Book Review: Authentic Wine; Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop

Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop (MW), is a fascinating and well-written book that aims to educate the readers about sustainable winemaking by offering suggestions on alternatives to conventional methods and supplying them with first-hand accounts backed by scientific evidence.  Though, at times, explanations of some winemaking and viticultural practices are very technical in nature, it is always written in such a way that anyone may read it and understand the thought process and/or mechanisms presented.

http://www.thewinedetective.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/authentic-wine.jpg

The first chapter (after the Introduction, that is) describes the diversity of wine, and how using a natural winemaking approach may “preserve wine’s interest”.  According to the authors, you find the high-end rare niche “fine wines” on one side, and the inexpensive mass-produced “fruit bombs” on the other, with “the middle ground disappearing fast”.  This, according to the authors, “is a minitragedy, because this is where much of the diversity lies”.  What is the overall goal of winemaking?  To crank out large quantities of inexpensive wines for the masses? To create expensive fine-wines that only specialty shops can find and sell?  Or somewhere in the middle?

The next four chapters; “Terroir”, “Grafted Vines”, “Biodynamics and Organics”, and “Sustainable Winegrowing”; focus on the viticultural side of the natural wine movement.  The authors attempt (successfully, I might add) to defend their position that terroir is both important and not important and how terroir may play an important role in natural winemaking.  In regards to biodynamics, the authors present an educational and entertaining history on the practice, which is otherwise known as “organics plus metaphysics” or “Harry Potter does viticulture”.  It is not all praise, however, as the authors do present at least one objection to the biodynamic growers in “the way some of them criticize those who choose not to farm this way”.  The overall principles behind this statement are carried throughout the entire book, allowing the authors to present their point of views on a subject while not sounding patronizing or otherwise completely one-sided.

The next five chapters; “When Winemakers Intervene: Chemical and Physical Manipulations”, “The Natural Wine Movement”, “Yeasts, Wild and Cultured”, “Ripeness and Alcohol Levels”, and “Wine Faults”; shift the focus toward the enology side of the natural wine movement.  The authors stress that the human element in wine is just as important in the naturalness of a wine as any biodynamic or organic technique or practice. 

“The human aspect is therefore important in any definition of terroir or typicity, because without human effort there is no wine, and without wine there is no expression of terroir.  Any review of naturalness in wine must therefore look closely at the corresponding philosophy and actions or interventions of the winemaker”.

It is during this section of the book that things start getting a little more technical, but thanks to the authors, it is written in such a way that even the wine novice should at least understand the general concept.  The authors do a great job describing many of the difficulties when it comes to natural and sustainable wine making when there are so many manipulations and faults that must be performed or overcome in order to create a palatable and enjoyable wine.  Can wine be created without any of these manipulations? Several case-studies are presented to suggest different ways in which some harsh manipulations may be avoided, but perhaps not all.

The next chapter introduces “The Carbon Footprint of Wine”.  The authors stress that “carbon dioxide emissions pollute the environment as much as agrochemical runoff, so [they] feel that this is a legitimate topic for a book on authentic and natural wine to cover”.  According to the authors, the natural wine movement tends to ignore the issue of sustainability, which is a huge foul. 

“While the carbon footprint of the wine trade is just a small fraction of the total amount, we still, like all of society, have an obligation to challenge ourselves to reduce this footprint.”

Before wrapping up, the next to last chapter introduces the concept of “Marketing Authentic Wine”.  The authors give suggestions on how to market natural, organic, or otherwise authentic wines, particularly when it comes to the Millennial population, who very soon will be at the purse strings when they become of legal drinking age (though many of them are already there).  The authors state that the term “authentic wine” would be useful as a marketing term (instead of “natural” or “organic”), as it “[brings] together such issues as sustainability, environmental sensitivity, noninterventionist winemaking, and the diversity that comes from terroir”.

Finally, the book concludes by wrapping up the authors’ point of views and opinions on natural and sustainable winemaking and the direction in which the wine industry needs to shift: to the direction of naturalness.

“Do we emphasize this naturalness, celebrate the diversity of wine, and put our house in order by steering away from unneeded additions and manipulations? Or do we allow wine to become simply another manufactured beverage whose flavours are manipulated to match perceived consumer preferences?”

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book.  The presentation and descriptions within were very well written and certainly invoked many thought-provoking moments for me.  I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the natural wine movement, or really anyone remotely interested in any part of wine, viticulture or winemaking in general!

If you’d like to purchase this book, you can either get it from Amazon by clicking here:  Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking

You may also purchase it directly from the publisher by clicking here: University of California Press.

I am very excited to have this book in my growing collection!  Cheers!
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!