Reflecting upon our latest natural wine experience, let’s begin by being brief.
VINNATUR 2018 proved to be a much needed tonic. An injection of growth vibes with a refreshingly real feel.
Natural. Palpable. Tangible. Grounded.
Dare we say it’s the natural wine movements ‘red-bullish’ courage that has given them wings. Heroic winemaking souls, one and all, these folk are far from being ‘away with the birds’. Their evident commitment to a life in harmony with their vineyards and wines is not only vocational, it is inspirational.
A little too brief ? :)
Though many of our winemaking friends and industry peers will continue to disagree, one thing is increasingly clear to us. The natural winemaking movement is firmly rooted in fertile minds. Fertile open minds that are switched simultaneously to transmit & receive. This is no mean feat considering the breath and intensity of their daily engagements, work that takes them from the vineyard, via the cellar, to market. Single, small family operations, manning all stations, from weeding and winemaking to marketing and sales, jeez, there’s only 24 hours in the day. And yet, as we see it, they accept every challenge with enthusiasm and verve, without synthetic aids and often without safety nets.
Doubtless their appropriation of the term ‘natural wine’ still irks mainstream winemaking big wigs, draping as it does a metaphorical ‘un-natural’ cloak over their bigger, more productive, shoulders. While this ire might at first be understandable, the rigidity and depth of their anger (and envy) is futile. Worse still, it’s self-harming.
We ask ourselves, why ? What is the perceived threat from natural wine? In financial terms, we’d argue there currently isn’t one. The natural wine market share is tiny. Yet producers have somehow claimed the ethical and moral high ground. Boxing clever, well above their weight, their increasing media capture is praiseworthy. Surely leaving the ill-will behind to proactively engage in the natural debate would be the more productive approach?
Occasionally appearing schoolyard-ish, it seems the big kids don’t like losing to little ones. Yet the point striking us is simply this. There will only be ONE loser in this field of play. And it’s us. All of us. Big and small. We will all lose if we don’t constructively engage in creating real change. Yes folks, this is the sound of our small drum!
Look, we can blame the MADMEN all we like but let’s face reality. We, together with the silent majority have for too long submissively bought into the flashy, occasionally plausible, commercial door to door pitch. We know that in the absence of knowledge and moderation, ignorance and excess will always happily fill the gap. Like a stuck fermentation, our sitting back only leaves space for such undesirable agents to proliferate. Generation X asked for more and we got it. Sadly, the problems arise when the carefree construction of unsustainable dreams becomes blended with an emotional sense of entitlement and a false sense of well-being. We reap what we sow, right?
There is nothing casual about it. Laughed off in certain quarters as hipsters, their valiant fieldwork is both deeply studied and well recorded. What’s more their work ethic is demonstrating how a real and vibrant ‘small business culture’ can take root and grow. We don’t see business as a dirty word because it’s how we all survive. Natural winemakers are surviving, with many now beginning to thrive. All on small sustainable platforms. There are no short cuts. Credibility doesn’t come cheap. This is a movement that asks for total commitment.
Yes, the general marketplace is still somewhat confused as to the meaning and the significance of these wines. But clarity is broadening thanks to events like VINNATUR. We the consumer ultimately pay the price for everything. We cannot detach ourselves from the natural path. Whether we are NAY or YAY SAYERS, it is OUR daily preference, consumption & spend that affects how all the planetary books are balanced. We are determining how long the planet will survive. This is a straightforward responsibility issue.
The birth of natural wines is Natures way. Evolution and Growth. Natural winemakers are not an insurgent or anarchical counter movement. Indeed their evolutionary growth began many moons ago in a different headspace. Hats off to how they’ve established a successful two way connection with todays curious consumer. Open communication between Like and Fertile minds, this “IS” natures way. There is absolutely nothing for mainstreamers to fear. Moreover there’s everything to learn and gain. We all know winemaking didn’t begin in the 1950’s. It wasn’t created or designed within the limits of skyscraping towers or institutionalised educational academy’s. Rather it grew naturally, from this planets alluvial plains and volcanic hills, those that rose from the sea and reached out, not to scrape the sky, but to kiss it. Excuse us.
Hopeless economic romantics, we may very well be. After all, what we see is the makings of an evolutionary tale about loves young dream. So here’s a thing. VINNATUR 2018 has just turned 15 years of age. A teenager no less !!! Rebellious some say as establishment cries rain down… ‘Dang them rebels with a cause’.
C’mon, what’s a teenager to do. Assuming we’ve all been one, we know what happens. As we grow, we stand up, push back and talk out. We shout. We disagree. We know better. And often teens do know better because they’re more flexible, they’re growing with the flow. They see all the colours, not just reds and greens. They get in faces because that is part of growth. Yeah, it’s painful shedding old for new. But that’s what comes with the turf. No pain, right?
We’d all do well to start envisioning our future. As a global community, we’ve already reached a point of near collective submission. We’ve stopped growing. We’ve stopped learning. We’re still rehashing and believing in our own unreal misguided hype. We want more but it never seems enough. Timeout. Our chemical addiction is excessive and unhealthy. Hear that small voice inside you? Ignore it at your peril. No more turning a blind eye while bee’s die and rivers run dry. Bring on the growing pains. Better the music of natural growth than the sound of silent tears. There are alternatives.
If you’ve read thus far, no mystery that the rhythm & rhyme of our visit got to our core. And we haven’t even touched on any of the vinous gems uncovered. Nor recounted word from the innovative focus group sessions with VINNATUR’s visionary and purposeful chairman, ANGIOLINO MAULE & his insightful guests Franco Giacosa and Samuel Cogliati. This remains for another day.
For now though, suffice to say, as a pragmatic forum for Italy’s & Europe’s growing legion of naturals, VINNATUR is striking an energetic, heartfelt ‘Live & Learn’ beat. No time like the present.
Our reflections feel somehow illustrated by the poignancy of HARRY CHAPIN’S classic ‘Flowers are Red’. Tracking back three decades yet the validity of both lyrics and sentiment are timeless and cautionary.
Who and what are we teaching ? Who is learning? ‘Nuff said :)
VINNATUR 2018 …a timely injection of natural growth vibes.