Chapoutier has always been good for denouncing the incompetent, the foolish, the bureaucratic, and it is quite easy to stoke his fires. However, the subject of les vins naturels — essentially, organic wines that have gone to the next level of having no sulphur in them – brings out a fearsome display of bile from the pocket dynamo. ‘Using no sulphur dioxide is a connerie – it is rubbish,’ he declares. ‘It’s like making vinegar, bad vinegar. How can anyone allow toxic yeasts to develop so that these inhabit the wine? The polemic on this is intolerable – and I’m tired of the diktat of these hippies who are from another world. It is extraordinary that people defend products with defects on the grounds that in the past growers were making wines with defects, so that is good, or natural. Those old wines had defects because people lacked the tools and means not to make fault-free wines.’
Mr. Chapoutier, a winemaker of means and accomplishment, is cosseted and secure in his beliefs about correct wine, and yet here he is, getting his panties in a tight bunch about the practices of an insignificant group of marginal hippie winemakers. Clearly, the brand of conventional wine is so fragile and easily tarnished that it demands a vigorous expression of revulsion—infidels!—to preserve the integrity of the sacristy. It is fun game to heap calumny upon a target with no name, to immolate nameless straw men. Mr. Chapoutier’s laughable focus on sans soufre wines is an ignorant reduction, as only a very few natural winegrowers have gone down that path—but what does Mr. Chapoutier care? He is a coward, lacking the balls to name a single hippie wine or vigneron, and is capable of engaging in dialog only with himself.
The dire picture, drawn by Mr. Chapoutier, is of hippie barbarians at the gate, positioned to sucker an entire generation of wine drinkers into accepting lousy, flawed wine because us poor, deluded rubes know no better. Alternatively, perhaps natural winegrowers are indeed hippies from another world: a world that Mr. Chapoutier will not or cannot understand. May I suggest to Mr. Chapoutier, if he is so tired of the imagined diktats of Stalinoid naturalistas, that he fortify himself with a double espresso and fasten his seatbelt; it’s going to be a bumpy night!