Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Why Is Natural Wine So Divisive? | Wine Enthusiast
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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Why Is Natural Wine So Divisive?

In this episode, we’re facing down some serious controversy. Natural wine–or wine that’s farmed and produced with minimal intervention—has attracted a lot of new wine drinkers, and it’s also been scorned by many who prefer traditional bottlings.

Today, we’re going to try to figure out exactly why it’s so polarizing.

Associate Managing Editor of Print Layla Schlack talks to sommelier Charles Springfield and Meri Lugo of Domestique Wine shop about what some of the perceptions and misunderstandings are among natural and conventional wine lovers, and how to get over the hump to expand your palate.

There’s plenty of perspective to consider, and reasons why wine lovers tend to fall hard on one side of the fence or the other. But at the end of the day, appreciation for natural wine doesn’t have to be so extreme, and we hope this episode offers some useful tips and insights on how to wade in to the natty wine world and embrace the best the category has to offer.

To learn more about natural wine, and what exactly it even is, check out this article about how Georgia is the spiritual home of natural wine, or this article about the recent French certification that sought to begin to regulate the category. There’s also been some exciting movement in the Midwest natural wine scene. You can also check out these top natural wine retailers from our America’s 50 Best Wine Retailers of 2020 list.

Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Lauren Buzzeo, Layla Schlack, Charles Springfield, Meri Lugo

Lauren Buzzeo 0:09
Hello and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast, your serving of drinks culture and the people who drive it. I’m Lauren Buzzeo, the Managing Editor at Wine Enthusiast, and in this episode, we’re facing down controversy. Natural wine or wine that’s farmed and produced with minimal intervention has attracted a lot of new wine drinkers, and it’s also been scorned by many who prefer traditional bottlings. Today we’re going to try and figure out exactly why it’s so polarizing. Associate Managing Editor of Print Layla Schlack talks to sommelier Charles Springfield and Meri Lugo of Domestique Wine Shop about what some of the perceptions and misunderstandings are among natural and conventional wine lovers, and how to get over the hump to expand your palate.

Layla Schlack 0:55
Hi, I’m Layla Schlack, the associate managing editor of print at Wine Enthusiast. Today I’m looking into why exactly natural wine, however you define it, is so divisive. I’m here with Meri Lugo, who works primarily with natural wines at retailer Domestique in Washington, D.C., and Charles Springfield, a New York City-based sommelier, wine educator and author. I’d love if you could both start by telling us a bit about yourselves.

Meri Lugo 1:20
Hello, thank you so much for for having having me and having us both. So I am a wine buyer and the director of operations here at Domestique wine. We are a brick and mortar shop in a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and we sell exclusively natural wine. And we also ship nationwide. Yeah, so that’s what I do.

Charles Springfield 1:49
Yeah, well, thanks a lot. Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here. So my name is Charles Springfield. I am a certified sommelier based in New York City. I’ve been teaching wine classes for about 10 years. And outside of doing wine classes, before COVID of course, my job was to do a lot of in personal wine classes, wine events, wine dinners, corporate events, but now my wine world has gone online for the most part. So a lot of Zoom classes, a lot of IG lives. But still some fun education. And then I wrote to wine education books, one is called The Less Is More Approach To Wine. So a general wine education, broad-based for beginners and intermediates. And then last year, during COVID, I released a new book all about rose, called Maneuvering Rose Wine with Style. So that was my COVID creation last year.

Layla Schlack 2:41
So we’re not here to pick aside, I’m an equal opportunity wine drinker. But certainly, natural wine evokes strong feelings in people, it gets people really fired up. I would love to hear what some of the preconceptions or misconceptions you hear out there in the field are about natural wine.

Meri Lugo 3:00
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I, I love all wine. We all, sort of like you said, are equal opportunity lovers of wine. But of course, personally speaking, I drink a ton of natural wine, I talk about natural wine, I think about natural wine a ton in my life, and in my career. And I have, from personal experience, I do encounter a fair amount of just misconceptions about natural wine that it’s all funky, which I think can be sort of a catch all for, you know, maybe flavors that feel unfamiliar or feel hard to pin down or it’s all sort of avant garde, it’s all, you know, kind of experimental, weird styles of wine, which is true. And those can be really delicious and fun, and interesting. But there’s also a ton of classic wine that is natural, that sort of Incidentally natural in a more traditional way, but would we cater to more classic palates, I would say.

