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Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking [Hardcover]

Jamie Goode , Sam Harrop
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2011
Naturalness is a hot topic in the wine world. But what exactly is a 'natural wine'? For this pioneering book, best-selling wine writer Jamie Goode has teamed up with winemaker and Master of Wine Sam Harrop to explore the wide range of issues surrounding authenticity in wine. They begin by emphasizing that wine's diversity, one of its strengths, is currently under threat from increasingly homogenized commercial wines that lack a sense of place. Drawing on a global array of examples and anecdotes, Goode and Harrop examine complex concepts - terroir, biodynamics, and sustainability - in clear language. They also discuss topics including cultured and wild yeasts, wine 'faults,' the carbon footprint of the wine industry, 'natural' as a marketing concept, and more. "Authentic Wine" illuminates a subject of great interest to wine producers, consumers, and anyone wondering where the wine industry is headed.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (2 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520265637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520265639
  • Product Dimensions: 25.9 x 18.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"A very good book... One of the more balanced and detailed accounts dealing with the issue of sustainable winemaking."- Robert M. Parker, Jr.--The Wine Advocate "An ocean's worth of savvy detail about both the more (organic farming, the endless shades of sustainability) and less (reverse osmosis, acidification) happy nuances of making wine." --San Francisco Chronicle

Offers an admirably cool and authoritative anaylsis...It's a serious book covering serious technical issues (Goode is a former science editor and Harrop a Kiwi winemaker) but it does so in a way that is very accessible without being patronising. --The Evening Standard

About the Author

Jamie Goode, a former scientific editor, is wine writer for the Sunday Express and a contributor to magazines including The World of Fine Wine and Wines & Vines. His website, www.wineanorak.com, is one of the world's most visited wine sites. His first book, The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass (UC Press) won the Glenfiddich Drink Book of the Year Award. Sam Harrop is a Master of Wine, qualified winemaker, and independent winemaking consultant. He co-founded Domaine Matassa and Litmus Wines, and is a co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.

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5.0 out of 5 stars well done 13 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well done Jamie and Sam
Complex issues explained in simple words, thank you. I can't wait for more books from you
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable 26 Aug 2013
By I. Darren TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Authentic or natural wine is a phrase that has yet to really establish a foothold in the consciousness of the typical wine consumer, yet it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for the wine world.
Commercial and consumer pressures might be facing a fight head on. Through this book the authors look at exactly what "authentic wine" is and how commercial interests seeking to push a series of standardised products could threaten a centuries-old tradition. The typical wine consumer might already think that they are fairly "green" by drinking wine. It comes from grapes and is a natural production isn't it? Yet many don't know that many popular wines are delivered in bulk tankers for eventual bottling and mass distribution. A carefully-crafted image perhaps hides the reality. Of course, many fine wines are hand-crafted, stored in gothic cellars for years and are real, true artisanal works... but you might see the difference in your pocket as well as in the taste.
This is an academically-focussed book, drilling down with precision into topics weighty such as biodynamics and organics, chemical and physical manipulation of wines and the carbon footprint (caused) by wine. Reading through the book certainly provokes thought, irrespective of which side of the fence you might find yourself on. What is really involved in the chain from field to table: is the source of raw ingredients sustainable? Just how much work is involved in production and transportation? Can demand create more problems along the way? And yet, many consumers believe they are being good, responsible citizens by remembering to take their wine bottles to the recycling bank - yet that is just a very small part of the overall puzzle.
Big business demands have it in their interest to have more harmonised, standard products.
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By JC
Format:Hardcover
even though i am still in the middle of reading it (75% completed), I am compelled to write a praise for this book. so far, i have found it to be an excellent recap of the most essential issues we should be concerned with as wine students and more importantly it provides a treasure trove of excellent "examples" (certainly helpful for a mw exam!!). clear, concise, and really very relevant to my wine studies. congratulations for a great & essential complement to my wine books library!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, well argued and highly educational 12 Feb 2012
By Patrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am surprised this book has not yet been reviewed. First of all, it should be said that this is not a ligt read. Many of the discussions require concentration and I found myself reading them several times to fully grasp what they were tying together. Tis book is more suited someone who is interested in learning about the science of wine faults,chemistry, in addition to details related to yeast, grafting, alcohol and ripeness, how wine can be manipulated, etc. the authors have done a good job looking at both sides of an argument.

