Natural wine is getting more exposure as this article about the Central Coast conversation demonstrates. It’s even attracting the attention of the wider culture including this article by environmental policy expert Ted Nordhaus.
Many years after natural wines first appeared under that banner, they still create controversy and antagonisms not only because of the conceit of the term “natural” but because they taste differently. Some find these wines refreshing, some don’t. But controversies over whether natural wines taste good or not, while relevant, nevertheless miss the point.
Every healthy culture needs a group of dissidents to induce self-reflection and prevent those in power from getting complacent. Wine culture is no exception. Natural wine is playing the role of the avant-garde forcing both producers and consumers to examine their assumptions and pushing the boundaries of what wine can be.
Even those wines you might think are flawed are forcing us to imagine a form of beauty that is just beyond our reach. There is something about them that doesn’t fit, that cannot be easily integrated into conventional notions of what wine should taste like. If and when we learn to embrace that difference we will have advanced further along the road to eros.
So whether they succeed as wines is not the whole story. What matters is that they stimulate the imagination because that is what keeps a culture moving forward. A wine culture that disdains such challenges is on its way to extinction.