Charles Springfield 4:01
And from my point of view, from working with a lot of consumers just doing classes across the board, I’ve worked with a lot of producers that produce, of course, traditional wines, natural wines, organic wines, orange wines. But a lot of times some of the most outlandish things I hear is like the concept of biodynamics is that it’s kind of witchcraft, and people just really don’t understand it. And it’s kind of fun to explain, but even with that, when you talk about some of the details that go into the farming, it kind of throws people for a loop. And so and then also that those terms of being funky can be polarizing for people because, you know, those may be unfamiliar flavors and smells that may be kind of off-putting to them, but it actually can be a characteristic that winemaker really loves. So it can be kind of almost offensive to a person who really works hard to produce these really interesting, unique wines. So I think, as a wine educator, I want to be also educated about natural mind more, because I know there’s not a real definition yet, like a legal definition. So I think we also have to be wine students of natural wine or just wine in general and keep an open mind and an open palate.

Meri Lugo 5:15
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, Charles. Some natural wine tastes a little different than conventional wine, and so if you’re a consumer who’s maybe being introduced to natural wine for the first time, kind of dipping a toe in that water, you maybe aren’t able to really put words to some of the sensations or some of the tastes that you’re having, and they’re just sort of new. And, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. They’re just sort of they’re a new taste, or a new flavor profile that you’re experiencing, especially if you’ve only had one type of wine or one style of wine in the past.

Layla Schlack 5:49
Oh, that’s a really great point. I think a key thing to think about is just expanding your palate overall, right? If your experience with wine is limited, anything really different, natural or not, might catch you off guard, it might taste a little off. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but flavor profiles aside, do you think there’s kind of a social status, cultural signifier thing going on with natural wine, you know, good, bad or indifferent? And to that point, if you’re a producer, does that make you worried about labeling your wine as natural? Do you think that you’re going to be worried about scaring off customers who don’t want to be kind of part of that world?

Meri Lugo 6:26
Right. Yeah, I think about natural wine, you know, it has a lot of cultural cachet right now. As you said, there’s lots of think pieces about natural wine. But ultimately, it is the original way that anyone made wine, right? Hundreds of years ago, there weren’t chemicals in the same way that they are now. Industrialized farming wasn’t what it is now. So this is sort of the way that wine was made then. And so a lot of the sort of the, the legendary producers that everybody loves that people really look up to that they collect, a lot of them are biodynamic or they are organic, because they’ve always been that way. Because their their families for generations have made wine that way. And so they just sort of happened to be natural. And this sort of new concept of natural wine and the cultural cachet around natural wine has swept them up in that movement. So, you know, I think it’s just a testament to the fact that there is there’s sort of the cultural idea of natural wine, and then there’s wine that sort of made naturally, and always has been made that way. And that’s sort of, I think, the idea of natural wine that a lot of people in the natural wine community really identify with, as opposed to sort of like the trendy fashionable, kind of concept of natural wine.

Charles Springfield 7:49
Yeah, just to piggyback off of that, I think, although even myself, I take wine in the romantic sense, you know, it is a really sensual, very, you know, fun, jovial kind of beverage. But we also don’t think this is also a business. So some of those barriers of getting certified are too high for some of our smaller producers, because those certifications are pretty expensive. And as Meri said, sometimes they’ve always been doing this, and so they don’t feel the need to label it, especially for the added expense. And it’s exactly true, because we are now thinking about what we are consuming more and more even from just like a food and beverage perspective, what kind of additives, what kind of pesticides and things like that. And it’s only natural or normal, no pun intended, but normal for people to think about what’s in their wine. And so I think some of the confusion happens though, when people who are kind of new to the wine industry start to use other labels, they add more confusion. You know, like paleo wine, dry fine wine, clean wine. It adds more and more confusion to this topic that is already kind of confusing in the first place. So I think as we get closer to a definition, and talk about, you know, low intervention wine, or organic or biodynamic farmed wine and specialize or focus on the farming aspect of wine, I think we can kind of bring people closer into what they are looking for, from a more natural perspective when it comes to their wine.

