Alice Feiring on Wine


Alice Feiring should be no stranger to those who follow the personalities in the world of wine. An unapologetic Francophile and something of a firebrand, Alice considers herself “the leading Natural Wine Advocate in this country,” which puts her in direct conflict with influential wine critic Robert Parker, and those who seemingly favor Parker’s preference in wines. She has described most California wine as “overblown, over-alcoholed, over-oaked, overpriced and over-manipulated,” sparking more than a little controversy. Her recent book, The Battle for Wine and Love; Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization, has garnered her many supporters, as well as a slew of detractors.

Join us as we speak with author, journalist and activist for a more “natural wine,” Alice Feiring. We’ll discuss the definition of “natural wine” and its seeming importance, as well as her perception of the Parkerization of wines – world wide.

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Show #271
(57:36 min 41MB)

46 Responses to “Alice Feiring on Wine”

  1. 1 Glen F. Aug 10th, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Not liking ‘natural’ wine is the same as liking corked wine? That sounds more than a little elitist.

  2. 2 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 10th, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Glen, I would not see it as elitist, but do feel it would be narrow minded. I wonder it this was to taken literally, or as a way of provoking people to think about what goes into a wine.


  3. 3 David Aug 10th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I had read Alice’s book when it first came out and also to share a glass of wine with her. She does have some strong opinions and many of which I happen to agree with. Regardless of where you stand – it was an interesting interview.

  4. 4 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 10th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks David. Shy and demur NOT!


  5. 5 Alice Feiring Aug 10th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Hello There, It was great fun to talk with Grape Radio.

    I didn’t hear the edit so I don’t know how the piece about corked wines might have been trimmed, if trimmed. Obviously disliking natural wines is not the same as not liking a corked wine! That was a joke! It was said with a jab in the ribs and a wink, wink.

    However, I’ve got a question. Must wine have plenty of additives in order to be palatable? I would hope not.

    And for that matter, wine doesn’t have to taste crazy to be natural. I would love to remind folk that some of the most beloved wines in the world are made without additives.

    I would also like to add that as soon as I got off the phone I thought, Alice you nut. The region you think is up and coming and emerging is the Canary Islands. Love them. Quite exciting. For that matter, ditto on the Sierra Foothills.

    Thanks to you all for having me on. –Alice

  6. 6 DaveALL Aug 10th, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    As a part owner in two micro-wineries (in NC), I had not heard of Alice, but was amazed at her views and comments. I loved it! Totally agree with her. wow! I need to seek out her writings and more on her comments! At our wineries, we go for the customer palate, not what awards or critics say… and they love it, many are very afraid to say a Parker rated 91 isn’t good to them. yikes! Glad Alice is out there!

    Loved this interview. Keep ’em coming! And what’s wrong with a mousy smell? haha.

  7. 7 Glen F. Aug 10th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Statements like this provoke me to think about the person stating them than the wine the statement is about. I would also like to take this time to thank you for you for producing such a wonderful show.

    To me that was a very strange joke, I think your delivery can certainly use some work. To answer your question, additives, spinning cones, RO, pesticides, fertilizer, ratings etc. are irrelevant in how a wine tastes. For me it’s about the finished product. I don’t care if it’s biodynamic, from Idaho or seriously manipulated. If the wine tastes good to me, it’s good. Does it need additives to taste good? Maybe or maybe not, to me the question isn’t important. What I’m not sure about is that not adding things to wine always or usually results in a better product. I think it’s good to remember that cyanide (in wild almonds) and arsenic (an element) are all natural and I don’t want to consume either one. Naturalness isn’t a selling point for me, just what’s in the glass.

  8. 8 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 10th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Alice, no creative editing was done. I promise, no Mondovino

    It’s strange to me how people can take an extreme statement and take it so literally! Glen your point is well taken. However, I am not sure I agree with one aspect of your post. I do care about what chemicals I may be consuming with my wine. Thus, even if a chemical in neutral on the palate, I want to know that it will have no impact on my health. Do some research on Velcorin and see what I mean.

