Token Summit–Natural Wine Event (Backstories on the wines)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine is about people and place, taste and celebration, and the stories that bubble up over a glass with friends.

Natural wine is uniquely about innovation and individuality. About the freedom that comes within the constraints of a platform of belief.

Not that different from the blockchain community in that respect and tech in general.

For those who like a backstory along with their wine, I’ve jotted notes each of the bottles we will be pouring– from France, Italy, Spain, The Canary Islands, Santa Barbara, and Portland, Oregon.

Big thanks to my buddy William Mougayar for organizing this. And to Ariana RolichEben Lille, Andy and the rest of the team at Chambers Street Wine for inspiring us to curate such an incredible selection.

Hope to see you there!

(This is a sold out event for Summit attendees. We are out of space and will contact you if there are cancellations.)

Nine Vignettes of Taste and Place

 Costadila Bianco Dei Colli Trevigiani Prosecco

Delicious and disruptive are not what you imagine when you think of mass-produced Proseccos from the Veneto in N.E. Italy near Venice.

Enter Ernesto Cattel and his Ag.Costadila polyculture project for natural wines.

Surrounded by industrial farms making exceedingly meh wines, Ernesto is a visionary agronomist changing what is in your glass through what is alive and healthy in the soil.

He started reenergizing the land in 2006 and producing small handcrafted—and quite amazing—sparkling Proseccos. Changing not only how the grapes are grown, how fermentation is handled but the grapes within Prosecco itself, adding lesser used Bianchietta and Verdiso to the mainstay Glera grape, making his wines brighter, livelier and just more joyous.

Honestly, his wines are a bit of a revelation to drink–a tingling freshness in the mouth, wafting pear and apple aromas and a crazy long finish.

For the wine geeks, the cloudiness of the bottle comes from the dry lees, as the wine is unfined and unfiltered. We simply shake the bottle gently a bit before uncorking to distribute them more evenly.

Ernesto uses only organic fruit and not a drop of sulfur added to the vineyard or the bottles.

This bottle is to me a triumph of taste, of an agricultural idea proven true and of the possibility of what Prosecco as a natural wine could really be.

Jousset, Lise et Bertrand 2015 Montlouis-sur-Loire Bubulles Pet Nat

A natural Pet Nat from the Loire Valley in France.

Some call Pétillant-Natural Farmers Champagne, but as my friend, Sophie Barrett says, Champagne may be akin to love, but Pet Nat is pure flirtatiousness, joyful in its own right.

I’m excited to share Pet Nat done so well, and introduce the artistry of the winemakers, Lise and Bertrand. To those that know them, they attest that their vivaciousness and openness as individuals, their love for Chenin Blanc, seems perfectly mirrored in the wines, especially this Pet Nat.

They moved to the left bank of the Loire a dozen years ago and farm 11 hectares spread across 25 parcels with vines ranging from 30 to 130 years old. Their core belief is that to have a living wine you need to have living soil with high microbial activity. A running theme through all the wines we’ve chosen.

Their wines are organic in the vineyard, zero-sulphur added and for this bottle, made from 45-year-old Chenin Blanc vines.

What’s Pet Nat anyway?

Champagne is made from finished still wine, you then add sugar (dosage), ferment, disgorge, bottle again. With Pet Nat you bottle and seal before fermentation of the wine is complete, judging just the right amount of sugar to end up with a dry finely moussed effervescent and quaffable delight.

Takes a gift to get right. This one most certainly is.

Swick Wines 2016 Columbia Gorge Grenache Blanc

Organic small-batch Grenache Blanc fermented on the skins. (That’s orange wine to some.)

Joe is talent, a friend, and while a 5th generation Oregonian, part of the 1st generation of West Coast natural wine makers. A growing but a small group of highly individualistic people from all walks of life, searching out interesting and organic plots up and down the coast to make wine from.

He spent 10 years working harvests in Portugal, Italy, Tasmania and California and New Zealand before settling in to start his own label.

Deeply passionate, terroir obsessive and a natural purist by nature.