I have learned a great deal from this book and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand things mentioned above. The issues are also timely and, while they are not always necessarily popular, they are topics that the wine industry should discuss. I have read several bloggers who are overly critical of this book and get hung up on a couple of controversial points (Tom Wark from Fermentation is one example).

Again, if you want to understand why you smell rubber, smoke or gooseberry in a wine, buy this book.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Science Yes, Marketing No 7 Mar 2012
By DPHBrooklyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This review first appeared in 205food.com

Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking is a title one might expect to find on an academic paper, presented at an obscure symposium, or perhaps at a wine industry conference. It is a yawner, isn't it? The book itself is not. The first and last portions of Authentic Wine, which try to define authentic wine and how it might be promoted, are not always well thought out. The authors' commitment to natural wine making sometimes seems a bit shaky, and their proposals rather naive. But in between the mildly polemical chapters is the broader portion of the book, more scientifically based, with interesting observations on such diverse topics as terroir, vine grafting, wild vs. cultured yeasts, and how to make wine without sulfur additions.

Did you know?

* The concept of "minerality" in wine is almost certainly a misnomer, since vines cannot absorb the aromas or flavors of blue slate, chalk or any of the other soil types wine lovers praise. What is described as "minerality" is more likely a combination of high acidity and volatile sulfur compounds, perhaps with an assist by the yeast Brettanomyces.

* Robert M. Parker, who has been accused of promoting "inauthentic wine" is a part owner of Beaux Frères, a biodynamic winery.

* A 2008 survey of pesticides in wine found that every bottle of wine made from conventionally farmed grapes contained pesticide residues. While the levels may not be injurious to public health, wouldn't no trace (as in nearly all of the organic wines tested) be preferable?

* Producing a wine without sulfur dioxide may be somewhat risky, but is much less so if the fruit is high in quality, hand picked, has high acidity, sufficient tannin, and remains on its lees for an extended period. Good handling practices in the winery, high quality closures, and refrigerated shipping further reduce the possibility of oxidation or spoilage.

* Of the 800 or so flavor components in wine, at least 400 are produced by yeasts. Thus the flavor of wine itself can be manipulated to some degree by using engineered yeast strains. For natural wine makers using ambient yeasts, most of the work is one by only one strain, S. cerevisiae.

* Clark Smith, whose company Vinovation was the leading practitioner of reverse osmosis in the United States , believes that 45 percent of California wines are alcohol adjusted.

Leaving the world of facts, figures, and science, on which the authors are on firm ground, we enter a grayer area, namely, how do we decide what constitutes natural or authentic wine? The authors profess to be advocates for natural and authentic wine and who can doubt it given the title of the book? They take a "This I Believe" stance halfway through:

We believe that there are plenty of natural wines on the market that confirm that with the right level of attention to detail and intervention when needed, natural wine can always (my emphasis) be better quality, more interesting wine.

Yet, despite this pledge of faith to natural wine making, there is no "rah-rah, let's go natural wine makers!" in this book. They seem very wary, even a bit spooked, by the dangers of natural winemaking. Take for instance this bombshell, the last paragraph of Chapter Nine, dropped without elaboration:

Aside from quality, there's another issue to consider: health... Research shows that potentially carcinogenic compounds such as ethyl carbamate and ochratoxin A can be provided at higher levels in spontaneous MLFs (malolactic fermentations --my addition). This may be a factor to consider in choosing whether or not to allow a natural MLF.

In short, you, the natural winemaker might be responsible for another case of cancer, but not if you had used enzymes to control the MLF.

At other points in the book the authors use slippery logic or provide convenient rationales for practices that natural wine lovers abhor. Consider the following:

If a grower is stuck in a position where he or she is forced to choose between flavor development and sensible alcohol levels, whatever he or she does in the vineyard, might this justify the use of alcohol reduction technologies as a last resort? They do sound horridly manipulative... but the tantalizing possibility remains that wines that speak more eloquently of their origins... could be realized by the use of these tools.

This portion of the text is immediately followed by a quote from Randall Grahm, self-professed former user (of reverse osmosis) and "Jesus Units" (adding water to wine) who now decries the practices. Yet, the "tantalizing possibility" is not refuted by the writers themselves.