    Further, if sulfur is added to protect a wine from spoilage, is this a good thing? Put another way, I think we need to consider the health of the wine, and the health impact of drinking the wine.


  9. 9 Glen F. Aug 11th, 2010 at 4:33 am

    The number of extreme comments that one is supposed to take with a grain of salt in this interview is rather high.

    Health dangers are about chemical regardless of origin, i.e., if they are added or naturally present. I believe there is a view that human intervention somehow increases the danger of a product. I don’t know why this is true. Some people are allergic to SO2 but how many more are allergic to peanuts or shellfish? To consider health risks one must consider all chemicals regardless of origin.

  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 11th, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I would not argue about the number of extreme comments. 🙂

    No one is arguing your second point. I do not feel anyone is suggesting that the act of human intervention is in itself a danger to the public. The debate lies in the form of the intervention.

    For me, this is not just about health risks. I do believe that some intervention methods do have an impact on “whats in the glass”. Fining/filtering come to mind (among others). Further, even if everyone could agree that a particular intervention practice is palate neutral, does the consumer have a right to know?


  11. 11 Adam Aug 11th, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Glen F. – saying all you care about is the final taste in the glass is all well and good. I don’t think Alice, or anyone else, wants you to drink wine you wouldn’t like just because it was made a certain way.

    But given the choice between a wine that was made as simply a possible to reach it’s true potential – no chemical farming, no additives, no manipulation – and a wine that had to beaten into submission to make up for the mistakes that went into it, wouldn’t you prefer the first?

    The manipulations Alice discusses aren’t just to make good wines better. They are used to make up for off-flavors, poor farming, or to change it from it’s natural style into something they think is better aimed at influential critics.

    You can cover up bland food with a good sauce, but wouldn’t you prefer a meal made from something that would have tasted just as good on its own – even if you want the sauce with it?

  12. 12 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 11th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Adam, sadly some might say it would not matter to them. Let me take your point to the extreme just to illustrate what you are saying. If I could make an artificial wine (all chemicals/technology) that is virtually indistinguishable from a “real wine”, which one would you prefer to drink and why?


  13. 13 Adam Aug 11th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Jay – given two wines that were virtually indistinguishable I would obviously want the real wine. One is perfect naturally, the other has to take the long way around to get to where it wants to be. I wouldn’t want to make love to a robot just because science had reached a point where it could create something that look and felt like a real woman.

    And if we were able to create these twin wines, couldn’t we all finally agree that the one made by less harmful methods was superior? I could drink a glass of wine made from just grapes, or have the same glass made from a vineyard where guys in hazmat suits were spraying things into the earth and so forth.

    The real question for most consumers in this scenario would come with the prices. If they both sell for $10 no problem – but once the technological wonder starts selling for $5 you can kiss the real one goodbye.

  14. 14 Brian Loring Aug 11th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Adam – most winemakers producing high-end wine don’t do additions to cover up bad or marginal fruit. They do what they do to provide the final little extra that sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t provide. The idea isn’t to cover up anything, but rather to make the wine as tasty as possible. It’s basically a recognition of the fact that no vineyard produces perfect fruit every year.

  15. 15 Alice Feiring Aug 11th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Brian, High end winemakers shouldn’t be dealing with marginal fruit. TEchnology is for disaster, not for adjustment.

    Even in horrible years like 2008, the Loire produced gorgeous wines, and I’m talking natural winemakers who would not do adjustments. It means dealing with lower yields and busting ass in the vineyard. But I do think your point of view reminds me of the 1919 Wine and Spirits, The Connoisseur’s Textbook by André Simon, p. 105. “In the old world, wine-making is an art; in America, it is an industry.”

    I’m not saying that industry doesn’t happen in the old world as well, but let’s just add ‘mindset’ after old world, and we put this statement, almost 100-years old, in context of the modern era.

