Book Reviews

Book review: Naked Wine.


Wine writers and wine critiques express their perceptions of wine as presented to them. Few, if any, know to make wine, and would hardly know how to approach the process although they all know in theory, how wine is supposed to be made.

Today, most, if not all, popularly priced wine in huge quantities hardly ever is made the natural way. Modern winemakers, especially in the New World, have a huge arsenal of additives and mechanical devices to “correct” any natural shortcoming. Essentially, New World wines have become a factory-produced “homogenous” commodity that is adjusted to the preferences of the market to which they are exported.

Only small family owned and managed wineries attempt to produce “natural”  (not organic or biodynamic wines) and of course charge more than “factory-produced” wine to make a decent living.

Some small, famous wineries charge “over the top” prices and many get away with it, as generally wine consumers associate price with quality.

Alice Feiring, a wine purist and born “terroirist” was given an opportunity to make “natural” wine from 500 kilograms of grapes by D. Lett (the owner and manager of Eyrie Vineyards in Oregon), but in

the last minute the offer fell through; another winery this time in California, came through with an offer of one-and-a-half tons of Sagrantino grapes. The deal was she would harvest the grapes, extract the juice, and start and finish the fermentation using natural yeast. The winemaker would look after cellaring and barrel aging (elevage). She would have a say in blending if required, and using no filtration in bottling.

The author lives in New York when the grapes were ripe she flew to California to harvest, crush, start and finish     the “natural” fermentation. When the alcohol, level was higher than she wanted, the winemaker suggested the “most gentle way” to lower and did it when she was not looking.

In this well flowing narrative, alternating between mainly California and France, she vividly writes how French “natural” winemakers proceed and how secretive they are.

She laments that the BATT (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Tax) permits the use of 71 additives, and the high amount of sulphur dioxide American winemakers are allowed versus those from Europe according to European Union regulations.

This is an invaluable book for anyone who enjoys wine and wants to know how it is created. Traditional winemakers believe it is true, that wine is made in the vineyard, and properly grown fruit with an adequate yield per acre or hectare can be converted to outstanding wine without resorting to any kind of modern “help”.

Winemakers with integrity do just that and the author is an ardent supporter of this approach.

Alice Feiring is a “purist” and reject the “factory-produced” homogenous wine that contain no distinguished colour, aroma, texture, and flavour.

She travels constantly to taste wine (mainly France), particularly Loire, Burgundy and a few other regions) with small, devoted winemakers who insists on producing wine with the “stamp” of the “earth”.

This book is all about her adventure and discussing the products of like-minded winemakers in France.

A book for all who enjoy wine, want to know how it is and/or should be produced. What makes this book unique is the style, the enthusiasm and love of the “nectar of the gods”.

Highly recommended!

Naked Wine

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