Wine writer Alice Feiring responds to Wine Pass's questions about organic and natural wines in Piedmont. This is the first part in a two-part series; click here for part two.
Alice Feiring, a critically-acclaimed wine writer and author, winner of the James Beard Award and Louis Roederer Award, as well as nominee for the International Feature Wine Writer of 2011, recently visited Italy this April. Alice answered our questions about her view on natural wines in Piedmont, her writing career, and what she thinks of her book Naked Wine being translated into Italian.
She filled us in on her most recent travels, wineries visited, and how she wishes she could visit Piedmont more often, the region of the some of her fondest wine memories. We invite her back to visit any time.
Ms. Feiring, what are the different wineries and towns you've had the chance to visit while in Piedmont?
“Trinchero in Asti, San Fereolo in Dogliani. In Barolo, Mascarello, Canonica and Rinaldi, and this fabulous vignaiolo right outside of La Morra who makes extraordinary wine, Lorenzo Accomasso. He was a real discovery, and he doesn't export to the United States, so that is so unfortunate.”
Have you come across wineries making natural wine in Piedmont?
“Everyone I've mentioned is pretty much natural or natural enough. When I was last here seven years ago there were very few working this way and now it's growing rapidly. It's really tremendously different. This revival was just starting when I was last here.”
Do you see the interest in natural wine more as a fad, or the real thing, something with potential to grow?
“Drinkers are looking for a more natural wine that isn’t tricked up. Actually, I don't think that people ever stopped wanting that kind of wine, but the others, the big, new-oaky fruit bombs became practically the only ones on the market. Some of the best letters I received after I wrote the book, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization, had statements like, “I thought there was something wrong with me that I hated those big wines. I never knew these more natural wines existed.” Yes, the increase of winemakers making wine more naturally is growing and the market for them is growing. It is the same with the return to “slow” and organic food. I can't call a return to sanity a fad. The best wines are delicious. So no, I don't think it's a fad, it just makes more variety in the wine world.”
You mentioned authentic wines, and I noted in one of your recent articles Bored of Bordeaux: “When real people make real wines, authenticity can be found.” What is an authentic wine?
“It is doing the absolute utmost not to change the quality of the wine by additives or extreme technique. So it's not making a wine for a market, but making a wine that's expressive of its place.”
“When I was last here seven years ago there were very few Piedmontese wineries working with natural wines and now it's growing rapidly. It's really tremendously different."
I understand that you had a winemaking experience. Did you do it all-natural?
“Ultimately, it wasn’t my wine to sell, so there were limits to how natural I could go. But, it was more natural than that winery had ever seen, that's for sure. So it was natural fermentations (alcoholic and malolactic.) No additives, except water. It's not legal in Italy, nor in California, but it is done there anyway to reduce alcohol. But at about 60ppm, it had too much sulfur for my desire. I took it as far as I could take it.”
And how did it turn out in the end?
“I was actually pretty pleased with it. It had good sagrantino character and pretty expressive of place.”
Is there a future in there for you?
“No. (laughs) I'd be much happier working in the vines than making wine. Though, if I had the opportunity to have a small hectare and a half that I could take care of all myself, who knows. But I'm a writer, not a winemaker.”
“Drinkers are looking for a more natural wine that isn’t tricked up. Actually, I don't think that people ever stopped wanting that kind of wine, but the others, the big, new-oaky fruit bombs became practically the only ones on the market."
What is the most memorable bottle of wine you've ever drunk?
“It was a 1968 Giovanni Scanavino Barolo that I tasted in 1980. It was the wine that really made me realize wine has the power to move you. It probably gave me my connection to Piemonte. It was the reason that I had to come the first time, and again and again and again. I love this region.”
If you had a faucet that poured out only one kind of wine whenever you wanted, what would it be and why?
“That's such a hard question! First of all I don't like the concept of a faucet for wine. But if I had to choose (this is apolitical because it's not going to be a Piedmontese wine), it would be Gamay from the Loire region. Those wines I can drink every day. From here? Probably Pelaverga, easy to drink, it has that deliciousness going for it, without being simple-minded.”
TO BE CONTINUED...
- How to Travel with Wine: Your Most Common Questions about Taking Alcohol on a Plane, Answered
- "I have a huge crush on Piemonte:" Food Blogger Mariachiara Montera
- Suzanne Hoffman: The Unsung Heroines Behind Piemonte's Wine
- Monica Larner: Piemonte must resist the fast lane & age its wines slowly
- Tom Hyland: The Push for Excellence is Found in Piemonte