    I beg to differ, high end winemaker do indeed reduce alcohol (water, RO, etc) do acid adjustments, and enzymes at the very least. I know a few who use gum arabic. Not all, but enough. Paying a lot of money does not insure transparency.

  16. 16 Glen F. Aug 11th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    There seems to be an inherit bias in your question. Why does a lack of intervention mean that a wine will reach its ‘true potential?’ I would certainly rather a wine maker made up for a not so perfect crop with additions than sell a spoiled product. A ‘natural’ spoiled product is inferior to a manipulated tasty wine, at least for me, any day.

    Also, some things need human intervention to reach their ‘potential.’ I certainly prefer a Michelangelo statue to a lump of stone or a van Eyck to piles of paint. For me wine is no different. Wine doesn’t come from a vineyard, grapes do. After serious human intervention you get wine. Even ‘natural’ wine requires lots of effort, otherwise we would all be making it and have no need of vintners.

    Often times I do like things that are processed. I like cooked aged beef better than steak tartare. That’s a personal preference though.

    Does the consumer have a right to know? That’s a hard question. I want to instinctively say yes, but for some reason people are terrified of science and scientific naming. Chemical names are difficult and confusing and I’m not sure including them really adds to a consumer’s knowledge. There is also a lot of misinformation, for instance natural flavors are usually chemically synthesized. Maybe a description of the process and use of the additives is better than names you need a Ph.D. to decipher. I don’t know, it’s a tough question.

  17. 17 Troy McHenry Aug 11th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Taking aside the notion/concern of chemicals added to wine being a health hazard, is the issue of when a winemaker fools around in the winery, adding this, removing that, is it strips or masks the wine’s terroir. I like a wine that can transmit to me the soil where it was grown or the growing season, was it a hot summer, a wet fall, etc. With good wine (and i don’t mean expensive) you can get this, especially if the winemaker is honest and straightforward with their grapes throughout the whole process. I like some CA wine, but their vintages really don’t change much so that’s kind of a blessing and a curse, and to contrast that with say Burgundy, Bordeaux, or CdP (and in the states, Oregon and Virginia come to mind) the variability can be huge and it forces winemakers to stay on their toes and be plugged in to what is happening around them. IMO, it is the lazy winemakers that have to resort to altering their wine to have something salvageable when they ignored mother nature or neglected their vines.

    Sure the altered wine could taste better initially, but it’s like a beautiful woman with implants, once you undress her/decant it, those artificial parts that looked pretty covered up show their true selves and the allure just falls flat since it wasn’t real. If that doesn’t bother you, drink up, there’s plenty of wine out there with your name on it.


  18. 18 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 11th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Adam, we are on the same page. Well, perhaps not. The robot idea is appealing because I could program it to do … things. 🙂


  19. 19 Greg Aug 12th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Alice, would you consider treating vines with sulfites or copper sulfate to address disease pressure an addition or intervention? As far as I know BioD permits both of these treatments, and BioD is considered part of the natural wine community. Maybe there are ways to circumvent these in the vineyard like ensuring grapes are well ventilated or simply doing sorting berry by berry after harvest at the cost of yields. But it seems as if there’s a double standard for chemical treatment in the vineyards versus benign adjustments in the winery involving compounds already present in grapes naturally(water, acid, beet sugar, SO2). I’d rather have less intervention at any step in the process than more, but in some cases producers may simply be working to make the best of a bad situation.

    I’m also curious as to why you there’s a strict dichotomy between natural or artisan wine and industrial wine, particularly along geographic lines. Languedoc has oceans of plonk that likely gets treated industrially before being bottled. Bordeaux, too. These regions are quite old world. I’d consider the shenanigans that go on in Bdx with scorched earth viticulture and RO much more sinister than anything I’ve encountered at small CA boutique wineries where I’ve seen such tools as basket presses and neutral barrels in use. And beyond that, I think there’s a spectrum of wines ranging from natural–grapes left on vines turning to vinegar–and industrial–holding tanks that are a soup of fermented grape material and chemical adjustments.