Meri Lugo 9:27
I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, I think you have people who are overly dogmatic and are sort of missing the forest for the trees and are really, you know, very rule based about sulfur usage or about certification, these sort of like a very esoteric ideas that can be quite alienating for the consumer. But at its heart, it’s just you know, truly about wine and about expressing terroir and drinking delicious wine from people who are making it honestly, and I think, you know, the more that we can focus on that as opposed to the sort of divisive parts of it are the parts that feel more kind of about culture, about status or about consumption and conspicuous consumption, then that feels less like the true nature of natural wine.

Layla Schlack 10:13
So, and then on the flip side of that, you know, we do see sometimes these kind of conventional wines, luxury brands, super high end, you know, have plenty of kind of cult status and cultural cachet of their own. And some of them are farm organically and some of them follow biodynamic practices, and some of them are using wild yeast and all of these other terms that we associate with natural wine, and they’re not marketing that way. Why do you think that is? Do you think they’re worried that their customers might be turned off by the idea of natural wine?

Meri Lugo 10:48
Yeah, I think that’s a good question. I came across, in my travels, you know, Cristal made a biodynamic wine. And it was advertised as such, but like you said, it wasn’t you know, the lead. When people think of Cristal they don’t think of biodynamics. And I think that because natural wine, for better for worse, is kind of cultural shorthand for this kind of like, hippie or this sort of, like, luxury elite product, but kind of like this sort of hippie dippie, you know, like coastal elite thing then it can be less come less compatible with, like you said, the superduper luxury brands that are a little bit more conventional. So, yeah, I think that definitely kind of speaks to the fact that natural wine is still something that people don’t truly understand and that they still have some have some misgivings about perhaps. But, you know, I think ultimately, it also on the flip side shows that, you know, why did Cristal do that? Probably because it tastes better, right? It’s probably as a more delicious product. And I think that the proof is in the pudding there. Whether or not it is translated in a commercial way.

Charles Springfield 12:08
Yeah, and I agree 100%. I think sometimes, you know, while people are looking for more natural wine options, a lot of times people are still very either intimidated or confused by it. And it can be turned off by the whole notion. So I think some larger producers may be playing it a little bit safe from a marketing perspective, but playing it safe in the wild by doing the biodynamic production, which actually enhances the product.

Meri Lugo 12:38
Why do you think that people who would, you know, perhaps, like buy Cristal or drink Cristal would not would not want to drink natural wine? Do you feel like it’s because they think it’s an inferior product even if it’s not? Or is it the cultural part of it? What do you what do you think it is?

Charles Springfield 12:54
Well, I think it could be the, the cultural situational aspect of drinking Cristal. If you’re kind of celebrating or you’re living the highlife, you know, you don’t really want to have vegan crackers, and you know, whatever, paleo appetizers? Yeah, so I think, I think it goes hand in hand with that. I think, if you think about if you haven’t fun in the moment, sometimes, like healthy and all this kind of other stuff kind of goes out the window, you know, when you’re kind of celebrating? And so maybe that could be the reason for that. But, you know, I think collectively as we do pay attention to more about our food and wine consumption and what’s in it. You know, I think about the ramifications after this industrial agricultural revolution, you know, after World War II, all these chemicals that have been sprayed all over our farmland and vineyards, the backlash. And then what we what have we been ingesting and drinking all this time? So I think it is a movement that people want to get back into, like, I want to know, I want some transparency, I want to know what I’m putting in my body.