In discussing the problem of Brettanomyces, a strain of yeast that can lead to "off" flavors in wine, Goode and Harrop argue that

... inoculating with lactic acid bacteria for malolactic fermentation is advisable, and after it is complete, it's a good idea to add a dose of SO2, to protect the wine for the rest of its time in barrel or tank. Coinoculation with cultured strains of yeast and lactic acid bacteria has shown good results and may be of help here.

If these two are in the vanguard of the natural wine movement, does it have a future?

Apart from the technical issues of winemaking (a strong point of the book), two other issues are prime concerns. What should we call naturally made wine that respects the environment? How do we promote the production of naturally made wine? The answer to the first question can be found in the book's title. "Authentic Wine" is not only the preferred term; the authors get very ambitious, wondering --

Would it be possible to pool resources and create... a globally recognized standard for sustainable viticulture that is based on common standards and delivers a consistent marketing message? We believe that even more powerful would be an umbrella term, "authentic wine," with a single logo and message...

The "authentic wine" is naturally made, fault free, and expresses a sense of place. But it is more than that. It is also produced using environmentally sensitive techniques (e.g. reducing carbon emissions) through sustainable viticulture. These goals seem laudable and extremely ambitious. But what about the term "authentic wine?"

The nominal definition of authentic is "genuine" or "real." But all wine is real in some sense of the word, isn't it? All wine is made from fermented fruit, falls into a certain alcohol range, is contained in wine bottles, and so on. The true difference between the words "authentic", "genuine" and "real" is that most of us associate authenticity with the seal of approval of an organization or an expert. An art historian decides whether a painting is authentic. A committee in France decides whether a bottle of Savennières is an authentic wine of that region. So the term "authentic wine" would depend on the creation of some type of bureaucratic apparatus to certify the wines as authentic.

Would this be a good thing? Would the creation of such an organization tear the wine industry apart (My wine is authentic, yours is... "unauthentic")? Would it produce standards that are too lenient, given the need for all producers to agree on a single rule? Both of these outcomes seem quite likely. The current messy melange of "biodynamic", "salmon safe", "organic", "certified sustainable" and so on doesn't look so bad.

Before the dawn of "authentic wine" and a single set of standards, the authors have an interesting solution to the natural wine "problem," namely, better marketing. After admitting that "neither of us is a marketing expert," they nevertheless make an interesting point, that "...the New World has performed better than the Old World in sophistication and effectiveness of marketing activity..." But wait, isn't the Old World the locus for most organic and biodynamic winemaking?

Goode and Harrop have lots of advice to offer "key industry stakeholders." All of these stakeholders should know that "the millenials herald the demise of the supreme wine critic." Natural winemakers should realize they have the "best story to tell." Grocery stores need to "practice restraint in their cost cutting and margin hunting in the wine category." Specialist retailers must "sell the story, the point of difference, the experience."

Apart from the fact that much of their advice is glib and sometimes even silly or condescending, there are two curious omissions from the list of wine industry stakeholders, namely consumers and the government. Are not consumers "stakeholders" in the wine industry? Increasing numbers of us cast our votes for natural wine. But in this book "the majority of consumers lack understanding of what wine is, let alone what wine might be." In short, consumers need to be told what is good, through effective marketing.

It is especially odd that almost nothing is said about the role of government. Have they no suggestions for the U.S. TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and its often bizarre wine labeling rules? Are not consumers entitled to a list of ingredients in a given wine, even if this list is only posted on the web? Shouldn't the TTB require winemakers to print the true alcohol levels on their bottles?