    Glen, I don’t agree that the end product is all that matters. Plenty of dangerous compounds don’t have an obvious sensory impact. I’d prefer that winemakers have the tools they need to make the wine they either want or need to make a living. But quite honestly the volume-scale wines are being made to squeeze by on small margins. I do not trust those producers to have consumer health in mind.

  20. 20 Greg Aug 12th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Troy, a winemaker not doing something can also strip a wine of terroir. If a fermentation gets too hot, for example, fruit esters might be destroyed, stressed yeast might emit VA and sulfur-based funk, or the fermentation might simply get stuck. Wine with no esters, wine with high levels of mercaptans, sulfides, acetic acid or ethyl acetate, wine with a ton of residual sugar, has no sense of place. All of these elements are the same wherever you go. Now a lot of the time these are not problems, especially in cool regions like the Loire. But if temperature control is permitted by having a refrigerated jacket around whatever vessel a winemaker chooses, the terroir can be preserved when things do go wrong.

    I also think vintage variation is misunderstood in California. The main issue is producers have all fall to harvest since heavy rain usually holds off to November. So producers harvest to get a consistent taste profile since they can. I do not like the late harvest/dry port style, but it reflects the terroir in the sense that little rain and low disease pressure permits long hang time. At any rate, it’s mostly a stylistic choice to harvest for a consistent style. Interestingly, this effect comes from the vineyard, not the winemaking. If there was fall rain earlier, we would see much more variation in wines. As it is, there is a minority of producers that try to reflect terroir and vintage. But natural wine advocates make a more compelling argument of they reduce CA to a bunch of Diageo, Contellation and Foster’s brands.

  21. 21 Brian Loring Aug 12th, 2010 at 2:29 pm


    I think you mis-read my post.

  22. 22 Brian Loring Aug 12th, 2010 at 3:02 pm


    I don’t think that Cali winemakers strive to make a consistent taste profile at the expense of harvest variation. I do think that most of us try to make the best possible wine from each vintage, but it’s more an issue of quality, rather than trying to create a specific taste. All you have to do is taste our wines over the past 6 or 7 vintages to see how unique each year is – despite having made additions on a vineyard by vineyard basis as needed.

  23. 23 Ray Walker Aug 12th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    good to see you commenting here. I am curious on the changes or additions that go into the wine from your point of view. A better, tastier wine is something that is rather difficult to nail down for each individual taster, correct? So, are the changes made to suit a certain house style or are there general things which you look to have as an end result, etc?

    I am curious mainly because, I wonder how the wine would taste 2-3, 5-6 or with other wines 15-25 years down the road. And, making changes today, based on how things taste today will have an effect on the wine tomorrow. This seems to be difficult to aim and properly hit the moving target. What are your thoughts on this?


  24. 24 Brian Loring Aug 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm


    It seems to me that each winemaker has an “ideal” in mind when he chooses to pick fruit. Some people are looking for some physical characteristic, such as softening skins and browning seeds. Others look for certain flavors. Others look for numbers (acid, sugar). But no matter what the ideal is, the winemaker picks based on something.

    The question then becomes: how often does the vineyard meet the winemakers goal? I doubt there’s a single winemaker and vineyard that ever come together 100% of the time. No matter how hard the grower busts his ass in the vineyard. So what’s a winemaker to do? I think there are two options – accept that the fruit didn’t meet expectations or do something about it.

    I can’t say which path will produce the best wine on a case by case basis – but it seems to me that if I believed enough to have my set of criteria in the first place, that making an addition in the winery to better approximate that goal is logical. Otherwise, why did I have that set of criteria at all?

  25. 25 Greg Aug 12th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Brian, I suppose I’m being a bit too broad in my assessment. I know if I taste even very ripe styled Pinots side by side, vintage and vineyard always have clear differences. Still, I tend to find a common thread of high intensity fruit which I think is correlated in part with the ability to choose when one harvests. I guess it follows in some sense, though, that since the base ripeness is an ‘experimental control’ you can see the specific nuances more clearly.