Joe’s words sum his approach up- “I like the real deal. No maquillage [makeup].”

This Grenache Blanc is high-elevation, low alcohol wine with a jolt of freshness and strong nudge of layered acidity.

This is white wine made like red wine, fermented on the skins. An entirely new palette of taste for most of us as the drinkers, and for the winemaker, an endless opportunity for creativity and expression.

Skins are the touch of the earth in wine, where minerals and bouquet and tannins live.

This bottle is Joe’s idea of where his intent, the place itself, the climate at this given time and the grape variety itself become terroir, true and unqualified.

Two wines from RuBor Viticultores

The Sierra de Gredos are the massive mountains just West of Madrid where a new generation of winegrowers are recuperating abandoned vines, adopting vineyards from retiring farmers and moving to organic and biodynamic agriculture.

Enter RuBor Viticultores, a partnership between Rubén Díaz and Orly Lumbreras, born of friendship and a shared passion for ancient vines and their mountain home.

The poet of the pair, Orly, phrased their intent to produce tiny amounts of the white varieties Chasselas and Albillo as a personal preference. To him ”White wine is for dreaming, and red wine is for enjoyment”.

I think we get equal doses of both in these bottles.

RuBor Viticultores 2015 Castilla y León Chass! Chasselas

Most of us think of Savoie in the French Alps when we think of Chasselas, myself included, but this bottle is something different. Something Spanish.

Biodynamically farmed and made from two tiny 70-year old Chasselas plots grown in decomposed granite there is something uniquely this alpine place in the glass that you can taste.

With 3-4 days on the skins during fermentation and the slightest tad of sulfur added at bottling.

It hard not to love this one.

This is Ruben and Orly’s bright and salty gift, fresh and expressive, crunchy minerals, with a tickle of tannin and effervescence in the bouquet from time on the skins

RuBor Viticultores 2014 Castilla y León Protocolo Zero

Albillo Real is the great white grape of the Gredos area.

Big-boned with moderate acidity, this is a blend of Albillo from two very old plots, with a variety of different vinifications.

Protocolo Zero is their intent to marry the fresh, youthful, and bright wines with rich, spicy, and aromatic ones, from different elevations in proportions of their choosing.

100% Albillo grown with biodynamic methods on organic vineyards with very little sulfur added at bottling.

Full of granite in texture and length, with flavors of pear, butterscotch, minerals and a hint of fresh ginger.

This is a natural Rose made with 100% Carignan, oozing with flavor and chutzpah.

You realize with artisanal and natural wine that type—be in Rose or Pet Nat or whatever—are just guidelines meant to be interpreted.

And this Rose crafted by Jean-François Nicq is no summer pink fling. This is the real deal in complexity, satiation and a ton of vivaciousness in the glass.

From the Languedoc, near Montpelier, France, Jean-Francois has found his special spot in the most eastern Pyrenean Mountain chain where he has been making wine since 2002.

Organic, and zero sulfur added.

Peppery redcurrant and raspberry aromas with floral and citrus notes. Super fresh and wildly aromatic in character.

Bermejos 2013 Lanzarote Rosado of Listan Negro

The island of Lanzarote is the most Westerly of the Canary Islands, politically part of Spain but a world of its own, closer in actuality to Africa.

In the 1700s, a month-long volcanic eruption covered the island in black lava meters deep, destroying agriculture but spawning a unique environment for wine.

Like craters on the moon, half-domed hoyo are scooped out of the lava which protects the vines and extracts moisture from the violent gusts of sea breezes.

It is hugely laborious to work this place by hand, with tiny yields, but in this case, difficulty breeds something magical and intense with a soul all of its own.

Like this wine at the hands of winemaker Ignacio Valdera.

100% Listán Negro Rosado, organically grown and hand crafted.

Complex yet satiating. Tart with sea salt. A nip of volcanic minerality.

Nothing transports me quite like this bottle, sitting on my rooftop in TriBeCa on a Spring Saturday afternoon drinking in these unusual yet familiar flavors from this surreal moon-like place on the other side of the world.

