Sunday, September 13, 2015

What the wine world can learn from the Corbyn victory

As I was saying to my husband last night, who would have thought three months ago, that Jeremy Corbyn would have ended up Labour leader? (Least of all Corbyn who must be a bit shattered about what he’s got himself into.)

And then it struck me that it’s not unlike the rise and rise of natural wine. You don’t think so? Look at the number of restaurants now offering a largely natural wine list, Otto's, I hear from Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrène, being the latest. (We can argue about exactly what that encompasses but I think you know what I mean). Even Cristal, which is on its way to being fully biodynamic, could now be classified as ‘natural’.

The Tony Blairs and Gordon Browns of the wine world have issued dire warnings about the consequences of consuming natural wine - that it’s ‘faulty’, inconsistent and undrinkable. That biodynamics is irrational mumbo jumbo. But you know what? A growing number of consumers who have no preconceptions about what wine should taste like enjoy it and find it refreshingly different. They feel as if they’re on an adventure just as those of us who voted for Corbyn (jez, I did) feel a sense of exhilaration at the idea that principle might once more play a part in politics.

There’s another parallel too. Natural wine goes back to traditional winemaking practices just as Corbyn’s policies reflect the values on which the Labour party was founded. No sprays, no chemicals, no aromatic yeasts, powdered tannins, colour fixers or any of the other bag of tricks available to the modern winemaker. We revere foods like cheese or sourdough bread that are traditionally made. That appeal, for many, extends to natural wine too.

The senior figures of the wine world who dismiss it out of hand (which doesn't by the way include many influential winemakers) may find themselves as bemused as Labour's grandees that it just won't go away. Those pesky consumers just seem to like it ...