By Guilhaume Gerard, Partner and Co-Founder, Selection Massale 

There are a few terms within the natural wine marketing world that I don't really get. The idea of "nothing added, nothing taken away" is one -- a cute, romantic idea but, no, the wine doesn't make itself. Zero zero (aka how to strip away taste and preference and replace them with a Parker-esque number) is another. The one that baffles me the most is low intervention, or whatever variance on non-interventionism is à la mode right now.

It's been around for quite some time and while I'm certainly all for less manipulation, less synthetics, less (or no) additions in the vineyards or to the wines themselves, I feel like there's a bit of a misunderstanding about the whole concept. Maybe it's just me, but when I visit a producer (the literal basic task of my job as an importer), I don't really get the feeling that many vignerons are non-interventioning all day. I've been on the road for about 11 years now. More or less three to four months a year, a visit or two a day, and with all the winemakers I visit (those I import, those I admire, even those I think are complete frauds), nobody talks about that idea. Well, actually, there is always one exception to the rule.

It was 2008. I was visiting a couple producers with friends and we spent some time with one, maybe the father of all non-interventionists: a truly, really lazy dude. My understanding is that his dad had bought him something like five hectares of vines and a big house. The house itself was quite non-interventionist too, or falling apart, whatever you want to call it. This genius zero zero intervention winemaker managed to completely ruin the whole operation within a few years. It was pruning season (if you were really, really late) when I was there, and he just couldn't get his ass out of bed. One morning while he was still asleep, drunk from the previous night, I kicked in the door of his cellar to find just about the dirtiest operation I've come across. Fruit flies copulating around every single fiberglass tank, rotten grapes from the previous harvest, leaking valves, and all that great zero zero turning into vinegar. It's still in fashion, I understand, that halfway to vinegar, and maybe I'm just being the new curmudgeon (Rest in Peace to the OG) but I still like the idea of wine tasting good.

I've also met a few vignerons that I think are actually creative and manage to deal with difficult vintages or fermentations by intervening without opening the door to yeasts, excessive amounts of sulfur, or lysozymes and all that crap. A couple of them, one in Cheverny, the other in Ontario, often use clean, fresh fermenting musts to help finish or clean a struggling fermentation. I was once told by a natty advocate that this was almost criminal and a big "no no" in their opinion and that the natty thing to do would be to let the petri dish of a wine develop fully in barrel until some newbie drinker decides that brett-infused, mousey juice is terroir and that flaws are a bourgeois concept.

So, no, I don't like non-interventionism, not in the vineyard where it takes so much more thought and work to farm organically, and not in the cellar, where non-intervention on a wine too often means letting it become vinegar. Making wine isn't about not intervening, it's about intervening at the right time, for the right reasons. It's about being smart about it, finding creative ways, making the right call, managing to avoid making plonk without using the pallet of oenological products available to you through the oenologists always advocating for more standardized, boring wine. There is a way beyond industrial plonk and vinegar: it's called good winemaking -- good natural winemaking even.

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Miles and Mosse

Miles and Mosse

Domaine Mosse's Chenin

Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965by Damion Reid, Grammy-nominated drummer

Within every craft there are trailblazers and trendsetters that push their own communities forward into
the future. Domaine Mosse does for Chenin Blanc what Miles Davis did for music. One can only be
inspired by what these individuals have done for their very different mediums.

I had the pleasure of speaking with natural wine pioneer René Mosse about what makes his wines so
special and he simply said, "terroir.” The soil and climate affect the vines, creating a unique product that's inseparable from its environment. This is similar in music, because your fundamentals must be intact when creating with a group of musicians so that you may fully express what is needed in every moment.

Mosse's Chenin Blanc always transports me because it remains on the palate, reminding me of why I love natural wine. The true essence of the variety is presented with an unpredictability that forces you to focus on the clean, slightly oxidative taste that only a Mosse Chenin seems to acquire from wooden barrels. Mosse is one of the originators of this progressive taste that's changed the wine world, in my opinion.

The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 by Miles Davis achieves the same life-changing effect on how I will hear music forever. Each song is correctly played in regard to form, harmony, and melody, while effortlessly interpreted in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a box set that consists of eight discs, cataloging a week-long residency at the famous Plugged Nickel club in Chicago. I will dispel all rumors about Miles Davis being sick in the beginning of this residency because I got confirmation from his nephew, who spoke with a member of the quintet who said, “Miles was healthy.” This legendary quintet consists of Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. What this group was able to achieve rhythmically while playing each piece will change how you feel about the possibilities of interpreting a song. Not only did they effortlessly improvise but they reinvented how you will hear each song forever. Initiating countless alternate harmonies, while exploring triple or duple pulse, alongside tempo changes at will. It should remind you of a transcendent wine that forces you to swirl your glass, smell, and taste once more.

Mosse's Chenin forced me to respect Chenin Blanc as a variety in a different manner. Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 similarly opened my mind up to the power one interpretation of a piece can have on how the listener will perceive that composition for years to come. 

- Damion Reid

WINE I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Domaine Mosse's Chenin, the personification of avant-garde in Anjou
LISTENING TO: Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965, for motivation and inspiration

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Damn, It's Hot: Music Theory

Damn, It's Hot: Music Theory

Martha Stoumen: WinemakerMartha Stoumen Wines

I'm a slow sipper. I love the ritual of drinking wine. I drink like I eat. I spot a bottle in the morning and get excited to pop it open later that day, and drink it over the course of a few hours. It's the equivalent of asking what we should make for dinner while eating breakfast and then, when the time comes, savoring every bite. All of these wines will most certainly lift you up rather than bring you down in the dog days of summer, but are also perfect "sunset" wines to tie your afternoon to your evening to your late, long summer night.

LES ROCHERS DES VIOLETTES PÉTILLANT ORIGINEL 2015: The wines of Xavier Weisskopf always sing (like a chorus in a vaulted church) and this pétillant is no exception. Talk about lifting you up. And don't be fooled by the bubbles, this wine is built with bones and can be enjoyed over many hours as the bubbles soften and whisper themselves away.

MARTHA STOUMEN NERO D'AVOLA ROSATO 2019: Sticking with the singing theme (which makes so much sense for uplifting, acid-driven wines), this Rosato is like a long, sultry, female solo act. The Nero d'Avola is foot tread and soaks overnight on the stems and skins prior to being pressed and fermented to layer in deeper flavors and texture. I drink this when I want something between a wine and a cocktail. 

JULIEN GUILLOT MACON ROUGE 2017: Drinking this wine is like singing with your friends (some of whom have really great voices). Julien Guillot's wines are welcoming and easy to "get," but not at all simple. This Gamay will joyously fill up your (spiritual) cup!

METHODE SAUVAGE SYRAH 'BLOOD + FLOWERS' 2019: Well, well, well. I won't lie, I don't often immediately reach for Syrah (don't tell anyone I work with at Pax's winery). And no one thinks of Syrah as a way to beat the heat. But this Syrah from Chad somehow seems to bring together contradictions easily. Rich meaty funk with incredible lightness. I drank this with a slight chill, broccoli (flowers) and a steak (blood), but it could just as easily be enjoyed sans food. Contradictions: this is an angelic-voiced little girl singing while she's jamming out some funk on a synthesizer.

-Martha Stoumen

$130/ 4 bottles 

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