The Wine Flaw of Our Times

It was 2015, and I was sampling wine at the store that is no more and was staring in awe at the dark and cloudy glass from Chile. This was my first experience experiencing the natural wine’s bacterial infection of the moment. This cryptic Microbial Kraken lurked in numerous carbonic reds stored in clear glass bottles with hand-drawn labels.

Contrary to flaws like being made from Gewurztraminer (jk!) or having a cork sucked out, mice are rarely evident. Although in some cases it might be visible when opening the bottle, it typically appears 30 minutes after opening, appearing as a distinct flavor that can be identified as “corn nuts,” “puppy’s breath,” and “vomit.” Regardless of what it is and how it is interpreted, it will ruin the wine. Nobody, as is apparent, would like to drink a wine that tastes like a hamster’s enclosure.

However, the Mouse is more than a Mosel wine fault because of its widespreadness, ubiquity, and connection with the natural wine-making process. It’s been used as a reason to dismiss as a means to portray natural winemakers as dirty, imperfect, inconsistent, and a bit rigid. However, the more one studies a mouse, the more apparent it is that its wine’s quality is more complex and elusive than initially thought. Instead of being a non-fixable issue, it is beginning to appear in how the wine is perceived and contextualized.

The first mention of the mouse is in 18Mousen J.L.W. Thudichum’s A Treatise on Wines, which is identified in the book as “a peculiar disagreeable flavor in wine … resembling the smell of a residence of mice.” Some years after, in 1913, Muller-Thurgau (inventor of the German grape Muller-Thurgau), along with his companion Adolf Osterwalder first noticed that approximately 30 percent of the population were unable to taste mice and attributed it to pH in the mouth. There’s nothing before that for anyone to believe that they were concerned about it, at least not until the beginning of the 20th century, nor over the past eighteen years of drinking wine. Most likely, it was thrown into a myriad of other bacterial nasties, all of which share the same remedy: sulfur. The author of the wine book Aaron Ayscough, in his The World of Natural Wine, states that sulfur was employed (sparingly!) during the Hellenic Era.

“The more one investigates mouse, the clearer it becomes that the quality is more nuanced, and more transient, than originally understood.”

French wines intended for sale around the time when the mouse was firsMousecovered, generally had 10 to 12 grams SO2 per hectoliter of juice injected via stone or burning wick. According to some estimates, that is enough to ensure that the mouse did not Mouseve the attention it deserved. Following the wars in the world, mice became less plentiful, and industrial winemaking became the predominant method of production in the world. In the last decade of this century, manuals for winemaking advocated SO2 levels ranging from 20 to 200 grams/hectoliter, an actual scenario of a Desert Called Peace-type scenario. This was followed by two generations of chemical compounds designed for the different world wars, which were introduced into the soil for pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides.

In his manifesto, the Cultural Insurrection, The Sommelier, Cultural Critic, filmmaker, and farmer Jonathan Nossiter writes that by the 1960s, vineyard soils were so overloaded with harmful chemicals that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the grapes to ferment naturally. Thirty years later, in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, In nearly every region of the wine world, tiny areas of resistance emerged in protest to the human and environmental effects of industrialization as well as the inconstant and unchanging wine was becoming. The most well-known resisters were the”Gang of Four” or the “Gang of Four” (or Five, Six, and so on. according to the wine importers you inquire about) located in Beaujolais. Under the leadership of chemical engineer Jules Chauvet, the group decided to end the use of added chemicals and, in some instances, SO2 in the vineyard and the cellar. This was a complete reversal of the mid-20th century’s idea of living better by chemical processes.

Mouse quickly became a part of the conversation between Oenologists and early natural winemakers before eventually making it into the Paris popular culture, natural wines, and New York City in the early 2000s. In the next decade, the flaw was suddenly evident in everyone’s glass and on everyone’s lips when natural wines reached critical mass.

Today, we have a market filled with bubbly wine. With this current background, it’s not difficult, then, to be a victim of natural wine zealots throwing the baby in the bathwater and conflating potentially harmful chemicals such as Roundup–which, frankly, is something we must talk to in the Hague concerning–and the sulfur dioxide which is primarily safe even if you do not want it in your mucous membranes or eyes. However, it’s challenging to find zealots like that; most people in the natural wine industry accept small doses of SO2. However, it’s more important to note that SO2 isn’t the magic bullet it once was.


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