfur !!!) There is a project to forbid it in Europe .
2-Acide Ascorbic ( vitamine C ) I really dont feel puting this in my wine
Important question; which sulphur?
1-sulphur as a derivative from the oil industry
2- -mineral sulphut from mines ( a long time ago from volcano )
3-- volcanic sulphur, a "recent " sulphur and therefore more active as basalt is a young earth, more active than old earth this is why it used sometime as a fertilizer.
Then how to use it ?
1- gas in a container ( it is issued from the oil industry under that form)
2--liquid solution ( it is also made with the sulphur from the oil industry
3-- from a burning sulfur as it was done in the past but is difficult to use as you need a racking to have it "taken in by the wine "
We will have in the coming 2 months a system done by P Gourdon where we burn sulfur in a small container and use a small hose to get it in the wine even if there is no racking. We will use epurated mineral sulphur or may be a volcanic one.
Presenting sulfur as a danger is a joke. There is a family of plant producing sulphur including garlic , onion , mustard etc ...the question is (not whether to use sulfur or not) but which sulphur to use.
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.
And, if you'd like a signed copy, feel free to contact me directly.