I've been doing some translation for the AVN (Association des Vins Naturels), and I just finished translating this article, which is an old text dating back to the 1930's or so, some advice from a winemaker to his friends. I think the article is a really fun read, for a couple of reasons. For one, it's amazing how accurate it is to the current thinking about natural wines, and really about how to store and drink all wines in general. I also love the occasional antiquated term, especially the importance of keeping horse stable odors out of your wine cellar. I mean, everybody knows you don't let your horse poop where you drink, right?
I think it' also somewhat of a window into the thinking about medicine and nutrition, before we got all caught up with modern science, Michael Pollan's "nutritionism" and all the food studies that overload us every day. Some of it may be accurate, and some of it may be pure magical thinking, but I like thinking about wine as "bottled sunshine."
I hope you enjoy the read. I'm working on translating AVN's site bit by bit, so hopefully eventually the whole thing will be available in English. Here's the full english translation now, and it'll show up on AVN sometime soon:
I discovered this superb text, written by Louis de la Barronie, which dates back to the time bewteen World War I and II. It is is a summarized version taken from a booklet provided by Chateau Laroque, at the time. I transcribed a copy kindly given to me by Jacques a few years ago. The domaine been organic since 1987 and biodynamic since 1993.
I find that it has a surprising amount of accuracy and common sense. There isn't much to add, other than that it is valuable information for all "natural" wines. I hope that these counsles of a winemaker to his friends inspires you and assures your bottles are kept in good condition to share with your friends. Happy reading.
Francois Dumas, member of AVN, and wine merchant in Japan.
Le Vin Nature
TOKYO / JAPAN
Advice from a Winemaker to his Friends
How to buy, treat , and drink wine.
Louis de la Bardonnie
Owner - Winemaker
Teleph. No. 3 - St. Anthony of Breuilh (Dordogne)
To start, what is wine?
Wine is the product of complete or incomplete fermentation of pure fresh grape juice.
The complete fermentation, ie the total transformation of the sugar content of grape juice into alcohol, makes dry red and white wines. Incomplete fermentation, which preserves some of the sugar of grapes, makes half sweet, sweet, and very sweet white wines depending on the proportion of sugar.
Everyone knows that this drink - following varietals and terroir - varies in taste, if not in appearance, but few know the elements that make "the healthiest and most hygienic of beverages" according to Pasteur.
A little bit of medicine
Wine has been attacked because it contains alcohol, but can we say that wine has the same effect as a solution containing 10% alcohol? Who can argue against this?
The denigration of wine in the past has been due to the disastrous effects of fraud and the presence of bad products on the market.
So, drink only wine guaranteed PURE and NATURAL, and insist that your provider has paid for a formal guarantee on his invoices.
"Wine is the best way for healthy people to avoid becoming sick, and for the sick, the best way to regain strength and health," says Dr. Goizet of the Faculty of Paris. Indeed, all the major functions of organic chemistry are represented in wine ,and no substance in our food offers, through this point of view, such beneficent complexity.
It is a living solution, an environment for chemical equilibrium vitalized by its yeast, its enzymes and its richness in vitamins. The acids in wine have the most beneficial effects on digestion and have a powerful bactericidal action. Glycerin combines with phosphates to form glycerophosphates, essential for the bones. The organic phosphate found in wine is alive and does not behave the same as the dead phosphates sold in products pushed as medicine. The assimilation of these organic elements into the body is complete and its effects are much more active.
Among the many salts contained in wine, bitartrate of potassium has a favorable influence on the blood system and sulphate of potassium is a useful diuretic.
The ancients, from experience, noticed that aged wine was a valuable element in any recovery.
Wine is, of all things we consume, richest in the infinitely small minerals and all the chemical and magnetic particles found in the analysis of the solar spectrum.
It contains all these elements in a living form. There is sun inside the grape juice and we can say that the wine is in fact, bottled sunshine. This is not only a metaphor, but the definition of a real thing.
For your enjoyment and your health, drink wine, but wine guaranteed as natural stating on its invoice "completely pure juice made from fresh grapes."
How to buy wine?
How to treat them?
How to drink them?
It happens very often that professional buyers are not sufficiently aware of differences between the wines of the same cru, ones made in a different year, or even between wines of the same vintages that are very different from each other. They often place their orders on the basis of memory alone.
Many have only sketchy ideas about how to treat the wine and may, by their inexperience, totally destroy wines of excellent quality.
It is unfortunate! Too often, for many, "to drink" is equivalent to "to swallow", anywhere, anyhow. Monumental mistakes can happen that deny buyers and their guests a considerable amount of pleasure.
