At Wine Searcher, winemaker and writer Oliver Styles eviscerates the Wine Spectator’s Senior Editor James Molesworth for his apparent dogmatic attitude towards natural wine.
There should always be room for debate, he says, but, only 16 words down the line, he states that the reality is that natural wine “doesn’t work”. This is what natural wine fans have to contend with all the time: a reasoned demand for debate, for reconciliation, a meeting of minds over a nice glass of wine, and then the social equivalent of Molesworth flipping you – all of you – the bird.
For those of you unfamiliar with this debate that now rages in the wine world, natural wine enthusiasts are often accused of being dogmatic because they allegedly insist that there is only one way to make wine—their way. (I seldom hear them actually make this claim but perhaps I’m hanging out with the wrong people)
Styles points out how dogmatic Molesworth is in his comments on natural wine. He quotes Molesworth as saying:
the ones I like I simply consider good, soulful wines – not natural wines.
Molesworth seems to be saying if it’s good it can’t be natural; if it’s natural it can’t be good. In philosophy we call this “the no true Scotsman” fallacy—a logical fallacy in which the speaker attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition to exclude the counterexample.
Styles’ defense of natural wine is right on the mark, pointing out that it’s hardly dogmatic to be concerned about pesticide use.
But I want to emphasize another point he makes in passing.
Which is a shame because, as I’ve said in the past, if Wine Spectator – or any publication, for that matter – were to do a one-off, special edition, entirely devoted to natural wine, it would surely be wildly popular and gain that publication a slice of demographic hitherto closed to them. I don’t know where the advertising revenue would come from – which probably gets to the crux of it – but there it is.
I don’t read the Wine Spectator religiously so perhaps I’ve missed feature articles on natural wine. But my impression, confirmed by a quick Google search, is that aside from an occasional report from the Raw Wine fair and one or two winemaker profiles, the Wine Spectator pays little attention to natural wine. Of course, if you look at sales data, perhaps the thinness of the coverage is justified. Natural wine sales are a tiny fraction of total wine sales. But the Wine Spectator purports to be a journalistic enterprise and discussions about natural wine and its meaning are the hot topic in the wine world—natural wine is wine’s avant-garde.
Furthermore, given the growth in organic vineyards and bio-dynamic farming, along with the interest in natural wine shown by millennials and influential somms, it should be obvious that this is no passing fad. Conversations about natural wine within the wine community are likely to continue unabated and increase in importance.
Thus, the Wine Spectator and other publications that focus on conventional wines only are missing the most important story in the wine world. Regardless of whether their critics like them or not, natural wines pose a challenge to conventional tastes and represent a potentially important shift in our concept of wine quality.
It’s journalistic malpractice not to cover them.