Amplify 2015 Santa Ynez Valley Camp 4 Carignane

I’ve been smitten with this wine since my first taste earlier this year.

Cameron and Marlen Porter are Santa Barbara born and raised. Local people wanting to recreate something special, doing more by doing less with intent.

In their own words, they wanted their Carignane to have one foot in the wild iterations of the Roussillon in France and the other with the light beauty of Poulsard from my beloved Jura.

A sense of place. A sense of style. This is all about the freedom of the craftsperson within a framework of beliefs.

An attempt to re-find the terroir of their home geography with a newer, less encumbered, more natural approach to winemaking.

Organic. Some sulfur at bottling. Tiny production.

They describe this bottle as delicate, lithe, limpid red wine with just a hint of the savage. Add a bouquet that is surprising in the face of a pale delicate juice and I agree.

This is a talented couple just starting out on a journey.

I met them a few weeks ago and my first inclination was to hug them.  Which I did.

Silice Viticultores 2015 Ribeira Sacra

Ribeira Sacra is in the very northwest corner of Spain.

Abandoned for generations but unchanged since the Romans terraced its slopes and planted grapes to make wines for their armies marching towards the sea. Too steep for machinery. Too harsh for anything but indigenous fauna.

Enter Silice Viticultores, a partnership of three men–winegrower Fredi Torres and brothers Carlos and Juan Rodriguez to reclaim these terraces and make wine that captures their connection to this place.

Primarily Mencia, with Merenzao, Albarello, Garnacha Tintorera, and some white grapes, from multiple small vineyards on slate and granite slopes in Amandi averaging 60-80 years old.

Every single grape is moved by pulley and bucket, by the sweat of people reclaiming the past with an eye towards a new future.

Organic with biodynamic methods, no additives except a touch of sulfur at bottling.

Exquisite and crisp, with subtle red fruit character.  Reminiscent of some Pinot Noirs from Savoie or the Jura, or Gamay from Beaujolais.

Easy on the mouth yet light on the senses. Bold enough to pour at a feast yet subtle enough to drink on the fire escape on a warm NY summer night.

Le Raisin et L’Ange 2016 Vin de France Pause Canon

Some natural wines are made by a new generation of individuals, rediscovering and reinventing something old to make a new.

Some are projects, inspired people reclaiming their pasts or iconoclast agronomists proving a case to the world.

And some are just farmers making wine they want to drink, local philosophers of the soil just doing it.

The later is Gilles Azzoni to a word, making 100% natural wine with nothing added to simple quaff and enjoy.

His farm is in Ardeche, not far from Lyon, sort of West of the Northern Rhone. Basically in the middle of nowhere in France. Or maybe a special somewhere.

This is farmers wine, made naturally with astounding skill. A blend of 75% Gamay and 25% Syrah and to get a bit geeky, 6-day whole cluster carbonic maceration for the Gamay, 12 days for the Syrah.

Enjoy this one. Drink it back as that is exactly what it is made for.

Round and effervescent. Fruit layered but not forward.

From Gilles farm somewhere in France to your glass at a blockchain gathering high above the city in NYC.

Perfect!

Wink Lorch’s Kickstarter project: Wines of the French Alps

Some projects just make the world a richer place.

They are not market testing an idea or disrupting the status quo. They simply and boldly make things better by connecting passionate people around something of value with the singular intent to educate and inspire.

My friend Wink Lorch’s forthcoming book on the Wines of the French Alps is just that.

Knowing Wink well, and an avid user of her first book Jura Wine, it will undoubtedly be an organized and exhaustive understanding of how this Alpine wine region is shaped by the climate and geography. And how this impacts the practices of viticulture.

As well a personal introduction to these gracious people who in this beautiful and challenging environment work with ancient grape varieties unique to this area. And of course, an encyclopedic and curated look at the wines themselves.

Wink will bring to us a way to touch these producers of handcrafted wines. Some artisans who for generations have worked these hillsides. Some truly iconic and larger than life in their reputations. Some obscure and brand new.

