Renowned Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier has added to the natural wine debate by denouncing natural winemakers as out-of-touch hippies making defective wines.
Interviewed in the current issue of Decanter, Chapoutier tells John Livingstone-Learmonth the practice of natural winemaking – that is, using no sulphur dioxide to stabilise the wines – is a con.
‘It is a connerie. It is rubbish. It’s like making vinegar, bad vinegar. How can anyone allow toxic yeasts to develop so that these inhabit the wine?’
Moreover the Hermitage producer (pictured), who also makes wine in Australia, Portugal and Alsace, considers those who follow the practice, ‘hippies from another world’.
‘It is extraordinary that people defend products with defects on the grounds that in the past growers were making wines with defects, so that is good, or natural. Those old wines had defects because people lacked the tools and means not to make fault-free wines.’
Natural winemaking has a long history of attracting fiercely opposing views. In a recent column in Decanter, Andrew Jefford suggested that although the method could produce an undreamt-of ‘landscape of aroma and flavour’, it was also teetering on the edge of ‘charlatanry’.
No winemaker, he argued, ‘should… fold their arms and stare righteously at the ceiling while their wines turn malodorously delinquent through neglect.’
In another article in a previous Decanter, Isabelle Legeron MW, an ‘evangelist’ for natural wines and founder of the Natural Wine Fair, has pointed out how ‘bizarre’ it is that we question natural credentials of our food, but are happy to drink wine that is effectively processed.
‘We celebrate unpasteurised, stinky Epoisses for its uniqueness, and fresh apple juice for its cloudiness, yet we insist on wine that is sterile and consistent,’ she says.
The March issue of Decanter magazine is out now.
Written by Adam Lechmere