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Jamie Not So Goode And Consultant Sam: Their Quest For The One True Wine,

 A Sort of Book Review,

the quest for the one true wine

Don Ryan reviews, Authentic Wine - Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop

Wine is at a crossroads, one road leads to manufactured homogenised mass produced wine, while another points towards a natural product that seeks to preserve diversity and authenticity. This, I think summarises  the view of Sunday Express Wine Writer Jamie Goode, who along with his co author and good friend, the globe trotting wine-making consultant Sam Harrop has produced a science based wine book.

Book cover

Authentic Wine, towards Natural and Sustainable wine-making, is a new wine book laced with a large dash of rehashed previously published material.   Throughout its pages Goode ducks and dives, surreptitiously sticking the boot into The Natural Wine Movement, while endeavouring to convey the impression that he supports naturalness in wine. The book is titled, Toward Natural and sustainable winemaking, yet  slyly throughout the text the authors endeavour to undermine any positive perception the reader may hold relating to The Natural Wine Movement.

Among the negative soundbites lurking within its pages are,“There is no such thing as Natural Wine” or “Natural Wine (whatever that is)” or even “they’re [Natural Wines are] prone to develop faults”. Very little evidence is produced to back these presumptuous statements. Most damming of all, Natural winemaking is compared to an untended garden, giving the impression that the Natural winegrower is a negligent farmer who allows the fields to grow wild, while also paying little or no attention to the fermenting grapes in the winery.  

My understanding (based on conversations with dozens of Natural winemakers) is that the opposite is the case. Natural wine-growing they say demands total commitment and requires careful comprehensive husbandry. Natural farmers, they insisted, have to get it right because they cannot rely on the chemicals industry or scientific gizmos to save the crop or the cuvee - should something go wrong. To succeed the Natural wine grower has to be passionate skilful and hard working.

Natural fermentation

The Natural Wine message is a simple one, here spelled out by Isabella Legearon one of its most effective advocates “Natural wines have existed since time immemorial. When wine was first made 8,000 years ago, it was not made using packets of  yeasts, vitamins, enzymes, Mega Purple, reverse osmosis, cryoextraction or powdered tannins – some of the many additives and processes used in winemaking worldwide. The wines of these bygone days were natural: they were made from crushed grapes that fermented into wine.”

 

Clearly natural winegrowers are not engaged in anything radical or outrageous. They are simply growing grapes and producing wine in the traditional manner, using in the main techniques and methods that existed long before modern science and the chemicals industry became involved in the wine business.

The writers of Authentic Wine etc. etc are wrong, Natural Wine does indeed exist and provides interesting and even on occasions exceptionable above average very enjoyable wine at (mostly) an extremely good price. This unpretentious easy to understand reality should be non-controversial.   Goode and Harrop will have none of this, “Naturalness has its place “ they write, "but it should be part of a far wider body of considerations.”

Natural Pickers

Whereas The Natural Wine movement offers excitement and diversity, they favour the boring certainty of the one true international wine style, endorsed by them and their fellow experts  ,many of whom bear the hallmark, MoW (master of wine). An accreditation issued by a London institution which has never produced a drop of commercial wine.

They express a preference for authentic wines, a convoluted spoiling notion they have just concocted. Authentic they imply is natural plus and as presented by the duo, includes a extremely watered down version of naturalness that Goode believes the big commercial winemakers can embrace. However this, I think, rips the soul out of the original Natural Wine ideal which is built round small independent farmers who “grow” their wine. To give the Authentic wine concept a radical edge (or should that be added value), environmental, marketing and sustainability issues are bolted on to the Authentic concept.

Their objective in writing the book is to help protect “the future health of the global wine industry” they proclaim. This is not surprising as both draw a substantial proportion of their income through direct commissions from the industry; a fact that is not declared in the book.

Natural Menu

While the book poses as a critique of Natural winemaking, it's main purpose appears or be an attempt to kick start a process that will unite the industry. The conflicting notions of industrial or Natural etc. would be superceeded by an industry wide agreement as to what constitutes an Authentic wine.

Some of the issues relating to farming techniques, adulteration, manipulation and chemical enhancement raised by the Natural Wine folk, would be taken on board; but not too many. Basically the authors favour ring fencing the present global winemaking regime, while outlawing only the very worse excesses of scientific manipulation and chemical industry involvement. The Natural Wine Movements greatest success has been to raise the issue of how a wine is made to the top of the agenda. The intention of Goode and Harrop is to kill this vital debate by utilising a potent "story" based marketing campaign, financed by a united wine industry.

The wide ranging Discussions of recent years would cease and debabe revert to the narrow metaphsyical confines of a wines taste and smell. This is such a self-serving objective that the mind boggles at their audaciousness in putting it forward. However, on a constructive note, the tome contains a good dollop of useful, easy to read, simply presented information on the wine business. It also sets out in detail just how much interference and additives can be involved in main stream grape growing and winemaking. For me, reading between the lines the book manages to vindicate the Natural Wine Movement. However, that clearly is not the writers’ intention.

 Digital Wine

Authentic wine is unquestionably a cheaply produced and hastily written wine book complete with scraggy black and white photos. There is little that is new or original within its pages, although it is an informative anthology of the currently available information. It conveys a prevailing impression of opportunism; a desperate leap upon the cantering bandwagon that is The Natural Wine Movement. This is a book that attempts to ride on the shoulders of those who have painstakingly trodden the rocky road to winemaking success, while seeking to belittle their brave efforts