Some natural producers that fit even my strict definition of the word, but all of them part of the landscape that draws a living view of this place.

This is Wink sharing her personal view of this region as both one of its long-term residents and an expert of how the viticulture of this region is stylized by the sum of the physical and cultural elements, one by one and in total.

I can assure you that Wink’s very British objectivity will prevail in the face of her deep passion and love for the area. Just barely but decidedly!

Savoie, the principal subject of the book, is a special place to me personally and to the wine world at large. Complex to grasp as a wine region and home to some of the best artisanal winemakers in Europe making wine in unencumbered natural ways from a litany of obscure, deliciously complex, local and indigenous grapes.

I visited Wink last Fall in Savoie.

As we drove around, it became clear to me through her deep familiarity with every detail of the area and more so, the friendly warm embrace of the producers that this is home to her.

Her intuitions are grounded in being part of the place while her observations are tempered and focused by her expertise and market vision of what is truly happening in the region and its wines.

When I think of Savoie, and hold her new book, I will forever think of the two of us searching out Domaine Belluard’s Gringet planting on a quite challenging to find, high elevation plot. (This pic is of sitting and chatting amongst those vines.)

Or being asked to lunch with the harvesters at Domaine Dupasquier, truly one of the most celebratory moments of my life.

People young and old, tables piled high with food and wine. A respite and celebration both, lunching high above the river participating in the pursuit of an ethos of taste that drives people to do the incredibly hard work to make these rather astounding naturally made wines.

Truly priceless to me.

This post is an invitation to join this community of wine-loving people from all over the world celebrating the expression of passion for this region and what the love of wine can do for us collectively to bring us together.

To support Wink in this wonderful project, here is the link to the Kickstarter page. The project funding ends in 11 days.

If you don’t know her personally, watch the video as this is truly Wink in all her casual understatement and humor.  If you know her, it will simply make you smile.

If I’ve inspired you to search out her first book on Jura Wine, it is available as a Kindle book here. For a hardcopy, go here and inquire.

Give this project and these wines some consideration–you won’t be disappointed!

Do we still need a natural wine category?

Natural wine bubbled up from the simple belief that there was a uniquely different and more natural way to produce, enjoy and celebrate wine.

That there was a new language, more common to us all, to articulate our tastes and understand winemakers as part of a natural process.

That wine, personal wellness and the popular embrace that we are stewards for our planet are all connected in some way.

A dance between ancient methods and modern interpretations. A mashup between science and lore.

The power of natural as a category was its flexibility and openness. Its inclusiveness and diversity.  Its very lack of definition spurred innovation in how wine is made and appreciated over the last decade.

As we look across the wine world today we see a huge uptick of innovative producers, an almost unimaginable number of excellent natural wines and a shared knowledge base across a global community of winemakers.

We are all the beneficiaries of this.

But something is shifting on the edges of this world.

An almost unfettered spike of diversity and bold innovation within the ‘traditions of natural wine’ (if I dare to use that term) and as well, very much out of that mainstream.

Spurred I think by a generational shift in the producers and the consumers alike.

There has been a huge influx of first generation winemakers across the spectrum of ages and backgrounds but as a rule—smart, innovative, knowledgeable of tradition but cut loose to push the boundaries on every front.

Natural wine was never a flag to be worn.

Never a slogan on a t-shirt or for that matter, up front and in your face from the most successful producers, importers, retailers and bloggers during the formative years.

Some of the most famous natural producers, disliked the word but embraced the idea in their craft.

But is was most assuredly a belief that bound a community together.

It was part of a continuum and a collective reaction to a world of wine that eschewed the modernization of its language, that fought against accepting change in the definition of the product itself and rejecting the wisdom of the market itself to define what it liked.

This is a formative period in the history of the natural wine market.

While percentage wise natural wine (if really countable) is small, it is economically substantial by the size of the total market itself.

It is influential beyond its size and has not only helped recalibrate what we consider good taste, but has impacted acceptance (and growth) of organic and bio-dynamically produced grapes worldwide.

Look at the spikes of innovation at the edges of the natural wine category today.

