Last week I wrote a blog entitled “Natural Wine – is it legal?” about the courtroom battle of the winemaker, Sébastien David, who was threatened by the courts with the destruction of 2,078 bottles of his wine which had been made in accordance with natural principles.
I promised an update on the court’s decision, but there has not yet been one. Destruction is to be postponed pending further reviews. And maybe that fudge had something to do with the 150,000 online signatures to a petition defending the embattled Sébastien.
I don’t know Sébastien or his wine, but the views of some other natural winemakers has been less than supportive. A typical opinion is that Sébastien has tried to ride two horses at the same time, and that there is no surprise that he has fallen off.
One horse is the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil which has strict rules and standards of compliance, but which is also a valuable marketing label. The other horse is the innovative freedom of the natural wine movement to make wine without additives and without restraint, which is a valuable marketing tool in its own right.
At dinner this evening I selected a wonderful bottle of red – fresh, full of fruit, natural and biologique, and excellent value for around €7. We will be including it in our Gascony Wines List next month so everyone can decide for themselves.
This bottle was simply labelled as Vin de France. Laurent, the winemaker, could have opted for the appellation Gaillac, but he chose not to be constrained by the appellation system which imposes a requirement of typicity. Laurent will be judged not by his label, but by the innovative quality of the wine inside the bottle.
Laurent explains: “Natural wine is the result of a philosophical choice aimed at finding the natural expression of the terroir. It comes from grapes worked in organic farming, without weed killers, pesticides, fertilizers or other synthetic products. The harvest is manual and during the vinification, the winemaker strives to protect the living quality of the wine.”
Sébastien would probably agree with Laurent. Indeed, outside the courthouse Sébastien proclaimed :”Today, not everyone agrees to live in the norm with pesticides. People do not drink numbers, but fun.” Perhaps Sébastien should take the brave step of leaving behind the constraints of his appellation and becoming proud of the simple label Vin de France. As the legendary Provençal winemaker Henri Milan stated: “I want to be free. I would like to label my wines as Vin de France Libre.”