The belief of Goode and Harrop in natural and sustainable winemaking seems beyond doubt, and much of the scientific discussion in the book is extremely interesting. Yet, their willing exploration of ways to twist the logic of natural winemaking and to turn the advancement of natural wine into a marketing game is a bit creepy, even distressing. If this is their mantra, I for one favor the current state of chaos. Let's put our faith in wine consumers who, one by one, purchase bottles of natural wine and spread the word.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written, balanced, informative, thought-provoking, relevant, well worth reading. 5 Oct 2013
By Desmond Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very well written, balanced, informative, thought-provoking, relevant, and some will find it inspiring. As a vigneron I resonated with the messages about minimalism in the vineyard and winery. Each chapter had (more than) enough detail to become reasonably informed about the relevant issues, and thereby evaluate the various sides given in the real-life examples. Take the chapter about biodynamic viticulture - I thought there was enough information, and the opinions of those practicing it, to evaluate its merits, and toy with the idea of whether it would be personally relevant. I really appreciated the authors' efforts to present all sides of an issue. I think I understood their positions, but I never felt like the book was preaching. For example, after exploring the two extremes on natural winemaking they concluded by suggesting that in reality "natural" is a continuum, and that some practices that are seen by some as unnatural might actually allow the wine to be presented more naturally (e.g. by ridding the wine of aggregious faults one can see the true representation of the terroir from where the grapes were grown). There are so many books about wine, but this is one that had me thinking. Well worth your time.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable 26 Aug 2013
By I. Darren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Authentic or natural wine is a phrase that has yet to really establish a foothold in the consciousness of the typical wine consumer, yet it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for the wine world.
Commercial and consumer pressures might be facing a fight head on. Through this book the authors look at exactly what "authentic wine" is and how commercial interests seeking to push a series of standardised products could threaten a centuries-old tradition. The typical wine consumer might already think that they are fairly "green" by drinking wine. It comes from grapes and is a natural production isn't it? Yet many don't know that many popular wines are delivered in bulk tankers for eventual bottling and mass distribution. A carefully-crafted image perhaps hides the reality. Of course, many fine wines are hand-crafted, stored in gothic cellars for years and are real, true artisanal works... but you might see the difference in your pocket as well as in the taste.
This is an academically-focussed book, drilling down with precision into topics weighty such as biodynamics and organics, chemical and physical manipulation of wines and the carbon footprint (caused) by wine. Reading through the book certainly provokes thought, irrespective of which side of the fence you might find yourself on. What is really involved in the chain from field to table: is the source of raw ingredients sustainable? Just how much work is involved in production and transportation? Can demand create more problems along the way? And yet, many consumers believe they are being good, responsible citizens by remembering to take their wine bottles to the recycling bank - yet that is just a very small part of the overall puzzle.
Big business demands have it in their interest to have more harmonised, standard products. Whether it is a standard grape, made into a standard wine and bulk shipped around the world before being bottled nearer to the retail source in identical bottles, there are many economic benefits along the way. It is not just a question of price, certainly many large supermarkets find it easier to handle pallets of a few "standard wines" than lots of smaller boxes of relatively similar but different wines. Is it a balancing act between consumer choice, cost, profit and environmental footprints? You will start thinking about a lot of different things through this book. Maybe you will even start to be sceptical to everything you see and read as it would be oh-so-easy and convenient for "big wine" to push the "environmental benefits" of its mass production but is that the full, true, unexpurgated story?
The popularisation or consumerisation of wine is also a blessing and a curse. Previously wine buffs might compare wines within a certain sector, learning as they go along. Now the inexperienced consumer tends to be swayed by a few big "experts" and their ratings, so it is more "important" to select a well-rated wine which becomes perhaps even more popular as a result. Maybe there will be a scandal affecting wine ratings in the future as one has seen with the financial sector. Where there is temptation, there is a risk and is there a risk of the "Emperor's New Clothes" at play. One's eyes have been opened through this book (from an amateur perspective) that is for sure.
Recommending a book of this type is a difficult thing to do. It is a good book and clearly someone with a professional interest will gain a lot from it and the price is very reasonable for a lot of interesting, if not controversial insights. For the general wine enthusiast or occasional drinker it might be a bit of a hard-going read and the price might be slightly unpalatable (but a worthy loan from a library in any case). It might be fair to say that if you care for an interesting read, about an interesting subject and don't want to get bogged down with typical "wine talk" that obsesses about a specific grape or vintage, then this could be a great little read.
This reviewer is glad that he has had a chance to read this as one doesn't tend to check out wine books at a bookseller because, on the whole, they are so inwardly-focussed to the taste experience. This book is a LOT more than that, even though the subject has the capability of affecting the eventual taste.
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Book! 18 July 2013
By J Phillip - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think the writing is wonderful and thought provoking. My only wish is that the photos were in color as it would lend to the amazing landscapes pictured.
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