    I love me some Chinon, but if pyrazines are out of control (not to mention Brett) all that site specificity I love is masked by one vintage-related component dominating. That’s fine, it’s a classic wine of vintage and I like bell pepper and tobacco (and farm animals with a lambic flavor) which are typical of the region/varietal. That seems like much bigger vintage variation than CA, but perhaps at the expense of other qualities.

  26. 26 Ray Walker Aug 12th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    “I can’t say which path will produce the best wine on a case by case basis – but it seems to me that if I believed enough to have my set of criteria in the first place, that making an addition in the winery to better approximate that goal is logical. Otherwise, why did I have that set of criteria at all?”

    Hey Brian,
    thanks for the response. I can certainly understand your logic in this. It fits your specific criteria. There can’t be any fault in this. The results may be varied, however as you mentioned, you are trusting in your projections based upon what interests you.


    As for the interview, Jay, I think you all did a great job! Alice’s humor fit well for me. It seems she is having fun with voicing her opinions. I’d really enjoy to see more from her on what she likes in wines.


    Alice, keep fighting the good fight!

  27. 27 Brian Loring Aug 12th, 2010 at 4:25 pm


    “The results may be varied, however as you mentioned, you are trusting in your projections based upon what interests you.”

    Or possibly what you feel is correct and best based upon years of experience. I don’t try to force any vineyard to be like another. After working with a vineyard for a number of years, I try to adjust my specific criteria for that site to produce the best version of what makes that location special.

  28. 28 James L. Dietz Aug 12th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Really nice interview. Alice comes across as quite reasonable and rational, not as some have painted her, and I thought her sense of humor about the learning curve she had after the reviews came out was very revealing of who she is. I enjoyed reading her book when it came out, and I think I might thumb back it through it after listening. I know when I read the book I wrote down a number of wines to try based on her recos. I’m going to see what I thought of them now.

    And I need a sugar daddy or mommy if I’m going to get to taste DRC!!!

  29. 29 Howard Cooper Aug 13th, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Leaving aside health issues, I have some sympathy to the idea of a winemaker trying to make the best wine he can rather than holding to some ideal. However, in practice, I have found that the wines I like better are ones that tend to be made more naturally. I tend to believe that if a winemaker must do an addition to provide the final little extra that Mother Nature does not provide, he probably isn’t starting with high-end fruit. I would prefer to taste Charmes Chambertin or Monte Bello rather than oak and winemaker tricks. While with lesser grapes I might be able to understand (or at least recognize the possibility) that doing a little extra in some cases could improve the wine, I wonder if this is really necessarily (or rather is detrimental) when dealing with fruit from better terroir. But frankly, for me, even from lesser wine regions, the wines I have preferred (with a few exceptions) have tended to be made with fewer or none of these additions.

  30. 30 Brian Loring Aug 13th, 2010 at 8:01 am


    I think it’s a myth that any vineyard can produce perfect or nearly perfect fruit every year. Even Romanée-Conti and La Tâche have off years – and also taste the way they do in part due to the oak program at DRC 🙂

    If we can set aside “industrial” wines, I think that you’d see that the frequncy and level of additions practiced by most high-end winemakers is minimal. I don’t know of any winemaker whos goal is to make as many additions or manipulations as possible. It’s actually the reverse – the less you have to do the better. But given the goal of making the best wine possible, I have no problem adding some acid or water if necessary to allow the fruit to meet my ideal level of ripeness. I’m just not willing to accept making a lesser wine, which is what I believe (based on my experience) would happen if I adopted the philosohpy of natural winemaking.

  31. 31 GrapeRadio Bunch Aug 13th, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Brian, would you agree that what constitutes a “lesser” wine is dependent on what factors you value most? I think some value the principle of natural wine more than any sacrifices (compromises?) that may be in the bottled wine. For example, some would willing to accept a greater risk of spoilage rather than have the addition of sulfur. A winemaker may use acidification due to the vintage. A natural wine proponent may rebel at that concept because its not true to the idealized version of natural wine.