Meri Lugo 14:03
Absolutely, absolutely. I think that’s totally true. Yeah. Like you were saying, it’s like, you’re sort of trying to splurge a little better, you’re celebrating, and there’s something about natural and it feels a little virtuous, right? It feels like you’re maybe you know, there is that sort of common misconception that drinking natural wine gives you less of a hangover or you know, gives you as headaches, which is like, remains to be seen and I know is like some people feel that way, some people don’t. The jury’s out on that. But there is something that feels like, you know, you’re consuming in a more thoughtful way or maybe in a more intentional way. And whether or not that’s actually like the the reality that definitely is the perception that I’ve experienced at least, and I’m curious if you have too. That if the consumers and drinkers feel that they’re kind of doing something a little bit more virtuous and a little bit better for themselves and for the planet, perhaps, when they are drinking natural wine and buying natural wine.

Charles Springfield 14:55
Yeah, I get this question all the time in wine classes. You know, I had this wine last night, or the night before and I had a headache and my body ached and, you know, I just gotta stay away from sulfites and all this other stuff. And I have to tell people, you know, we are all different from our body makeup and biodiversity. So winemay affect you a little bit differently than affects me, although we should worry about those kind of things, but also it’s an education of what actually are the most common elements in wind and how does your body react to it? You know, people react to ethanol in certain ways. You know, I grew up with asthma. So, you know, when I was growing up, and my doctors would tell my mom that had to be worried about my wine consumption because the sulfites may affect my respiratory issue, my asthma, but thank God that that doesn’t happen. I’d have to find a new career. Yeah, so it’s fine with me. So I think you know, people who have very sensitive allergies to sulfites, then you have to worry about those kind of things. But overall, the education to tell people, you know, sometimes it could be histamines in the wine that you have a bad reaction to it. Maybe you’ve got to drink something, like drink water or eat some food in between, you know, it could be a lot of different things.

Meri Lugo 16:16
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Hydration is always key.

Charles Springfield 16:19
Yes. Now, what about you? Do you think people drink natural wine more because they feel there’s no added sulfites or a lot of people think there’s no sulfites at all. But is that the reason why a lot of people shop with you and buy wines?

Meri Lugo 16:35
Yeah, I think it’s two pronged, I think one is yes, I think they feel like it’s better for their bodies. They, you know, either whether it’s real or imagined they feel like it doesn’t have quite as much of an effect on them. So we do have a lot of customers ask for either, you know, no sulfite wines, which is impossible, because sulfites just naturally occur, or no sulfur wines, which of course we have. And then so there’s that. And so I do think that, you know, people feel a little bit better about having a bottle, maybe drinking a whole bottle in one night, if it’s natural, quote unquote. And also, you know, and I truly believe this, is that it tastes better. It’s a more alive product, it’s more delicious, it’s more vibrant. It is more reflective of where it comes from, and the variety it’s from and, you know, the the winemaker and the producer who made it. All of those things feel much more easy to get in touch with and to perceive when you’re talking about natural wine, as opposed to wine that’s been manipulated or had sort of other corrections to it, if you will. So I think it’s that they reinforce each other. But I think that they both play a significant part in people’s attraction to to natural wine, for sure.

Charles Springfield 18:02
And I’ve had some classes, I’ve had a lot of success with natural wines, especially orange wines, well, not not all orange wines and natural wines. But I’ve had a lot of success with orange wines when it comes to food and wine pairings. Because a lot of times those flavors and aromas that people may not be familiar with, they actually really work well with food. And they’re really surprised, you know, sometimes they smell this wine and taste it like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this thing.’ And then you know, you pair it with a nice piece of like charcuterie or like a kind of harder to pair cheese, like Mimolette and then they fall in love with it. And I think that is a gateway to getting people into natural wines, especially if they don’t consider it and especially if it’s never on their radar. So it’s a nice way just kind of teach them how food and wine works together. And then help them enjoy it in a different way. Especially because a lot of times, people will just drink wine on its own and not have food. I always encourage food and especially to get the most out of your natural wine. I think food is always an amazing complement to it.

