By James Atkinson

A group of traditional winemakers who this week tasted a range of 'natural' wines may have warmed to the concept – but not everyone is convinced.

Wine judge Mike Bennie this week led the Hunter Young Winemakers Group through a showcase of 12 wines made with minimal intervention, which loosely fall under the definition of 'natural' wines.

"I stay away from using the term 'natural wine' where possible, but I do like seeking out wines that can fall under the banner of 'natural wines', [that is] wines of minimal input, less or no additions and produced from biodynamic/organic growers with little intervention between vine and bottle," Bennie told TheShout.

On show in the Hunter were some of the genre's more polished examples from celebrated French producers, down to "extreme, rustic, 'farmyardy'" styles, including a non-commercial bottling contributed by an unnamed McLaren Vale winemaker.

"He nicknames it 'The Terror', because it is so very extreme," Bennie said.

"This is basically [from] an open fermenter that's had a blanket chucked over it – really basic."

Bennie said that while several of the wines had obvious faults, some of the cynics in the room were intrigued enough by what they tasted to be interested in having a crack at it themselves.

"I think from a winemaking perspective a lot of people take to it quite sceptically before they have an opportunity to taste the wines," he said.

But fellow wine critic Winsor Dobbin told TheShout he has yet to be persuaded that natural winemaking is anything more than a fad.

"The first duty of a wine is to be drinkable and enjoyable," he said.

"The reality is that a lot of natural wines don't even meet that criteria."

Dobbin suggested that many of the winemakers and wine bar owners promoting natural wines are just looking for a point of difference.

"They're just trying to do something 'out there'," he said.

Bennie argues that the naysayers of natural wines often miss the point, "labouring on the idea that faulty wines are excused".

"In my book they aren't excused, but there are degrees of technocratic fault that are acceptable, as many would accept degrees of brettanomyces or volatile acidity in any wine," he said.

"Decriers are also often using extremely poor examples of wines as the benchmark for the term – there are poor wines made regardless of winemaking decisions."

"The paradigm shift is what people consider 'good' – we've been fed technocracy about 'good' and 'balance' for a long time in Australian wine circles, some wines termed 'natural' challenge this – why not?"

The Shout Team

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1 Comment

  1. If people realised DRC fell under the natural winemaking banner I think they would pretty quickly stop bagging the whole genre.

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