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NAKED WINE by Alice Feiring

NAKED WINE

Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally

By Alice Feiring

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-306-81953-7
Publisher: Da Capo/Perseus

Wine journalist and blogger Feiring (The Battle for Wine and Love, 2008) returns with accounts of her interviews with winemakers and with her own endeavor to make a “naked” wine (no additives or other extrinsic evils).

The author’s self-regard fluctuates. She recognizes—and enjoys—her controversial position (her blog blasts those who sully the grape), noting that she sets “forest fires of controversy.” But she can also feel frustrated, petulant and nervous; in the more self-effacing sections, both she and her text become more savory. Feiring begins with her attempt to produce a California wine that is as natural/naked as can be (she’s annoyed when exigencies force some modest compromises)—and, much later, we learn that the bottles will retail for $75-$100 apiece. In the interim, the author flies around (California, France, Spain) to interview those engaged in the quest for a more natural wine. (In an appendix, she provides a long list of common wine additives and processes.) She writes about the godfather of the movement—Jules Chauvet—and recognizes that it’s the use of sulfur (some? little? none?) that divides the wineries. Although she sometimes soars into a vinous lyricism (“There’s an emotional truth in natural wine that I can’t ignore”) or uses tasting terms that only connoisseurs can appreciate (“The Syrah had no fruit jam, but had horse sweat and muscle, zippy acidity and mint, structure and less than 12 percent alcohol”), for the most part she writes for general readers—all of whom should learn plenty. It’s sulfur that causes hangovers; there is no such thing as a perfect wine; thermovinification speeds the process; wine critic Robert Parker is annoying (an opinion she notes throughout).

A text that will appeal principally to wine-lovers but will give other readers a pleasant buzz, too.