Yesterday morning I woke up to a tweet from colleague Simon Woolf who writes The Morning Claret, a worthy blog.
His beef that morning was a wine with a ludicrous claim. Slurp, a €4,99 supermarket bottle claiming 100% natural status.
Its owner, Ilja Gort, a rather hyperbolic Dutch guy makes wine in France (Michel Rolland is his trusted consultant). From an advertising background, he learned his field well. All you need is a little bullshit and a false message.
But still, I spent some time trying to figure out what the man could have been thinking, other than a sucker is born every minute. Where was the morsel of truth in his claim? Perhaps it goes back to a wine unadorned by oak flavors? As in chips or yaourt nature? Plain? Simple? Was his nonsensical defense to be, "I used the word natural perfectly, your honor. I used it to mean no nonsense, in fact it's right there on the label for everyone to see!"
That is the pity of the word. As a writer, I struggle with it as many times a day as there are ants in a hill. Message is nearly impossible to control. The food industry had failed to protect the word natural. The fight went on for decades. I don't see the wine world being any more successful. Define the word as relates to wine?
Made from non-synthetic-chemical-based viticulture. Natural yeast and bacterial fermentation. Nothing added or taken away --including all of the 70 or so government allowed additives, except perhaps up to 20ppm So2. No flavor or texture changing machinery or additives used. Some gentle filtration may be needed, for stability.
Even if that was the definition, someone like Gort would find the loophole. Promise.
In the twitter conversation, when Simon suggested I take up the whip, I turned my back. I would leave the fight to others. I dismissed the whole issue. I thought, okay, we knew that was going to happen. People hop on a marketing bandwagon. And this man I never met, this Gort, was the first that I can tell, to be a true jerk about it. 100% so.
Even though people in the bible with such 'stiff necks' as mine were swiftly punished, (hello big fish and Jonah), I had other issues to deal with. So, I went to bed with schiste on my brain at 1am. I woke up full of Slurp at 4:30. The thoughts rushed like a nor'easter. Had I gone soft in my old age? Had I gotten lax. Had I grown tired of shaking my tiny paw at big business?
But this morning, in a fog of anxiety, I knew I was wrong. We are in an environment where the EU is allowing Monsanto to control all of the seeds in the world, where heirloom seeds might soon be banned. True shops like Les Temps de Vendanges in Toulouse are being hauled into fraud court because of using the word naturel for wines that truly are. I cannot do anything about the senseless killings in the schools, the horrifying situation in Iraq, but at least in this tiny sector of agriculture and humanity, that is one area that is small enough that falls into my arena. If we stop crying out, even about a label on a silly supermarket wine, we're all doomed.
Thanks for slapping me around, Simon. I needed it.