The truly exhilarating experimentation with skin-fermented white wines has taken over the imagination of the market this year. Quietly disrupting a host of preconceptions about what we taste, where it is comes from, and the role of intent in the hands of the winemakers themselves.

Open your mind and your tastes to the products that are coming out of the mostly millennial back-to-the-farm generation of winemakers.

This generation came of age when the natural market was already in place along with an infrastructure of distributors and shops, bloggers and financing.

They are making wine from mead, apples and fortifying traditional beverages like Vermouth in whacky and wonderful ways. Steeped in (literally) and brilliantly knowledgeable of herbal and botanical traditions, they are Apple farmers, apiarists and herbologists making fermented beverages.

Different, delicious and natural.

Selling into the same markets and sitting on the shelves in wine shops next to bottles of skin-fermented Grillo from Marsala or unsulfured Mouvedre from the highlands North of Sacramento.

I believe that the idea of natural for food and wine is just getting started in our markets and will continue to evolve at an even faster rate.

My bet is that a few years from now we will certainly be drinking herbally-infused grape wines and fermented Kvas sold in our local wine shops.

We will be seeing categories of natural foods coming from hydroponic factories growing kale for urban consumption in refabricated warehouses in Green Point.

As a population we don’t need clubs to feel wanted or to influence markets with our purchasing power, we need communities that are supportive of change and innovation.

We don’t need flags to exclude those with different ideas, we need open belief systems that are inclusive by nature holding forth on core ethics and lionizing innovation above all else.

I think natural in wine is one of those anomalies in the history of community movements that understands that its power is in its looseness of definition and its ability to encourage change.

There is no real debate on definition. It’s  just an approach, an underlying ethical glue towards what we consume as food and drink.

People need language to think in, categories of beliefs to rely on and community to identify with.

Natural wine just works–and is organic enough as a construct to evolve with us as we and the product itself changes.

My bet it’s going to be here for a long time to come and we are better for it.

An all natural wine selection for Thanksgiving

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I use the same headline every year for my Thanksgiving post.

And every year there are more quality natural wines, from more diverse places, made by producers I’ve never drank before, showing new innovations and at better prices.

There has simply never been a better time in history to be alive and be a lover of wine. We are so very lucky in this respect.

This year with the help of my good friends Ariana from Chambers Street Wines and Christy from Frankly Wines, I think I nailed it.

Truly outstanding wines from Oregon, Quebec, France, Sicily and Spain. With a splash of mead thrown in.

Here’s the selection:

Terroir Historic (Terroir Al Límit) 2015 Priorat Negre ($28.99)

The crowd favorite red this holiday.

Dominik Huber is a truly talented German winemaker making restrained natural reds and whites in the Priorat, in Spain.

Much less ripe that you’d expect, significantly reduced alcohol and making not a wine of place, but a wine of region. This bottle is a blend from a scattering of organic plots with telltale llicorella clay and alluvial soils of the Priorat.

Tightly wound acids, brambly herbal berries. As Ariana Rolich put it well, ‘a Priorat for minimalists’.

To me the bottle simply says Drink Me now!

Partida Creus 2015 Catalunya Massís de Bonastre Xarello ($29.99)

This was the crowd favorite white. Basically vanished in a moment.

We know the grape Xarello from Spanish Cavas, but was new2me as a still wine.

This is simply a head-nodding beautiful bottle–mineral rich, bright, citrus, nteresting and juicy at the same time.

This one is naturally a bit wild, no added SO2, and six months on the lees. Some time on the skins is obvious through the grip of the tannins and bouquet.

I’m buying a magnum for the Chanukah gathering of the same group.

Buy and try this if you can find it.

Swick Wines 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir  ($27.99)

Joe Swick and I have spoken in depth about natural wine. He is outspoken, so very wine savvy, an uncompromising purist and 5th generation Oregonian from Portland.  And need I mention, a true talent.

This bottle is a silky, textured and brambly Pinot, sourced from several cooler Willamette Valley sites (Cancilla, Medici, and Fairsing vineyards). A light touch with a satisfying palate that leaves you with berries on the mouth, savory in the nose, and just satisfying all over.

