We favor wines made without, or with minimal, use of chemicals in the vineyard and winery. We are not absolutists (e.g. sulphur is not "poison"), but given the wine industry's impact on the environment and the labor force who makes these wines happen, every effort should be made to minimize harm.
We do not consider this a "natural wine" publication, because that phrase often encompasses fault-riddled wines that hold no interest for us. But we do embrace the predominant ethos of the movement that the grapes should come from a vital vineyard that prioritizes biodiversity, that working conditions should be safe for laborers, that the staff is justly treated and compensated, and that, yes, wine production and consumption should have a minimized carbon footprint.
This last point is problematic for all of us: we love wines from halfway around the world. There is no carbon-neutral way to enjoy them without moving there, walking to the winery, and drinking the wine straight from the cask. But there are ways for us — the consumer — to minimize the harm of this process, and it starts with the wines we select. We are increasingly making this a priority of our selection process, and it includes everything from vineyard practices to the weight of the final bottle.
We are also aware that — as Americans covering a product made in other nations — it is all too easy for us to carry our cultural expectations and biases to the tasting table. That said, basic norms of decency, empathy and fairness are universal. We do not have the means (just yet) for "reporters on the ground" to conduct investigative journalism and chase leads on how wineries operate. We are a small wine education and review website.
But that said, we are listening, and we have blacklisted numerous wineries (particularly in Italy) for practices we find abhorrent. Examples: a Friulian winery whose owner likened a black Italian politician to a monkey; a Franciacorta producer whose marketing mocked the BLM protests; and a producer in Puglia who is under investigation for worker exploitation. We are working on a page for subscribers that outlines who these wineries are, why we won't cover them, and links to resources where you can learn more and make your own judgment.
The tendency to name and shame is ugly, and we don't make this move lightly. We want to know about these instances, so we do our best to stay on top of the news from other sources. There is zero reason to support such people and their business.
We Accept Input, Feedback and Tips
All of these principles are difficult to verify with our tiny team (one U.S.-based Editor-in-Chief, a small team of freelance contributors), but we will do our best. And know this: our door is open to input and feedback. If you have an anonymous tip about shady environmental or social practices from any winery or consortium, please contact us and we will look into it.