Imagine a soft evening light. The hills covered with vineyards draw a black, undulating line on the canvas of a pink and orange sky. You are back home after a walk along the path that descends from the woods, and a magnificent bottle of red wine is waiting for you.
You pour a glass, and examine its garnet, brilliant color. You are not in a hurry, and you decide to take your time to savor that ruby liquid, fruit of a know-how that has been handed down through the generations. You vaguely remember the concepts learned in the tasting course you followed many years ago in the big city, in a time and a place that now seem light years away. You bring the glass to the nose and strive to seize all the olfactory notes. You think to perceive the rose and the violet, and perhaps even some red fruits. But also a mineral undertone. After all, this was to be expected considering the soil composition, you think congratulating yourself with your discerning insight. And finally you savor a generous swig. Immediately, you feel the alcoholic warmth, but also the typical balsamic flavors of this land of smooth hills, which can be rough and rocky up there, close to the tops. You think how that simple glass of wine is the result of infinite variables: climate, soil, grape variety, age of the plants, exposure, timing of the work in the vineyard, aging, and much more, and you realize that the pleasure you feel is due to cultural factors, to the incredibly complex world and the fascinating history you imagine concentrated in that bottle.
Good. Now let’s consider what probably lies behind your experience. The bright color? Obtained thanks to the use of bentonite or animal gelatins. The aromatic scents? Derived from selected yeast developed by the biochemical industry, and from pectolytic enzymes that facilitate the extraction of the aromas. The acidity? Suitably increased by adding tartaric acid, or decreased using potassium bicarbonate. The roundness and softness? Enhanced by gum arabic. The aging in oak barrels? Replaced by chips and powders. The stability? Guaranteed by generous doses of preservatives.
The industrial production of wine, which has established itself over the past decades, can count on about fifty authorized chemical additives and multiple invasive physical procedures (eg cross-flow filters or “flash pasteurization”) to achieve virtually any outcome from any grape everywhere in the world. This has important consequences. First, the wine produced – or rather artificially planned and constructed – in this way has lost any link with the territory of origin and the local wine tradition. The ability to manipulate wine favored over time only a few dominant tastes that do not displease anyone and that are reproduced unchanged year after year, influencing the taste of the average consumer, who is no longer able to appreciate strong flavors and racy characters. In turn, the average taste of the public influences the wine industry, which must sell hundreds of millions of bottles per year and cannot afford surprises. The end result of this vicious circle is an increasingly standardized and insignificant wine. Finally, are we sure that this abundance of chemicals, used both for the cultivation of the grapes and for the wine manipulation, is just healthy?
Now go back in imagination to that evening, with your glass of ruby liquid in hand, and ask yourself: does all this make sense? If your answer is no, then you can begin your discovery of natural wines.