I’ve been drinking this bottle over and over since its release.

Feels just right each time.

Joe nailed it with this one.

Romeo del Castello 2015 Etna Rosato Vigorosa ($28)

I had the pleasure of meeting Rosanna Romeo and her daughter Chiara Vigo when in Etna a number of years ago.

I remember well their story of how the eruption of Mt. Etna in 1981 reduce 60 hectares of vines to 14 and left huge lava beds on their property.

This wine speaks to me of my love of Etna and my pining to return.

That unique taste that even in a rose is vibrant and savory, bright and acidic with a crisp finish and a spice to the aftertaste that simply won’t end.

Delicious bottle that was a perfect complement to the others at the table. I kept this one near to me the entire meal.

Source du Ruault 2013 Saumur Blanc “La Coulee d’ Aunis” ($17)

I knew this wine the least prior to drinking it. Quite a discovery.

Comes from a tiny one-hectare parcel of Chenin Blanc of almost entirely Turounien Limestone in the Loire Valley.

Perfect pre-meal, hanging around nibbling while cooking and chatting. It is lean, mineral with a silky suppleness to it that that drew me in immediately.

A bit too austere for the group, but I grabbed and nursed this one myself.

A discovery and a huge bargain at $17.

I have another one in the fridge for for some saw goat cheese I picked up at the market today.

Desrochers–Foehn Ferme Apicole Honey Wine ($37)

This is a completely natural Pet Nat mead from Northern Quebec.

Unfiltered. Unfined. No added SO2 with the yeasts cultivated from the pollens collected from the same bees that brought in the honey for this bottle.

I met the winemaker and apiarist at my panel at the Raw Fair a few weeks ago and tracked this bottle down.

As intriguing as it is delicious. Clearly not a wine made from grapes and as a beekeeper years ago, I could taste the honey in the aftertaste though it is completely dry and magically satisfying.

Super natural in every way. Twelve months on the lees, non dosage, nothing added.

Not only does this winemaker have real talent but he is certainly part of a new generation that will I am certain redefine what natural means to all of us.

Try this or the other wines linked to in the post of my panel.

I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

To close

Been a while since I threw together a post on what I’ve been drinking, rather than spit out bottle pics on Instagram

This was more fun and more useful.

I hope you enjoyed it. I am certain you will enjoy the wine!

Rethinking natural wine

It was less than half a decade ago that natural wine was a wildly polarizing topic, riddled with acerbic accusations and challenged viciously by the then wine establishment.

That was then, this is now–thankfully.

Today after the hard work of many and a shift in marketplace itself,  the idea that we can make excellent and interesting wine, naturally without additives and with minimal intervention from organic fruit is simply part of our consuming culture.

This is grounded in a ever-growing population of winemakers from every possible corner of the globe and a powerful, congenial and loose-knit community of winelovers that binds it all together.

What is astounding is that natural wine is the only segment of the massive natural food market that has carved out an authentic consumer definition without certification, without governmental control, without a governing body of any sort.

To me–it is certainly the better for it.

Some may argue that this is its shortcoming. I think just the opposite.

Natural wine is a cultural exercise in authenticity and transparency. And I’ve come to realize recently, one where inclusivity and diversity on both the producer and the consuming side are key to its allure and staying power.

The inspiring creativity of the winemakers themselves within this segment, the support of an ever-growing and aware consumer market, and a global supply chain of producers, importers, shops, restaurants, bars, bloggers and super enthusiasts have come together to make this so.

This change could only happen from a bottoms up market-driven movement, not one mandated top down by legislating bodies.

The magic of course is that natural wine doesn’t end with a label or cert on the bottle or even a scale of taste owned by the pundits.

It culminates when the expression of the artisan meets the satisfaction of the consumer around a collective ethos of taste.

Natural is a choice. Self policed in many respects.

Certainly there are people who stretch the common definition and those that abuse it.

But wine generally, and natural wine specifically, is almost never a self-serve market.

