We never wrote or stated that our wines are natural. As a matter of fact, we have never liked the word “natural,” a term that became widespread following the first “Terra e Libertà/Critical Wine” initiative in April 2003 in Verona and the second in December of the same year at the Leoncavallo centre in Milan.
It was precisely my own participation in those two “culturally-disruptive” events—the movement, beginning in 2005, is now known as La Terra Trema/ The earth Trembles—that convinced me how self-serving and almost nonsensical it is to speak of “natural wine.” It was a brand-new topic in Italy, but it had already been amply debated, parsed out, and analysed in France, where the necessity of making a natural wine flows from the need of ensuring that the wine contain every drop of the local culture, including its sharp edges and awkward parts. Some friends labelled this impulse as “The Renaissance of the Denominations.”
Eleven years have gone by since 2003, and 18 since the start of my own personal adventure, but it seems like two entire geological eras have passed.
The challenging years were followed by the “years of obviousness.”
First, in working with some importers, I had to unveil the tenets of biodynamics with some delicacy, so as not to lose them completely. Or I had to do my upmost to convince them that he wines would indeed last, despite spontaneous fermentations and the lack of sulphur additions.
Now, of course, it’s the fashion. It’s now “natural” to drink wine “without yeast,” “un-filtered,” and “un-clarified,” a “politicly committed” wine “opposed to industry” and “out of the winemaker’s control.”
So now it’s the “counter-wine” that is taking over. But in most cases, that wine is “counter” to its own history, its own culture, its own terroir. Which is killing dreams and those adventuresome beginings.
The new wave “constructors” of natural wine, with their lack of experience or finely-honed marketing instincts, have left terroir far behind in the dust.
Terroir is a complex of interwoven relationships, the union a particular Place and a particular People. Anthropologically speaking, a Place, in the words of Augè, is “a space that has been delineated, occupied, stamped, and ordered by a particular Society.”
A terroir is not the creation of an individual but the product of a community that has lived in a particular locus while—and above all—not being consciously aware of it.
A terroir is the accumulation of daily activities aimed at survival: bread made for one’s nutrition, wine to be sold for one’s economic survival.
Terroir always require a winegrower.
Natural wine without a winegrower is a commercial artefact or a rootless whim.
This is the new path, the new challenge: to shift the focus away from a method, and hence from a recipe, to, instead, a person who lives for wine, the natural winegrower.
Beginning in that year of 2003, I understood that we had not made, nor did we want to make, “natural wine.” We wanted, and we still want, to be natural winegrowers, and natural winegrowers simply make wine. A terroir wine, which is quintessentially culture, can only be made, in its finest and most authentic expression, by a natural winemaker, who manages to re-fashion, on a daily basis, through his own life, the culture of his place.
P.S. The natural winegrower is, for me, the one who works his vineyard I accord with the principles, processes, and methods that nature itself uses. Who vinifies only the grapes that he himself has personally grown. Who bottles his own wine. Who decides personally or with his family every step and procedure in his winery’s winemaking process. He earns his living solely as a winegrower, respecting the agricultural life and recognising its economic worth. Who produces his wine with the following ingredients/additives/agents: grapes and a tuch of sulphur, but only before bottling. Wine must be a worthy and authentic representative of the culture of a Place.