Meri Lugo 19:07
Totally, totally. As someone who tastes a lot of wine during the day it can be, you know, you get that palate fatigue and it is so helpful to just have you know, a bite of something, a piece of cheese, a piece of bread, just something to kind of like wake up your palate in a different way when you’re talking about food and wine together. And I totally agree with you. I love skin contact wine as a food pairing. That sort of like gentle tannins and the aromatics and the texture they all like just sing with food, I just love it. And I think the same thing is true for other kind of hallmarks of natural wine like pet nat or wines that have a little VA that are maybe a little tangy or kind of like funky to use that over-used word again. But those characteristic those flavor profiles are maybe a little unfamiliar and maybe a little intense if you’re just drinking them on their own. Although I could definitely you know, I could drink a bottle of pet net in a sitting. They’re just so tasty with food. They really are meant to be a table wine. They’re meant to just be like enjoyed and celebrated over. So yeah, natural wine is really beautiful in that way and I that’s one of the things I love about it.

Charles Springfield 20:15
Yeah, and one thing just to go back on to the pet net, I think is like I love sparkling wines or anything with some fizz to it. And then just getting introduced to the whole pet nat method, ancestral style of wine, it was like amazing, because it opened up my availability of variety to wines I can have access to, and just really enjoy.Some of those are a little bit, you know, tart and tangy, almost like a sour beer, or like kombucha, but some of them are really soft and fruity. So they’re really fun to drink.

Meri Lugo 20:48
Absolutely. I love a little RS like a pet nat with just a bit of RS that just kind of softens it up a bit. It’s just like my favorite. So definitely looking forward to spring and having lots of pet nat.

Layla Schlack 21:00
So I want to dive in now to just kind of like the real nitty gritty kind of cultural cachet aspect here. And just why you think, you know, what your impressions are of kind of who thinks of themselves as a natural wine person, and why that might be a turnoff for some people? And, you know, does that build off of food culture at all, do you think? Or fashion or entertainment or anything like that?

Charles Springfield 21:33
Yeah, I know, for like, in New York, doing a lot of work in Tribeca, and then also being very close to Brooklyn, we have a lot of natural wine bars and natural wine stores. And I think a lot of times, the people, especially the Brooklynites, the Williamsburg people may may have that cachet of being like hipsters. And so you know, it’s like the cool kids, the thing to do, it’s a little bit a step from the norm. And then it’s almost like for a while, there was like a closely guarded secret, like I have something really interesting in the wine world and this is ours alone, until they start getting a little bit more mainstream. And then we get to the mainstream with celebrities now getting to the quote unquote, natural wine game. So I think sometimes that the negative cachet when it comes to hipsters, and then that maybe the the backlash from some celebrity endorsements, could be a turnoff for some people.

Layla Schlack 22:31
Yeah, that makes sense. And I, right like, the people who maybe were drawn to it initially, because it was something kind of outside of the norm, might not really like seeing it become this more mainstream product. Even though the process to make it hasn’t changed, right? Like it hasn’t become mainstream in how it’s produced because it can’t be. Like that’s part of what makes it natural wine is that it’s fairly small batch. Do you think there’s that sort of cultural perception on the other side of people who maybe don’t consider themselves into natural wine or have enjoyed wines that they don’t think of as natural, but they’re not really drawn to that world?

Meri Lugo 23:12
Yeah, I think I definitely agree with Charles. I mean, at this point, the concept of natural wine is almost a cliche, right. It’s like there’s sort of a parody of the cool, Brooklynite, who who likes natty wine. You know, that’s definitely something that I feel very self aware about as somebody who loves central wines and works in natural wine. But I think on the other side, you know, there are a lot of naysayers about natural wine, people who like to kind of play into that stereotype, and to kind of like, mock that sort of that figure and kind of overplay it. And I mean, ultimately, for the last several decades, the conventional wine world was made up of mostly white men who were sort of the gatekeepers and they decided what something tasted like, right? They decided what the correct way something tasted like. So if it had a fault, these were the faults and this was not allowed. This was rejected or considered not commercially viable. And I think there is something that feels really exciting and transgressive, about the natural wine world, even though it is becoming more mainstream. You know, it started out as a small movement. And people are having conversations in the natural wine world that we’re not really seeing in the rest of the world about access, about sustainability, about just visibility of underrepresented communities and underrepresented people. And kind of expanding the accessibility of taste and also the accessibility of wine itself. And, you know, it’s far from perfect, and it is a conversation that continues to happen needs to continue to happen. But it’s a conversation that I think is happening more in the natural wine world. It makes the thought leaders in the conventional world uncomfortable, I would say, to be frank.