    To me this all boils down to what best for the consumer? That can only be determined by the consumer. Obviously, the winemaker has to hope his perspective is the same as the consumer. Put another way, build a market for natural wines and there will be winemakers that will adapt to that demand.


  32. 32 Howard Cooper Aug 13th, 2010 at 12:40 pm


    I guess one thing I value a decent amount is diversity in wines. Going to Burgundy, for example, 2001 and 2002 are both excellent vintages, but the wines taste very different from each other. It seems like the types of additions you are describing will tend to minimize these types of differences, and also the types of differences among sites.

    To me, not everything in wine is better or worse. I am not sure what perfect or nearly perfect fruit is. But I do think that as people try to take the types of steps you recommend to “perfect” the wine, they are losing some of the individualistic personalities of the wines. While this is not really a black or white issue and really tends toward grey (virtually nobody really is completely noninterventionist), I tend to like wines with individual personalities so tend to like wines with fewer additions.

    Look, I am me, not everyone. I don’t think there is a right or wrong in this discussion. I can just tell you what I prefer. Others obviously think differently. Many people want a wine that will always taste the same. The big Champagne houses live on these types of people and there certainly is nothing wrong with that. It just is not what I am looking for.

  33. 33 Ray Walker Aug 13th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I totally, 100% agree! What I personally look for in wine is more about place. So, having ‘additions’, ‘alterations’ whatever are less intellectually interesting for me. For example, if I want to know what x vineyard tastes like, I will move further away from knowing what in the glass is provided by vineyard x and what is provided by Joe B Winemaker. The results may be great, but really the more work that is placed into a wine, the less I am interested. This is as a consumer and as someone starting to make wine as well.

    Also, I fall on the side of the fence that says better/worse is a concept that I generally cannot relate to. What is better for one is worse for another, so there is no one ‘better’. In practice, there is much more of ‘difference’ being the key factor between compared variables.

    My thoughts on additions also go back to one not knowing how something will alter the course of that wine. Truly. One day a wine tastes one way due to so many factors, the next day, there can be an actual shift on what is present in the wine or causing the wine to fluctuate in some manner.

    I respect the opinion of those who do not care about this as much as I do, and I respect those of course that make wines in this manner. The methods in which I work aren’t above the ideals or preference of others either. As I mentioned, there are just differences. To me, it is far more interesting and important to do whatever makes you the happiest. After all, if someone doesn’t have their heart into it, the wine would never reach full potential either. And, why would a wine drinker need to follow a trend just because they are told this way is the better to consume. Might they be better served simply following their own individual palate?

    In these situations, it seems ‘best’ to let differences thrive.

  34. 34 Brian Loring Aug 13th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Howard and Ray – you guys make good points. Better is completely subjective. It just seems like sometimes people can’t accept that those of us willing to do additions are doing it for the same reason that others choose not to – we think it’s what’s best for the wine. We all share the same passion and desire, and work our butts off trying to respect the site and make the best expression of wine from it each year.

    I happen to think that sometimes, additions done well, can actually help express terroir better. Since the goal is always to get perfectly balanced fruit, if you’re willing to allow for adding a bit of acid that may be lost in that quest, you can get past un-ripe flavors that you might otherwise have to live with. Not that everyone will agree, but IMHO, un-ripe or under-ripe fruit mask terroir more than just about anything else.

    But it’s all subjective. I applaud people who believe that no additions should be made and actually stick to that. Whatever works for you is great. I take a different path, and I just hope the natural wine folk respect that as well.

  35. 35 Ray Walker Aug 14th, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Hey Brian
    I can certainly
    Respect your opinion. There are countless supporters of your wine that wouldn’t want it different. There is an interest for many different methods and processes in wine making.

    I am curious about how you believe that additions can actually help express terroir. Could you be more specific on that point?

  36. 36 Jay Selman Aug 14th, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Howard, I agree with your position. I do feel the critics with their svores have lumped wine into a better/worse boxes. In addition, they tend to rate wines based on their beliefs on what a wine “should taste like” thus narrowing the diversity in wine.


  37. 37 Bob Davis Aug 15th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I thought this was one of the best interviews you guys have done. Entertaining, thought provoking, and informative. Alice is not the wild-eyed lunatic she was made out to be on, I believe, eBob.

  38. 38 Todd Hansen Aug 16th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I enjoy these discussions and always wrestle with the “additions” issue.

    For example, using resident yeasts may make it more likely that nutrients will be needed to avoid a stuck fermentation! Which is more natural? Me, I prefer resident yeasts, and so have added nutrients to (neutral) barrel fermentations.

    I try avoid pulling too many leaves which helps reduce need for acidulation, but sometimes it just gets really hot in August/September and acids drop too low. Acids protect the wine during fermentation and after bottling – should I pick based on acids even if I’m green? Risk spoilage? Or should I add a splash of pure tartric and/or citric (which are already present in the grapes, just not enough)? Is 15 ppm citric ahead of bottling a sin? If it improves the enjoyment of the wine by 10 percent? How about 200 percent?

    If I can avoid watering back through irrigation, should I irrigate the vineyard instead of dry farming and just plump the fruit ahead of harvest? I prefer dry farming. So … should I pick green to avoid high alcohol? Or should I just make a 14.5 pinot noir? (I’ll take 14.5.)

    People decry the use of additives, but the market refuses to accept “vintage pricing” and the economics of the game are such that we can’t make $15 wines. If people want high-quality, small production wines, they need to accept that this can be even more challenging as you can’t blend (or is it “bland”?) away shortcomings when you’re making 200 case bottlings. Still, most additives at the super-premium level are so innocuous that it actually is humorous that we even worry about it! Tempest in a teapot! The guys came close to this when they asked Alice about her choices in other food. I’m wondering – Has that Wholefoods eggplant been sprayed with beeswax or GMO canola oil to keep it from wilting in the store?

    Finally, I print my labels before the wines are finished. That is just how it has to be. I can put winemaking notes on the website, but it is pretty much impossible to include much on the label. I’m not sure acidulation merits mention on the label, even if some people believe it is relevant. Besides, space is sooooo limited on the back label in any case!

  39. 39 Howard Cooper Aug 17th, 2010 at 8:11 am


    While I don’t agree with all of your philosophies as expressed herein (and you are a winemaker while I am a consumer so that you know a lot more about this stuff than I do), I do want to say this.

    I have a ton more to learn about wine, but one thing I have learned I think is that great wines are made by people with passion and generally with stubborn ideas that they have the one right way to make great wine (even though great winemakers seem to generally disagree about what that one right way to make great wine is). I respect both you and Ray for your passion and believe that this passion is more important than what exact steps you take. Both of you believe that you are right and that is great. The fact that many of your philosophies are almost 180 degress apart just makes all of this more interesting.

  40. 40 Ken S. Aug 19th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I’m sorry I didn’t get it with this interview at the “high order bit:..

    1- It’s all about how wine & food together make each other “better” or additive in the experience of eating them. If you don’t eat meat with wine how can you tell the ability of a wine to do that, then it’s a stand alone drink not a “wine” from a consumer’s point of view and I think a majority of wine lovers (not geeks). (As bad as a Parker cocktail.)

    2-If it’s art, you want not a beverage that reflects the place it comes from (and the foods from there that may pair best) state it up front. The analogy is e.g. You love modern art it’s not necessarily pleasing to the eye but
    it takes you somewhere you like to be. Then label yourself an art critic (wine critic by analyogy) that’s looking for something other then pleasing to the eye (or the educated consumer’s palate)
    e.g state…South Rhone should have some Bret so therfore I only like GSMs with Bret therefore you have to use local yeast which adds Bret i.e. modern wine making style can’t make the cut.

    I think before one starts taking about what’s good or bad in wine you have to give your reference point and your perspective that the start.

    So may I humbly recommend, start all wine critics discussion with what they think makes (defines) a great wine and go from there. It may be quite personal and not relevant to the rest of us but of course it may still be entertaining but not valid from our perspective.

  41. 41 John A. Martelly Aug 25th, 2010 at 6:03 am

    I must say that I had to listen to the show a few times to make sure I heard things correctly. Alice, there is no doubt in my mind that you enjoy being controversial. You have a gift of framing answers as to arouse the contrary. That being said, your opinion is your opinion and it should be respected as such. Hey, that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.

    My only beef (no pun intended) was that retort that a nice piece of beef was interchangeable with seared eggplant. I’ve eaten substantial amounts of both and in no way are they close. And please, don’t try to explain it off. No matter what you say it will still sound like you are replacing a BMW with a tricycle.

    All the best on your continued success.

  42. 42 Robert null Davis Aug 27th, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Just to add another log to the fire, Alice tweeted this on 8/26

    “Am convinced that Coturri is a national treasure. ”

    My guess is that she was tasting wines at the winery and not any that spent time in the bottle. I can’t remember anyone ever saying these wines will last in the bottle.

  43. 43 Mahmoud Ali Feb 15th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Alice Feiring. Having read her book I was very pleased to be able to put a voice to the person.

    Ms Feiring is “controversial” and “provacative” only in that she has a different view of the wine-making world, a view that I agree with. So many of the points that she made in her book resonated with me.

    First off, we should all know by now that all wine critics are fallible and that includes Robert Parker. It is almost intuitive that it cannot be a good thing if winemakers around the world try to make wines to suit only one palate. Hence “saving” the world from “Parkerization” would be a good thing.

    Another thing that resonated with me was Ms Feiring’s chapter on Barolo and the wine that started her journey in wine, the ’78 Scavino that she mentioned in the interview. It so happens that not much earlier I came across and bought a bottle of 1995 Scavino Barolo.

    Somewhere in her book she mentions that there was only one Australian Shiraz that she liked and I immediately knew (or thought I did) that it had to be a wine I tasted at the Sydney Wine Show back in 2006 or 2007, a beautiful and elegant wine by Castagna that was labeled Syrah, not Shiraz. I should explain that it’s not that I don’t like Australian Shiraz but that I don’t like high alcohol, over extracted, sweet wines. Brian Croser of Petaluma in Australia referred to these wines as “dead fruit” wines because of how late the grapes are picked. Even my partner who is from Australia doesn’t like these type of wines.

    Then there is the chapter on Rioja. I agree with Ms Feiring that Rioja can make wonderful white wines. I still have a few bottles of whites from Lopez de Heredia and Murrietta in the cellar. The last one I opened was an ’83 Reserva from Murrietta and it was excellent. I’m also in agreement with her about colour and traditionally-made Rioja. Nothing brought home this point more than a comparison between a lovely, elegant ’98 Ardanza and a backward, dark, almost tannic ’98 Faustino I. I liked them both but I’m not sure that the Faustino will ever be like the ’76 I had a few years ago.

    Personally, I don’t think Ms Feiring is provocative, I think she has views that provoke those who hold newly-formed “established” views. In some ways this mirrors the traditional vs. modernist debate, sustainable and organic farming vs. industrial farming. I cannot see why a wine made with minimal interference and fewer chemical additives and intervention would not be a preferred choice.

    Xinomavro from Greek Macedonia is an interesting choice as an under-rated wine for someone who has Barolo in her cellar. It is apparently Nebbiolo-like in it’s youth. I’ve cellared a few bottles of Boutari’s Grand Reserva and at 15 years of age it was stellar.


  44. 44 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 15th, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Mahmoud, I feel that your post was one of the top 5 comments ever posted on our site. Well thought out and articulated. Thanks.


  1. 1 Alice Feiring on Wine | Wine Glass Holder pingback on Oct 2nd, 2011 at 3:19 pm
  2. 2 Alice Feiring on Wine | Wine Bottle Covers pingback on Oct 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 pm

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