As a product wine is not bought, it is sold.

Sold by people who are the curators of these often unique approaches and who they themselves, by their own knowledge and reputations, certify the truth of the disclosures around what they are selling.

I admit that there is both ambiguity and messiness here.

But I believe that the success of natural wine as an approach to winemaking with its corresponding market is more powerful because of this.

Winemakers follow their hearts and beliefs, consumers simply listen to what excites them, feels true and authentic.

Within this loose definition of what is natural wine is a built-in flexibility, an acceptance not of a standard of taste, but by an expectation of diversity of taste itself.

I’ve blogged on this since the beginning and have fought against the idea that only by certs does authenticity stay honest.

But I’m also realizing that the inchoate nature of natural wine is what lets it grow and continue to evolve.

In thinking about the upcoming Raw Fair and my panel of natural fermenters making honey wines, ciders and Vermouth, this has jumped out at me.

It’s been an education as I’ve dug into how mead, cider and Vermouth are made from a technical standpoint. And as different and truly fascinating they are to this natural wine geek, but that is not what interests me most.

As I start to understand these fermenters, as individuals and artisans, they are similar at their cores to many of my heroes in the natural wine world.

Impassioned and astutely knowledgeable. Impractical and iconoclastic. Driving a process that they both control by their decisions and are simply holding on to in others as nature simply takes it course.

Each and every one of these artisans starts with an ethos of how they view their relationship to place—their definition of local–be it the Hudson Valley or Vermont, or Brooklyn.

How they include the intent of the maker in the definition of terroir. How they think about how they farm bees, for example, to create the raw honey for the mead with as much studied knowledge and personalized mythologies as many approach Biodynamics as a way of farming.

How diverse these disciplines truly are—in some ways more so–than wines made from grapes.

How by adding herbs, botanicals and vegetables to the fermenters ingredients, they are sculpting something quite new. A fermented natural beverage but not simply wine.

This has been both challenging and inspiring to me as I think about this panel. Trying to uncover what matters to the market and what challenges these artisans have.

And I’m considering an approach that focuses not by how what they do is different, but by how they approach their trade and carry through a similar set of ethics in a different process to a common end.

These questions are bubbling up for the natural fermenters at my Raw Fair panel:

-Do you consider yourselves winemakers?

Or something completely different?

Legally you are winemakers making alcoholic beverages sold to the public, but in the market’s eye, the process of making mead for example is so dramatically different than the traditional concept of a winemaker. Is this a branding challenge for you?

-What does idea of terroir and the importance of place mean to you?

We think of winemaker and place more than grape and vintage for natural wine. They are an expression of place itself, literally part of their own terroir.

Is this true for you?

-What does natural mean to you?

Do you have a different definition that you adhere to? A modified version tied to the characteristics of your product. What are you criteria for using additives including SO2?

-How does referring to themselves as farmers and artisans impact the market’s view of your craft?

Do you think of mead or cider as closer to a crop that a farmer makes, or closer to the luxory item that wine certainly is to the broader marketplace?

-What is your view of the role of the artisan as it relates to intent on how your product should taste?

Natural winemakers consider themselves not shepards of a natural process, but more sculptors making decisions and integral to the expression of place usually thought of as terror. Is this the same for you?

-What do they want the natural wine market, the consumer to think of you?

As something uniquely different and dancing to a different drummer? Or part of the diversity of making fermented products in ancient ways for a modern market? As winemakers?

I noticed that Ciders and Vermouths are sold through the same channels as wine. At least in my neighborhood, this is not the same for mead? I see this as a concern especially in New York as here, the most influential people in the wine business are the buyers working the floors of our wine shops, selling to the public.

This is good stuff and I think the telling discussion topics worth considering.

It’s about wine certainly. It’s about an embrace of a natural approach to create something new. It’s about how we as a culture think about, categorize and embrace the things that matter to us.

If you are in New York next Sunday and Monday, the 6th and 7th  of November, come see us at the Raw Fair.

If you are around on Monday in the afternoon, I would be thrilled to meet you at the panel.