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September 19, 2019updated 07 Jun 2023 10:33am

Book Review: Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic, and Natural Wines by Jane Anson

By David Williams

Dropping the polemic for the individual and pleasurable

There is a moment in Wine Revolution that works like a pin in the great big balloon of hot air that has been expressed on the subject of organic, biodynamic, and natural wine. It comes as Jane Anson explains the process by which she came to include, after some agonizing, the third of those categories in this fine compilation of what, borrowing from Alice Waters, she calls “farm to table wines.” Maria José López de Heredia, of the great Rioja family firm, is responsible for the killer line. Having outlined the hands-off methods that she inherited from her father and grandfather, she says simply, “We have been making natural wines for 100 years” and that her winemaking is “more natural than natural wines.”

In Anson’s telling, “It made me realize that the label is less important than the approach of the individual producer.” And to the disappointment of firebrands and blowhards lured by the title, her book works very much on this theory. As you flick through the more than 250 wines, each with a neatly composed tasting note/producer profile, you get the sense of the diversity of approach, background, and philosophy that gives the lie to the rather monolithic way we tend to talk about natural, organic, and biodynamic wines and the people behind them. These are individuals, as different in temperament and personal style as Aubert de Villaine, Randall Grahm, Cathy Corison, and Arianna Occhipinti, united, if at all, by “their commitment to drawing back the veil between the vineyard and the final product in the glass.”

The result is a book on the kind of wines that bring out the ideologues of the wine world, but with the ideology taken out. It’s also notable for an absence of ego. Anson has a delightfully fluent and amiable prose style, and she’s not in the business of making lordly critical pronouncements, preferring to give her readers a vivid sense of the wine in the glass and how it came to be the way it is. She’s also happy to share the stage with leading sommeliers (like Franck Moreau and Pascaline Lepeltier). Diligently researched and beautifully produced, this is a personal selection of wines that, rather than promoting an agenda, is designed to bring its readers pleasure.

Published by Jacqui Small $35 / £25

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