Thus spake Bruce Palling.
Or, rather, so he wrote in his 2012 essay.
Palling's recent Newsweek piece was entitled much more astutely, Why Natural Wine Tastes Worse than Putrid Cider.
His title seemed inspired by the sensational Robert M. Parker Jr. and Michel Rolland. Yet the text seemed more in step with restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo.
It turns out that like Cuozzo, Palling (also a restaurant critic who loves his tipple) thinks he's the rare food writer who actually knows wine---as they say, a unicorn of the species.
Now, Palling still drinks 'claret' and 'vintages, ' and even though he knows as much about natural wine as I know about butchering, he writes about them as if he is an authority.
But there are signs he might not be the most reliable narrator.
+ The caption on the photograph accompanying the article refers to chasselat
While not in any grape book I can find, on Wiki it is one obscure synonym for the grape chasselas, too obscure to use in a caption. If I were the writer? I'd get on my editor's ass to fix it as soon as possible.
+ Natural wine isn't on the shelves of supermarkets.
Well....the Whole Foods in London --unlike most other Whole Foods--stocks plenty. At Marks & Spencer or Tesco? Most likely just industrial plonk there. But he takes it further to say they're not at wine merchants?
+ "The feeling goes that if the food served in a restaurant is best when it has no pesticides and herbicides, then the same must be true for wine."
Amen! Like this is bad? Especially if some are delicious?
+Real natural doesn't exist because all wine needs human intervention.
Such a tiresome straw man argument. There are brains out there. One of you guys, please jump to an original argument. Look, bread doesn't happen without intervention either. But there is Wonderbread and real stuff. Done.
+At least 30ppm of SO2 is needed to keep a wine without sulfur alive for a few days.
My experience? The more sulfur the shorter the lifespan of the open bottle. The little secret of drinkers and sommeliers is that the low or unsulfured wine lives dramatically over days and sometimes even months. Many natural wines love oxygen.
+ The natural wine movement kicked off with Noma in Copenhagen.
Now, where in heck did he get that one? The NWM kicked off in the Beaujolais in the late 70's. It came into its own first in Paris when in 2000 the natural wine bar of the city boomed. Thanks to the internet from 2006 to 2014 the category mushroomed. By now, the world's interesting winelists has exploded. Sure, Denmark is high on the natural hog, but they're relatively late to the game. Hello Japan?
+ Hibiscus has seen the light and gas "reintroduced top vintages."
According to the list's creator, Isabelle Legeron, she's always had some classic wines on the list.
+ Noma has seen the light and has "reintroduced top vintages."
That would be news to their wine maestro, Mads Kleppe.
Last month in Vienna I talked at length with Mads. The night was approaching the wee hours, there was some Overnoy involved. He confided to me that he is still trying to get rid of some of the earlier inventory which pre-dated him. The wines, he said, were an embarassment. Perhaps those are the very ones Palling thinks are new kids the list. I'm sure Palling would be appalled at Mads' wine pairings because he told me that those with preconceived notions have a hard time. Some were indignant, furious even. It was mostly the coffee pairing (very barely roasted coffee) that got them pissed off. "If you fuck with peoples conception what good wine and coffee looks and taste like they get really upset," Mads said to me.
Mad's pairings aim to challenge, inspire, break the fourth wall. He wants to provide an experience. To offer wines that were chemically farmed, yeasted, bacteriaed, tannined, acidified, deacidified, overly sulfured, megapurpled, RO-ed, micro-oxed etcetec, would be cynical. Devastating really.
Some of Mads' offerings would be gorgeous, easy to love. Others would be challenging, provocative, engaging. The purpose is journey, sensual, explorative. And at times, delicious. Or at least that's what I got from my conversation with him as I've yet to visit and dine.
I have no problem that Palling doesn't care, (nor can he taste) that his Cote Rotie has added tannin and the flint in his Chablis is actually too much SO2. What I have a problem with that he spoiled a perfectly good piece. He had a beautiful whine in the making of I can't go to eat the greatest restaurants of the world anymore (no, Palling, not the trendy ones, the greatest ones) of the world anymore because they've been invaded by the dreaded natural wines.
Ach, yet another case of a writer burying his lead, swapping for a piece for a flawed article a magazine like Newsweek should have never honored with publishing.
However, I will grant the critic three things:
1- Like in all wine worlds, some are sub-par.
But am I going to get in the way of someone who loves mousiness? No. But I won't be able to recommend them.
2- Dagueneau made some good wines, sometimes great ones.
But, if he wanted to drink them, he should have dug into his own pocket for his wallet and not wait for what was being offered to him.
3- I believe the critic that natural wines are just not his thing.
And while I have no doubt I could show him a completely no So2 added wine he would love.
I don't want to convert him. Let him drink claret! But believing him as a reliable narrator? Not so sure.