Truth is beauty, beauty is truth…definitions suck

Rather than spending their lives defending nomenclature, delving into semantic nuances and untangling gossamer philosophical niceties, natural wine drinkers – copains & copines alike – drink wine. Which seems the natural thing to do. Unlike their more judgmental confreres in the wine trade they tend not to couch their opinions in the now-devalued currency of marks, nor worry their pretty heads about hierarchies and awards. The wines they enjoy certainly possess enough depth; it is just that pleasure expressed without punctilious analysis is so much more fulfilling.

The wine trade en masse prefers to deal in absolute certainties in a way that ordinary drinkers don’t. Labelling, appellations, charters, groups, consumer acceptance panels, awards competitions – wine is nothing if not endlessly codified. Do I require empirical evidence to sense that certain wines are more natural than others, or are all the better for being more naturally made? No, I am not pedantic in this respect; I trust my (imperfect) sense of smell and taste and my highly subjective likes and dislikes’. Experiencing wine on a visceral level gives me the enjoyment and the information I need. Labelling and regulations are imposed by faceless bureaucrats; they may discourage (some) bad practice, but more often they serve to frustrate good practice.

Definitions can erode aesthetic appreciation by putting things into small boxes. The magic of a sunrise or a sunset or an amazing star-studded night sky conjures a rich response– their transcendence is not enhanced by a profound working knowledge of the mechanics of the universe. Knowing the precise chemical and microbiological chain of events that constitute the winemaking process may be instructive and fascinating but leads us to react to wine in what I call “a gloomy analytical fashion”. Wine experienced thus becomes for us a de facto chemical product; we judge it by degrees of fault, surely the dullest counsel of perfection.

Real wine leaves something to the imagination; although mediated through the artisan grower it captures or refracts something of nature, something of the wild and unknowable. That collision of visceral “natural” response and aesthetic transformation is what sets great wine apart from the denatured, mass-market products.

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