Pure intention juxtaposed
One of most iconic biodynamic wine practices is the manure-filled cow horns that are buried in vineyards, then excavated so that the contents can be spread in the soil. The cow horns are getting hard to find.
Photos by kc kratt
“Reach out your hands to the one alone/In your city tonight” - John Maus
Our little wine community just got a lot more progressive. Natural wine has hit Buffalo, and some of the top natural wine distributors are visiting wine shops and restaurants. It’s safe to say that the oldest wine trend isn’t going away. But what is it? How is it different than conventional wine? And why does that matter?
Natural wine is a philosophy. It’s a communal dogma of how close winemakers can get to “Nothing added and nothing removed.” It’s not a legal term, but there are some hard and fast rules: responsible farming, nothing added to the grapes other than a small amount of sulfites if desired, and little to no manipulation in the cellar. The consumer views natural wine as a “better than” status in a way similar to fair trade. Like fair trade, natural wine isn’t always better for you or the planet. It’s not a qualitative statement. It’s a declaration of style. Natural wine is bohemian. It’s alive, and it’s a window without curtains to honest terroir.
As a result, conventional wine can get a bad shake. It can be lumped in with products that treat the earth, and the workers, as disposable units, but keep in mind that conventional wine can also mean responsible farming. Winemaking can be low-intervention without discarding techniques that have been mastered over thousands of years. If natural wine is like photography, encapsulating that vintage with as little influence as possible, then conventional wine is like painting. It’s an expression of skill, talent, taste, and maybe a little ego. Conventional wine isn’t any less an art; there is something damn impressive about winemakers crafting wine exactly how they want it to be and showing it to the world.
If we consider these two differing styles as existing on a single spectrum with natural at one end, and conventional at the other, and we exclude anything utilizing irresponsible farming, then it’s easier to separate the good from the bad. While the term natural wine isn’t divisive, the market optics of conventional wine as a whole being lesser has caused a rift in the industry. Our goal shouldn’t be a comparison of natural vs. conventional; it should be honest wine vs. bulk winelike products. It should be about good farming vs. bad. Let’s start searching for honest wine. Honest wine is just recording the earth through grapes. One recording is a studio album; the other is a live show. While you’re spinning bottles around at your local wine shop to look for the importer’s name, you’ll find that, sadly, most wine is Nickelback.
Need a hand looking for those cool, new distributors in Buffalo?
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What about those trusty importers that were always here? Here are a few: