At a dinner party once, an actor from Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company told me that there was really only one way to deal with an awful performance by a friend. When you met him or her backstage, you said, “I thought your interpretation”—of Hamlet, Blanche DuBois, a talking dog, whatever—“was really very interesting.”
This is how I have long felt about “natural” wines. The natural wine movement believes in minimal human intervention: no chemicals of any kind, no yeasts that came out of a factory, little or no sulfur as a preservative, no oak, no filtering and the least amount of technology possible. Adherents are big on things like draft horses and amphorae; reverse osmosis machines and color-intensifying enzymes are the work of the devil.
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Don’t get me wrong: Philosophically and even morally it’s all very appealing. I just think that the wines, more often than not, taste like hell. Yet many people I respect love these wines. I’ll ask a somm pal at a downtown New York City restaurant to pour me something he or she thinks is amazing, and out will come some sort of cloudy, algae-smelling weirdness that seems like it was made by unwashed French hobbits. I’ll drink my glass and then, because I have good manners, when asked about it I’ll say, “You know, that is really very interesting.”