Skip to content

David Schildknecht on Nossiter, Natural Wines

2011 December 13
by Mike

Based on the headline, you may be wondering if David Schildknecht is now splitting blogging duties here. After all, it’s the third time in recent weeks that I have handed over the microphone to David. But appearances to the contrary, he has not become a co-Wine Diarist; he has simply been kind enough to let me post some things he has written that I thought would be of interest to Wine Diarist readers.

David, as you probably know, writes for The Wine Advocate. In addition to being a wonderful critic, he is one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking journalists working the wine beat, and I always enjoy corresponding with him, even when we disagree. In this instance, however, we are in complete agreement: neither of us is a fan of Jonathan Nossiter or the natural wine movement. Nossiter is a filmmaker best known for Mondovino, a deeply misleading documentary about the globalization of wine. A few years ago, he wrote a book called Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters, which was even more execrable, no small achievement. As for the natural wine fad, I share David’s view that it is long on dogma and rhetoric and woefully short on intellectual coherence. (However, we both admire many winemakers who are working in a self-proclaimed “natural” way.)

Last month, Nossiter spoke at a natural wine conference in Zurich. Not surprisingly, the subject of natural wines showed Nossiter at his most tendentious and smug, and nor is it surprising that when David read an attendee’s account of Nossiter’s talk on JancisRobinson.com, he decided to post a rebuttal. With his and Jancis’s permission, I am re-posting his response here:

I cannot resist some comments pursuant to Jonathan Nossiter’s contribution, as described, to this colloquium.

Nobody is more interested than am I in proclaiming and explicating “the importance of independence in our homogenised world” assuming that Nossiter meant this title for his presentation to encompass the encouragement of wine growers to take chances and do their own thing methodologically and stylistically. But for an address to take place under that rubric and in this particular context immediately suggests that both a false dichotomy and a contradiction underlie that conjunction. In the Manichean world inhabited by many if not most self-proclaimed naturalists of my acquaintance (including many growers and commentators whose work I greatly admire) no allowance is made for the existence of distinctively delicious, site-specific, soulful, safe-to-drink wine grown with the assistance of Roundup for weed control; chemical systemics to combat oidium (thereby reducing reliance on copper sulfate); drip-irrigation; yeast cultures; sulfur above some unspecified maximum; or a great many other tools and techniques that these folks either cannot – or refuse to – specify with any pretensions to completeness but always seem to inherently accept or reject when you quiz them. I have tasted enough of the world’s both profoundly and simply delicious wines and know enough about how they are grown and vinified to call that out as false dichotomy. What’s more, if you consider the freedom of the grower paramount, then it’s a contradiction to deal in a list of moves you forbid him or her from making on grounds that it’s “unnatural.” Vineyard expression and self-expression are not only compatible, there are also many routes to either one.

And about the aforementioned lists, no self-described natural winemaker I know has been willing to rest content with Nossiter’s claim that “the regulations for … natural wines are actually [this] simple: no chemicals in the vineyard, no additives, no cultured yeast, and very little or no sulphur. That’s it.” Does Nossiter consider sugar an additive? What would be so bad or unnatural about adding water? Does he deem it ok to irrigate one’s vines? (Most self-proclaimed naturalists with whom I deal insist that’s not kosher.) Is it ok to add fining – which afterward drops out – for clarification, and if so which sorts? What about must concentration – that doesn’t involve adding anything to the wine, but self-described naturalists are far from the only ones who would make it a poster child for The Enemy? How about tractor compaction – no problem there? To plow or not to plow; compost or not to…? In short, it’s evident that Nossiter has not taken time – though lord knows, he’s had more than enough of it since becoming a wine celebrity – to think about the issues involved or to ponder hard cases; indeed, one presumes that like polemicists and politicians of most other stripes, he would not recognize a hard case if he bumped into it face-first, much less consider testing his principles against it. That being the case, it’s a shame we are asked again and again to consider what he has to say about these issues profound and important.