Layla Schlack 25:07
I’m glad you brought up kind of that inclusivity aspect because I even think of it in terms of like when we talk about tasting notes, and even that idea of wines that are funky that you brought up, like tasting notes are a cultural frame of reference, right? Like they are based on what you eat. Do you think there’s room for natural wine to kind of redefine that vocabulary to kind of redefine how we evaluate wine?

Charles Springfield 25:33
Absolutely, 100% I think with natural wine and also more diversity of consumers and more diversity of professional wine professionals. I think we are working together collectively to enhance and expand how we talk about wine. I think from a natural wine perspective, you know, some of those flaws we talked about, in some ways the worst or deemed flaws, or can be flaws at some point. You know, some are flaws, and some things are just traits that are unique to these different grape varietals and production styles and things like that. But I think as we expand our exposure to these aromas and flavors, you know, we can we can draw conclusions to other things. We talked about, you know, some orange wines or natural wines, smelling like kombucha or tasting a kombucha, or like a sour beer, or like a hot toddy, like my grandmother used to make, you know, all these different cultural and memories, you know, we can add to the vocabulary of how we describe wine overall.

Meri Lugo 26:38
Absolutely. And I think, based on I mean, just jumping off of what you had said earlier, Charles about food pairings, I mean, it’s not a coincidence that you see a lot of natural wine being paired with food that is sort of not deemed as sort of like the prestigious food, right? So it’s like, these sort of unconventional pairings of, you know, just non classic European cuisines and how incredibly delicious and just beautiful they are with these kinds of wines. I think that’s not a coincidence. And that’s really those are the strides that are, the movements that are happening in the natural wine world. They’re not really happening in the conventional world, right? You have like your Burgundy and your pasta, or your Sauternes in your foie gras. Those things have sort of already been done and they’ve like they’re very set in stone. Whereas like having something that has some RS or has those sort of funky and acidic and grippy and aromatic qualities can just be incredible with cuisines that are very underappreciated, in the wine world at least.

Charles Springfield 27:42
Yeah, I have, I’ve had a lot of success with pet nets and pork tacos, or orange wines with the Korean barbecue, you know, all kinds of fun stuff. It goes off the beaten path of what we consider traditional. But as we expand and become more diverse, it becomes more traditional as we move forward in the wine world.

Layla Schlack 28:02
You think for people who are newer to wine that’s also appealing and that like they’re not coming in and breaking rules, right? Like nobody’s coming in and saying, hey, instead of, instead of pairing, oysters on the half shell with Muscadet, let’s put this sauce on it that contains ingredients that are you know, cultural for me. It’s starting something new. So there, do you think there’s kind of less resistance, and that’s appealing to people?

Charles Springfield 28:30
I think it’s I think it bridges people to wine. I think it connects them more with wine, it makes wine more accessible. To me, it makes it more fun and familiar, when they can pair it with something they grew up with or they love to eat on a regular basis that may be outside of oysters, or foie gras or coq au vin or something like that, for sure.

Meri Lugo 28:51
Right. I completely agree. I mean, I think if you are a complete newbie to wine, you maybe are kind of across the board intimidated by wine, because it can be scary, it can be intimidating, it can feel really, you know, inaccessible. But I think in my personal experience, the individual who feels the most skeptical of natural wine is probably the one that has some sort of experience or some sort of investment in an emotional or, you know, experience way to the conventional wine world. But if you’re like completely fresh, clean slate, you probably are like gonna dig a pet nat because you have never learned that it’s like inferior to Champagne, for instance, which is obviously not true. But like, these rules, you don’t know that you’re breaking them because you didn’t realize that they were rules in the first place.

