Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc

The Joe Strummer of wine?



Interesting article in The Guardian this week about natural wine and its development. I think David Williams has it about right. There is a spirit of punk about the natural wine movement. As someone who lived through the punk music scene of 77 and saw all the top punk bands, other than the Sex Pistols sadly, I can see the parallels. The reaction against convention and the big business aspects, the desire for something more straightforward and honest, no more overblown music / wine. Maybe that is why natural wines appeal to me, that link to the music of my past and the similar philosophy. Though I can’t spike my hair anymore.

The unconventional signage of domaine names

The unconventional signage of domaine names

Have a look at this poster for La Remise, a natural wine salon in Arles in March which I described on the Tastings page.


 Remind you of anything? This?


David points out that many people have a real antipathy towards natural wines just as many people did towards punk. Never mind that you haven’t experienced it just criticise because it’s new and it doesn’t fit convention. Or because you missed its start so don’t want to be seen as a latecomer. Utter boll**** as the album says.

He is right too that not everything is good. I saw and heard and bought some absolute rubbish in punk music. For every New Rose there was a Generation X song. Or Plastic Bertrand! I have tasted some of the ‘bacterial murk’ in natural wines and many that I would never want to taste again. But there was New Rose and Anarchy and White Riot and Blank Generation. And there is Barral and Fahl and Pardet and Foillard and Métras and ….

However punk had a long lasting influence in the way that music was made from grunge to thrash metal to rap. And the way that music is made, the independent labels etc and the publish it yourself attitude we see online these days. It makes people think and question the way they do things. Many winemakers are rethinking their approaches to sulphur even if they don’t want to eliminate their use. So too natural producers often forego the big labels and go their own way, Vin de France rather than AOP for example. And look at some of these:

wpid-20150330143635.jpg wpid-20150330131330.jpg

Punk was a reaction to triple albums of mind numbing drum solos performed by posing, preposterous public schoolboys. Natural wines are a reaction to overextracted, 200% oaked, jammy Parkerised gloop. Instead of twiddling the knobs on the mixing desk or reverse osmosis machine let the music or the grape speak for itself.

Perhaps too press reaction is coloured by its loss of control? No longer the arbiters of taste and what is good. Instead fanzines for punk and now blogs for music and wine are the, apologies for this, grapevine.  Fewer free tours to Bordeaux, Beaune or Buenos Aires can make those journalists turn sour.

Many natural winemakers will fall away, as did punk bands. Some will shine then fade quickly. Others will live long or develop. A new wave. But natural wine is here to stay as Williams says. The movement is widespread in the heartlands of France, Italy and Spain. People do like the freshness and vibrancy. Yes there is an annoying trendiness but as that settles we are left with some great wines which will endure.

A magnum of Classe

A magnum of Classe

The article recommends Classe of Jeff Coutelou and it is a great wine. This is a wine that should definitely stay and not go. This is wine made by a free thinker and a creative artist. Joe Strummer’s songs led The Clash from punk fringe to recognition as top class. Oh and notice anything?

Joe Strummer


Joe, I mean Jeff

Now then who’s the Johnny Rotten?











Author: amarch34

I'm a recently retired (early!) teacher from County Durham in North east England. I am going to be spending most of the next year in the Languedoc leaarning about wines, vineyards and the people who care for both.

5 thoughts on “The Joe Strummer of wine?

  1. Something I have been thinking as well (wish I’d written it 😉 ). Especially regarding the way some people are outraged by natural wine (“the filth and the fury” all over again).

    There’s good and bad, just as with, oh, all wine. But some feel threatened. Surely that’s why people get angry?

    Will natural wine last as a “fashion” (you still get punk bands, they just don’t have the column inches in the national press these days). And will the movement have a long lasting influence?

    I think it will. Refreshing, lighter wines without lots of new oak and mega purple in an era of climate change and alcohol awareness.

    Who are the pompous posing ex-public schoolboys of wine? It might be mean to suggest, but the rising levels of alcohol in some of those big boys are a touch reminiscent of those ever longer drum solos. But then there’s a lot of great metal too…and even (dare I say it) Prog!!! :+

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tried to suggest that I do think the fashion will fade but that the wines and their influence will persist. There’ll always be a hard core pushing at the edges. But just as so much music, indie for example, uses punk pace and attitudes and it’s taken for granted, even natural 😀 , I think wine will adapt and take on some of the practices. I tasted some wonderful Clos Fantine yesterday, it’s just great wine. Yes it’s natural but it’s a great wine full stop. Why wouldn’t others want to emulate the best examples?
      I’ve always struggled with prog, punk and indie are my thing but then I love good folk and country too. A good song is a good song, even Take That recorded a couple 🙂


  2. I thought the Napa garagistes were the “Punks” of the wine world? I think we can style them as the New Romantics as there really isn’t anything cutting edge about them. The term has really been borne from their “birthplace” in the wine bars of Paris, which in it’s turn created a drift of the “disaffected with society Parisiens” who “followed their dream” and went off to make some truly awful “natural wines”.

    It is these people who have muddied the water for the likes of Jeff Coutelou, who in the first place learned their trade before embarking on fulfilling their ideas about wine making. Therefore they have learnt their trade, and learnt good wine making techniques. Thus giving us the enthusiasm to want to try their wares. I wished I had gone down to Coutelou in February when heading back to Carcassonne. However I’d already filled up on the latest “young” punk Jonathan Hesford’s wines, whom I believe has been lauded as a natural wine maker in a recent blog…….


    • That would please Jonathan no end 🙂
      I take your points, and I accept them. There are some who are riding the coat tails and as you say they haven’t the background and schooling of Jeff, Barral etc. I do welcome, in the spirit of punk, the desire to give it a go and there are lots of small 2-3ha producers doing just that. Problem is they try to make up for that with prices way beyond their worth and do something to make themselves stand out. I generalise as I know some small producers down here who do understand their need to learn and to develop. At the end of the day good wine is good wine, it’s good to see Jeff get some recognition though. Thanks for reading and for your comments.


  3. Pingback: It’s only natural | amarchinthevines

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