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Thursday Thorns: The Report Card
A Tomato Is Natural and So Are Grapes

By Charles Olken

There is something sinister about wine words and the way we throw around value-loaded comments like “authenticity”, “natural”, “organic”, “overripe”. We don’t use those words descriptively. We use them to puff up one concept or another at the expense of competing concepts.

Yesterday, a rather enlightening set of comments about “natural” wine appeared in the well-regarded blog, Catavino. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that those comments are the work of the brilliant observer and occasional winemaker (he would probably reverse the order of those descriptions), Oliver Styles, whose writings at have come in for praise in this blog more than once.

In another brilliant essay entitled “It’s Not Unnatural To Be Wine”, and which I have retitled above, Mr. Styles picks apart our concepts of “natural” and does it so convincingly that I fear for our definitions of all the other jargon that get tossed about so freely by winemakers, writers and sommeliers. To put words in Mr. Styles’ mouth, he might say we are all full of tomato.

Our Grade: A+. And, if you want an earful of Mr. Styles comments on the subject, I would strongly encourage you to look in on

Here is how it begins. For the rest of the story, follow the link above—

“Television viewers in the UK will have recently been treated to an advertisement for Dolmio Ragu sauce in which a family of towel-textured, round-faced puppets make lasagne while a voice-over tells us Dolmio tomato sauce is made from ‘100% natural.

“Which is nice if you want to be reassured that what gets mashed into your bowl of Penne hasn’t been developed in a laboratory. Indeed, it’s always reassuring to know that your food hasn’t been put together by a group of escaped Nazi scientists bent on producing a swastika-shaped black tomato without seeds and grown in a Petri dish. We probably wouldn’t buy something like that. Something ‘natural’: yes.

“The point is, of course, that, whether you believe it or not, what goes into Dolmio is natural. A tomato is natural. So is garlic. And onions. It’s rare to find an unnatural foodstuff (margarine, perhaps?).”


by John
Posted on:5/12/2011 12:21:49 PM

Therein lies the rub: "...whether you believe it or not, what goes into [whatever] is natural." There are enough people out there who have made a belief system out of being afraid of their food that a media machine has sprung up that caters to - and spins money from - feeding the fears at the root of this belief system.

To this segment of the population it does not matter what you, or I, or Oliver Styles has to say regarding the rational meanings or definitions of these value-laden terms: "natural," "organic," "authentic," etc.

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