Layla Schlack 29:40
Right and and you know, I think also for people who are just learning about wine, it can feel like unnatural and there aren’t rules like and this is something I’ve heard from kind of both sides of this divide is that people who, like you said people who are invested and have come up with this traditional wine education, feel like if somebody is new to wine and they’re just learning about it, but they’re learning about it through natural wine, they’re going to learn it wrong, right? Like, they’re not going to know the standards that we have. And depending on which way you’re coming at it from that can be very good or very bad.

Meri Lugo 30:13
But again, I think that’s, that’s coming from a perspective, where there’s only one way to taste wine, there’s only one way to make wine, right? Like, wine has to taste like this, as opposed to having taste be subjective. And, you know, like, people who are skeptics of natural wine, I find get very caught up on this sort of concept of faults, right? It’s like, this is faulty wine. Like people are drinking faulty wine don’t even know it’s faulty, and that’s like not okay. As opposed to, there’s more than one way to taste wine, like wine can have a little bread, and it’s not the end of the world, like wine can be reductive or have some VA, and you know, it’s about what works for you. And it’s about what pairing works for you and what you find to be delicious. And, you know, I think that can feel really empowering, but also sort of upsetting and can be kind of destabilizing for, like you said, the more sort of traditional, wine educated person.

Layla Schlack 31:09
So I mean, to me, what it sounds like is that there’s kind of two forces at play that have created this divide. And one is just sort of tribalism, right? Like, we like to be able to say, these are my people, because we like the same things. And and the other is that it’s really kind of a changing of the gard, it’s really kind of pushing back against these ideas that we’ve had. And in the US, we haven’t had them for that long, like wine culture is relatively young. These are ideas that we’ve had for a generation, give or take, about traditional lines, and what’s good and what’s bad. Do you guys see any outliers to that or or forces that play beyond those?

Charles Springfield 31:53
I think when we take a look at the larger wine world, the history of wine, and we have to think we have to realize that everything has changed, you know, from thousands and thousands of years ago, and things will continue to change. I mean, we’ve always had some climate change issues that affected vineyards, we’ve had phylloxera that devastated grapes or made them extinct. Now, we’re really focusing on global warming, and a lot of our vineyards becoming too warm, so there’s a change in new planting rules and guidelines for especially European producers. But in the US, of course, we have a lot more flexibility. But I think it also prepares us for more change. Because we will have to face it, at some point. The wine world will continue to change. And I think this is a nice way, a nice little dial shift to get us ready for more change that will happen. Because whatever we consider traditional may be at one point ancient. We may have a whole new world of wine in the next 50 years.

Meri Lugo 32:58
Absolutely, yeah, I mean, wine that was made in a specific place. 20 years ago, will never taste like that way ever again, you know, in the history of the world, right? Which is kind of hard to wrap your mind around. And so yeah, I think the more that we can widen the acceptability of what wine is, and access of wine, and you know, the rules of wine, the better because, like Charles said, things are going to continue to change. The only constant we’re going to see over the next generation is going to be more change in the wine world, and in the wine producing areas of the world. So it’s a lot to sort of process and to think about it once. But I think the movement is going to go to like less rules, I’m hoping, and more accessibility and more of a broadening scope of what wine can be and should be.

Layla Schlack 33:57
Well, I think that’s a great note to end on. And certainly, I’m ready for a glass of wine. But yeah, I mean, we always tell people drink what you love. And I think an added lesson in here is drink what you love, whether it’s natural or not, but also continue expanding your palate, continue growing your frame of reference for wine because it’s all changing so quickly, now more than ever, with climate change. So I want to thank you both again for this fantastic chat. And cheers. Thanks, guys.

Lauren Buzzeo 34:29
So there you have it, the lowdown on why natural wine can be so divisive. But at the end of the day, appreciation for natural wine doesn’t have to be so extreme one way or another. And we hope that you got some useful tips and insights from our guests today on how to wade into the natty wine world and embrace the best that category has to offer. Subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts. If you like today’s episode, we’d love to read your review and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out too. You can also drop us a line at For more wine reviews, recipes, guides, deep dives and stories, visit Wine Enthusiast online at and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @WineEnthusiast. The Wine Enthusiast Podcast is produced by Lauren Buzzeo and Jenny Groza. Until next episode, cheers.

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