As for the alleged impossibility – and, more importantly, the alleged illegitimacy – of asking that “natural wine” be clearly defined, the analogy Nossiter offers is so weak as to be laughable. “It would” he alleges, “be like saying to the great directors of the time, like Fellini and Goddard, ‘now that you are making neo-realism let[']s set up rules to determine what neo-realistic cinema is.’” The question at issue with natural wine however is how can its adherents routinely reject wines because of one or another thing that was done to them, while refusing to draw the logical conclusion that some subset of practices serves as a litmus test of legitimacy? Now, it might be that Fellini and Goddard had their differences with film makers whom they considered non-neo-realists. But although I am not a student of film, I doubt very much that these famous directors were going around – let alone preoccupied with – pooh-poohing the films of anyone whom they deemed not to be a neo-realist. Granted, artists can certainly do this sort of thing, but not every artistic movement or style represents a reaction to some other one, much less does having a style or employing distinctive practices imply that any other style or alternative set of practices is unworthy, even bogus and must be inveighed-against. But I have met very few self-proclaimed natural wine growers – including the dozens among them whose wines I love and drink regularly – who did not adopt their stance and practices in reaction to certain alternatives and who did not consider it absolutely essential that those alternatives be condemned. And while I must defer to experts in the relevant field concerning whether Nossiter’s opinions about film – his acknowledged area of expertise – are more profound and nuanced than his views on wine, it’s clear from his references to films that “make you think” as contrasted with “the current Hollywood industry,” that spurious dichotomy is to him second nature.

98 Responses leave one →
  1. September 16, 2014

    The veterinarian told us he couldn’t remain in that condition instead of be in soreness.

    While most substance-meals interaction could be damaging,
    some happen to be employed under supervised therapy to reduce medication dosages and connected costs.

    The reasons why that you might want evening meal Pandora Rings Ireland Jewellery can help you decide the type
    that would be finest.

  2. September 11, 2014

    I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this webpage on regular basis to get updated
    from newest information.

  3. September 9, 2014

    Great web site, really been scouting forever for tips on the very best rattan furniture for
    our home and in our patio. The website truly helpedgreat blog some great info here

  4. September 9, 2014

    I am really thankful to the holder of thiis site who
    has shared this wonderful iece of writing at here.

  5. September 6, 2014

    Hi there mates, its wonderful article about cultureand fully defined, keep it up all the time.

  6. September 6, 2014

    Looked over this incredible website and ordered a steam shower and
    never glanced back again, magnificent info on this
    website cant thank you enough

  7. September 4, 2014

    It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m
    sstisfied that you simpl shared thjs helpful info with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  8. September 4, 2014

    Awesome website plenty of brilliant steam shower info here

  9. September 4, 2014

    Greate article. Keep posting such kind of info on your site.
    Im really impressed by it.
    Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll
    certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I’m confident they will be benefited from this site.

  10. September 3, 2014

    I pay a quick visit daily some sites and information sites to read
    posts, except this webpage provides feature based writing.

  11. September 2, 2014

    Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person’s
    webpage link on your page at proper place and other person will
    also do same in support of you.

  12. September 1, 2014

    You can clean your handbag off all the dust as well as the spots by brushing it with the soft hand brush which
    you get for this purpose. A bag that you use to go out has more glamour and glitz and usually is
    quite a bit smaller than your daytime purse.
    China has become a leading supplier in this regard.

  13. September 1, 2014

    magnificent put up, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector do not understand this.

    You should proceed your writing. I am sure, you have a great
    readers’ base already!

  14. August 31, 2014

    It’s going to be finish of mine day, except before end I am reading this wonderful post to improve my knowledge.

  15. August 30, 2014

    I pay a quick visit daily some sites and information sites to read articles, but this weblog offers
    quality based posts.

  16. August 30, 2014

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the internet.

    I will highly recommend this website!

  17. August 29, 2014

    I know this website presents quality depending articles and other material, is
    there any other website which presents these kinds of information in quality?

  18. August 28, 2014

    Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere, when i
    read this article i thought i could also make comment due to this sensible paragraph.

  19. August 26, 2014

    The great yogi Lord Shiva said, ‘I use memories,
    but I do not allow memories to use me. If you’re are too conscious of how you make
    your way and too self-conscious to the point that your involvement about your execution is affecting your performance,
    well perhaps you have to cut yourself some slack. Ever feel so angry that you can’t
    bear it or hold it inside.

  20. August 26, 2014

    and so can your wife, if she’s anything at all like mine.
    3 – All the hardware specs are provided so you buy exactly what you need
    for the job. If it requires a building permit will it meet the criteria.

  21. August 25, 2014

    This is a very good tip especially to those new
    to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  22. August 25, 2014

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.

    Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would
    like to find out where u got this from. thanks a lot

  23. August 25, 2014

    Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  24. August 24, 2014

    He returned to Cape Carteret in 1994, all according to Daily News archived reports.
    when choosing the correct recipes to your cavy read the ingredients carefully.
    If you decide to round up some outside insects for your
    bearded dragon, be sure that they are free of
    pesticides.