It is to overcome these drawbacks in part that we wrote this little text, and we will be happy if reading it can help save you some hassle.
How to buy wine?
CHOICE OF WINES.
The personal taste of consumers comes here first, and the intended use of the wine. Ordinary table wine for everyday use, something a little more special for a small party or gathering, aged wine for the sick, summer wine, winter wine, fine bottles for large meals, etc ...
In red, we might like soft, light fruity wines, or we might like somewhat harsher wines, very full-bodied, needing many years in the bottle.
Lighter wines can be consumed fairly quickly, but are limited in time and fall rapidly after reaching their maximum smoothness.
Harsher wines, however, need time in the cellar, to digest the natural tannin that they have in surplus. They are a particularly popular subject for amateurs who want to build a "library" for special occasions.
It's a mistake to wait until the last minute to order wines. Transportation fatigues them and it is necessary to let rest for ten to twenty days before they will taste well.
How to care for wine?
If possible wines should be kept in a cool, constant temperature and free of odors (acids, oils, horse stables, etc. ...).
It is not enough that the original wine be healthy when it leaves the cellar of the producer. It is vital that someone who receives it knows how to watch over it and gives it all the necessary care.
Wine is a living thing that can not survive, without damage, changes in temperature or season. Therefore some precautions are necessary.
One must not alter the stone cellar. What matters above all is to avoid sunlight, because it breaks down the wine.
A constant temperature is required. In a cool cellar wines age perfectly, and very slowly. In a warm cellar, the wines age too quickly. Dry red wines may maderize, and sweet wines may begin to ferment again. As well, large temperature changes are very detrimental to good wines. A difference of 5 degrees between winter and summer is a maximum. The average optimum search is 12 degrees in winter to 17 degrees in summer.
The big pitfall to avoid is the proximity of boilers. White wines will ferment again and red wines will dry out when temperatures reach 25 ° to 30 °. No normal wine can survive these conditions.
In summary, one must place the bottles in a cool, constant temperature, which is dark and free of vibrations.
How to Drink Wine?
First, avoid agitation, always manipulating the bottle gently and carefully.
It's a mistake to believe that old fine wine can be drunk in any glass. Wine is best tasted in glasses made from pure crystal, which highlights its body and bouquet.
"The glass is made for wine, not wine for the glass."
Choose a wine glass that is large enough, very thin, clear, and bulging, whose sides are narrowing upwards, and do not pour the wine more than half way up the glass. The bouquet, hitherto prisoner, then emerges in good conditions. To appreciate it better yet, swirl the glass, and then breathe in the aromas. It is then that we see the pleasure of the palate is undeniable, because it allows one to find a thousand pleasing resemblances in these perfumes.
The temperature of the wine to be drank plays a prominent role in the taste and the pleasure that results.
White wine should be served chilled, but not too cold. If it is too cold, the flavors are hidden.
Red wines, in contrast to whites, must be drunk at room temperature. Room temperature means that they are not warmed at all.
If older wines, due to their advanced age, have a bit of deposits, we recommend putting the bottle upright for a day or two ahead so the deposits fall slowly to the bottom.
After carefully uncorking the bottle without jolting the wine, we must take great care to serve the wine carefully without shaking it.
And now, HOW TO FIND GOOD WINE?
This question is really the only interesting one to the consumer.
It is really unfortunate that wine, an essential element of good humor and a balanced temperament, rarely reaches consumers in its original pristine purity as the product of natural fermentation of fresh grape juice.
For reasons that have nothing to do with the interests of customers, it seems that it has been decreed that the wine must now be a product of chemistry, where the defects are corrected by ... other defects. The result is a "standard" drink that looks like wine and has the same color, but does not have the virtues of an authentic wine from France. This policy of mediocrity has polluted the taste of wine in poor for the consumer.
Nevertheless, we are still only people who sell the wine we harvest, and we sell it as the vine provides, producing a wine only from our terroir, with it its soft, velvety bouquet. It's a wine that is frank, pure, and natural, that is not made to burn the palette or the stomach. We can find wines that suit all kinds of taste and some are good for those who are health conscious. Those who wish to appreciate the delicious qualities of our excellent wines will find everything they need for celebrating, and will not only drink a healthy wine, but one that will go well with food and is guaranteed to made from pure fresh grape juice.
Personally, I want and am only able to provide natural product that I draw from my vines. I work with old vines exposed to the south, noble grape varieties, small yields, and small parcels receiving water only from the sky.
I offer it to you, with the certainty that you will find what you are looking for, if you want to stay faithful to the greater good, your health.