Everybody’s talking about natural wines – thanks, Saignée!

How do you celebrate a year of blogging? With a month of blogging, of course.

A special month of blogging, I mean. Like the 31 days of Natural Wine put together by Cory Cartwright of Saignée, one of the most interesting wine blogs around. He asked a number of other voices of the online wine world to contribute their thoughts on natural wine, every day of that feast of a month.

Alice Feiring, Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi, Amy Atwood from My Daily Wine, Brooklyn Guy and a bunch of others have been contributing, and it’s quite an interesting bunch of reads. Everything from a visit to Nicolas Joly, the biodynamic pope himself, to discussions of sulfur in wine, to a very… honest tasting of the latest Bonny Doon wines by Mr Saignée himself.

The series brings forward all sorts of questions about the concept of natural wines – a rather vague category that includes, depending on who you speak to, everything from sustainable winemaking to biodynamics and no-sulfur wines. In French, the moniker “vin naturel” has been more closely defined by the likes of Thierry Puzelat, Marcel Lapierre and such as no-sulfur wines (rather often made with carbonic maceration). In the US, that would be closest to “organic wine”, although the fact that sulfites must be totally absent from certified US organic wines (even the naturally occuring sulfites), making it an even more extreme category. Translating “organic wine” back to “vin bio”, in France, leads to another category altogether. And don’t get me started on the various “sustainable” winegrowing and winemaking programs established in the US and New Zealand, among others. (This Wine Business article will give you an idea of the concepts and regulations involved.)

What’s right or wrong with these categories? I’m certainly in favor of any move towards more careful, ecologically-friendly wine-growing and towards making wines whose ingredient list is limited to grapes, period. But I don’t think adding a little sulfur is a heresy, or that one single approach has all the answers. It does make for a very interesting discussion, though… More than enough for 31 days.

American Wine Blog Award winners – and other blogs you should read

The votes have been tallied, added to the jury’s vote (70% popular vote, 30% jury), and the results are now official. The winners for the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards have been announced.

Nice bunch of blogs in that list: Vinography (twice, and a winner for two yars in a row), Lenndevours, The Good Grape, The Wine Collector, Michel Schlumberger’s Benchland Blog, and Bigger Than Your Head, a blog I discovered as a finalist in the 2008 AWBA. 

Congratulations to all, and happy blogging for many years to come.

While I’m at it, though, (more…)

Registration open for North American Wine Bloggers Conference 2009

2008 was the year the wine bloggers decided to come together. Literally. By meeting in not one, but two conferences: one in Europe (more precisely in the Rioja, in Spain), and one in California, at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, at the Southern end of the Sonoma Valley (see a whole bunch of blog posts listed here).

Both conferences filled to capacity and were a great success, featuring winery visits, lots of great tastings and interesting keynote speakers – notably Gary Vaynerchuk and Alice Feiring, who roused the wine blogger community in Santa Rosa by stating that it should be nothing less than a force to change the wine world.  

Thanks to that initial success, the conferences are back for a second spin. Details for the European Wine Bloggers Conference remain to be made public, but the North Americain Wine Bloggers Conference is already open for registration. The event returns to The Flamingo, and will be able to welcome some 250 people, on July 24 to 26. Beyond Sonoma, which was already explored last year, a trip to Napa is part of the planning, to expand horizons a bit.

Obviously, the Sonoma conference is returning faster than one year after the first edition. Apparently, the wineries made the point that an October conference made their lives difficult (with the small matter of harvest, crush, and such), and so the dates were changed to the summer. Bummer for me, I won’t be able to make it. 

But a lot of people should make it. Apparently a few dozen people have already registered, in only a few days. If you’re planning on attending this professional (and very much fun) event, don’t wait too long to make up your mind.

Wine Bloggers, getting (it) together

There are a lot of conversations going on on the internet, a lot of communities coming together through blogs and Web 2.0 sites, a lot of people talking and learning about subjects of common interests through social media. But in the end, there is nothing yet that can truly replace face to face meetings and live conversation.

This is why, in August and October, there will be not one but two Wine Blogger Conferences that will allow wine bloggers from around Europe and the Americas to come together and discuss issues that matter to them and to the wine world. Oh yeah. And to taste wines and have great meals together – something that still can’t really be done over the Internet.

The first one, (more…)

Biodynamics: up front or backstage?

I’m a huge fan of a great number of biodynamic wine producers, and several “natural wine” producers, this last category essentially meaning that they are not only made from organic grapes, but also totally free of added sulfur, a widely-used stabilizer (For a quick description of the various types of bio wines, click here). Very often, wines made according to these methods have incredible character and individuality. You’ll probably read many raves from me about the artisan winemakers who promote that sort of viticulture and winemaking.

What strikes me, however, is that the promotion of biodynamic winemaking is presented in two ways. Some producers simply acknowledge that they work their vineyards that way – some do it only when they are asked – while others promote the fact that they are biodynamic producers almost as an end in itself. For example, you can’t tell, when looking at a bottle of Petalos, by Alvaro Palacios, (more…)