  25. August 23, 2014

    - As you become more experienced and knowledgeable about what people want – your empire will expand and
    you can hire the room for longer and more often. A
    tower defence game in which mushrooms and sunflowers are employed to stay the advance of groaning ghouls, Plants
    Vs. On a side note, caffeine is GOOD when it’s used in a cream or
    in the case the ever popular cellulite & coffee remedy.

  26. August 23, 2014

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking a few minutes and
    actual effort to make a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and don’t seem
    to get anything done.

  27. August 23, 2014

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpful to read articles from other
    authors and practice a little something from their sites.

  28. August 23, 2014

    Le titre pourrait fonder rigoler davantage d’bizarre et
    cela est fortin compréhensible, ego fus ce premier stupéfait de voir
    qui ces prédictions amoureuses de celui voyants devenaient réalité.

    Dans le désespoir somme, je me suis un lumière tourné approximativement
    la voyance en écoutant ma sœur cadette en causer un tant éduqué bien. Sachez tout d’accueil dont’celui-ci
    nenni fut marche également pratique qui ça en revanche personnalité de laisser
    la voyance s’introduire dans ma existence sentimentale.
    Sans doute en revanche défier ma sœurette, ego me suis rendu sur ceci
    situation de voyance amoureuse. J’avoue garder été merveilleusement confondu en seulement quelques temps de discussion en clair avec celui-ci médium par téléphone.

  29. August 23, 2014

    Every weekend i used to visit this site, as i wish for enjoyment, as this this web site conations actually nice funny material too.

  30. August 22, 2014

    Thanks in support of sharing such a good thinking, paragraph is pleasant, thats
    why i have read it entirely

  31. August 22, 2014

    May I simply just say what a relief to find an individual who genuinely
    understands what they are discussing over the internet.
    You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    A lot more people must read this and understand this side of your story.
    I was surprised you are not more popular because you certainly
    have the gift.

  32. August 22, 2014

    Hello all, here every one is sharing these kinds of
    experience, so it’s pleasant to read this web site, and I used to visit this website daily.

  33. August 22, 2014

    It’s an awesome paragraph for all the online viewers; they will get
    benefit from it I am sure.

  34. August 22, 2014

    Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful info specially the last part :
    ) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  35. August 22, 2014

    Yes! Finally something about best canon t3i bundle.

  36. August 22, 2014

    More aesthetically pleasing females or women who
    have had plastic surgery helps them excel in the work force (in the sense they land promotions and earn higher wages.
    Furthermore, he is a specialist of almost all cosmetic procedures.
    The erbium laser can create anything from a light surface Microlaser Peel for fine lines to a deeper Pro-fractional skin tightening.

  37. August 22, 2014

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a
    lot!

  38. August 22, 2014

    I see you share interesting things here, you can earn some extra cash, your
    blog has big potential, for the monetizing method, just type
    in google – K2 advices how to monetize a website

  39. August 22, 2014

    Anytime you send out automotive direct mail pieces, you’re faced with the issue that you have to work twice
    as hard at appearing trustworthy to potential customers as people in other industries.

    This is the importance of having a good mailing list.

    These are 2 totally different industries, but can you see how they both have relevance to
    each other.

  40. August 22, 2014

    I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your
    theme? Exceptional work!

  41. August 22, 2014

    I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any
    web browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog readers have complained about
    my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great
    in Firefox. Do you have any suggestions to help fix this problem?

  42. August 21, 2014

    Currently it seems like Drupal is the best blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your
    blog?

  43. August 21, 2014

    Hi there! I understand this is kind of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does operating a well-established blog such as yours require a large amount of work?
    I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write
    in my diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my experience
    and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for new aspiring blog owners.
    Appreciate it!

  44. August 21, 2014

    fantastic put up, very informative. I ponder why the other experts
    of this sector don’t notice this. You should continue your writing.
    I’m confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  45. August 21, 2014

    The backend part of your company supports these profit centers.
    Today, lots of websites and blogs bring in unheard of
    income for their owners merely by promoting another’s company
    on their web pages. Make certain that the payment gateway you are making use of, permits similar languages as the remaining of the
    web pages so that they can match well together.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Natural Wines: The Problem Isn’t The Skeptics | Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist
  2. Wine Diarist: David Schildknecht on Nossiter, Natural Wines - My Wine Broker
  3. Wine Diarist: David Schildknecht on Nossiter, Natural Wines | Wine Berserkers

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS