Thursday, August 20, 2009

Make Wine Mine Natural Real

This weekend during the Drink Local Wine and the Texsom events there was a lot of wine tasted; some for learning and some for pleasure. During the three days a number of people with experience and expertise flooded the panels and parties. Not once do I remember anyone getting into an argument over natural wine.

Here on the most unnatural of all soap boxes, the blogosphere, one would think the world was ending and we were all going to hell because some of us, most of us, are actually enjoying the wines we are drinking. This weekend there were no lines drawn in the sand, no scabbards vacated, no friendships ended over the matter of what a natural wine is. I find it all a bit mystifying and hyper-critical, these exaggerated Greek choruses singing their dirges over what is and isn’t natural.

Do you live in an urban area? How natural is that? Do you take vitamins or supplements, or use deodorant or makeup? Do you buy food from the market or grow it all yourself? Do you walk everywhere you go? Do you fly on planes, ride around in cars? When you get sick do you take medicine? Do you still think you are living a natural life? Have you been made to feel you might be living a lie?

There were a number of Master Sommeliers and a Master of Wine or two as well, along with PhD’s and folks with decades of experience. I asked many of them about this "natural" question, as I am interested in their perceptions of such things. After all, they are probably more influential than many, or most bloggers. Funny, because there are so many interpretations. I find our world extremely manufactured on so many levels, but then I have the memory of that little conversation I had when I was barely 21 with a larger than life person, Buckminster Fuller. I was no more than six feet from him when I heard him say this: “Anything that Nature lets you do is natural.”

Bucky Fuller was a god to me. I thought of him as the 20th century Leonardo da Vinci. My son wants to build domes and live in them. We are as close to being his secular disciples as anyone can be in America. What he said to me is like a koan that I have thought about for decades now.

Another friend of mine, a doctor, we met while working together in a vegetarian restaurant in Pasadena, California in the mid 1970’s. He once remarked to me about sausage (I was a vegetarian), “Consecrate the sausage as you eat it, don’t let the devil of doubt poison your body. Give thanks for it allowing you to receive sustenance from it and be grateful.”

Once, when I was spending time at a Zen monastery in Northern California, the Roshi went to the local Safeway and bought food to be prepared. Often she would bring back vegetables and rice and fresh foods. But this time she brought back a load of ground meat. I remember when she had it brought into the kitchen some of the cooks were astonished and didn’t know what to do. One of them asked her what she wanted them to do with all of this ground meat. She answered. “Cook it. And don’t get too attached to being a vegetarian. Lose the desire.”

These three episodes have formed some of the ways in which I think about things. Wine, like any other part of life, has its place. But it is not the most important thing for me in life.

So if your Barbera isn’t biodynamic or your Yarra Valley Riesling isn’t made with native yeast, does it really matter all that much in the scale of things universal? If it does to you and it is worth losing friendships or jeopardizing civility, might you want to ask yourself if you aren’t taking all of this just a little too seriously?

This is just my manufactured perception, but to risk losing something real, like love or collegiality or a place in the circle of life, over some concocted opinion about what is natural or not is just an immane assumption.

And we all know what happens to those larger-than-life types.

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