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Big kerfuffle in Italy over so-called natural wines

March 14, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila
  • A wine label from Frank Cornelissen, who makes wine on Mt. Etna in Sicily, as shown on Jeremy Parzen's blog Do Bianchi.
A wine label from Frank Cornelissen, who makes wine on Mt. Etna in Sicily,… (Frank Cornelissen and Jeremy…)

Sotto wine director and blogger Jeremy Parzen is keeping up with this story over at his Italian wine blog Do Bianchi. It seems that Gambero Rosso, a gastronomy magazine that publishes wine guides and selects top wines each year to receive its Tre Bicchieri award, has come out against the natural wine movement in its latest issue. And, naturally, writer Michel Bettane's negative take on the wines has ruffled the feathers of winemakers who espouse natural winemaking.

After the Italian wine blog Intravino brought the Gambero Rosso article to his attention, Parzen translated excerpts from what he characterizes as "Bettane's harangue" and put them up on his blog. 

Here are a few:

"We sincerely hope that Italian wine lovers will not be subjected to what has been happening in France: an invasion of so-called 'natural' wines — in other words, so called 'zero sulfur' wines — with the complicity of numerous sommeliers, wine merchants and irresponsible journalists.

Their products are easily recognizable: the red wines stink and all of their grape varieties and terroirs end up resembling one another because the nasty native yeasts with which they are made — yeasts that greedily cannibalize the good yeasts if the vinifier allows them to do so — are the same yeasts that you find all over the planet. The wines are cloudy and unstable and they show an excessive presence of carbonic gas, giving the impression that the wine is incomplete.

It’s up to their clients to point out that what they believe is a wine closer to 'nature' is actually nothing more than a bad wine whose only intention is to give you a headache."

And so on.

That was the first volley. In response, a group of winemakers wedded to the idea of natural wines, including Sicily's Frank Cornelissen (who recently poured his wines at Sotto) have shot back with an open letter published on the Intravino site to address "a series of negative (and some would say blindly and wildly pompous, misinformed and misguided) editorials on natural wine published by the Gambero Rosso in its January issue."

Parzen has translated some of the debate so interested English speakers can get up to speed. Here's the link. Parzen also points out that "Italian journalist and wine industry observer Jacopo Cossater noted on his personal blog that the editors of the Gambero Rosso have managed to do what no one could until now: they have united the often discordant field of natural winemakers in Italy," writes Parzen.


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