32 Days of Natural Wine: An Interview with Cory Cartwright

Today Cory Cartwright of Saignée launches 32 Days of Natural Wine, his second annual series celebrating natural wine and winemaking. We asked Cory to tell us about the project.

What prompted you to start the series last year? What did you originally hope to accomplish?

I was getting a little bored of blogging, and at the same time I was getting into all these wines that were giving me a different perspective on what wine is. So I decided to dedicate myself to writing about them one day at a time, launching the series as 31 Days of Natural Wine. The idea was to celebrate this little niche of what Joe Dressner calls “real wines,” instead of big corporate brands and Parker-point wines that dominate the dialogue.

Originally I’d planned for myself to write about one wine per day for a month, but eventually I asked a few people—David McDuff and Jeremy Parzen at first—to author guest posts. They were both enthusiastic beyond expectation, so I threw it out to the general population and suddenly and I started getting emails from many people who wanted to contribute. Linda Milagros Violago, a sommelier who was working in Spain at the time, got into it and started cheerleading the event, and she got Peter Liem and Alice Feiring interested, and then she started insisting I ask other people, too. I was surprised that everyone gave me a Yes almost immediately, all these disparate people who loved these wines. I guess my event kind of tied them all together. At a certain point I was playing the role of editor more than anything.

Why 31 Days? And why 32 Days this year?

One month seemed easy for people to grasp, but 31 Days just sounded better to me than one month. I can’t explain it. “32 Days” is the sequel.

What is natural wine? Or at least, what’s the working definition that informs this series?

Natural wine is natural yeast, organic farming, traditional cellar intervention. It’s a pretty broad definition, but getting bogged down in semantics and arguing about what makes wine “natural” is not what I’m going for at all. I’d rather people just write about what’s in their glass rather than split hairs.

Last year you recruited a lot of writers to the project, others who are passionate about natural wine. But what kind of responses did you get from readership? Do you think consumers are starting to form an understanding of what natural wine is?

Everyone got into it because the content from the contributors was so good—varied and interesting. I think the response would have been more muted if the posts simply profiled one wine each day. Instead we had Peter Liem writing the definitive piece on Vouette et Sorbee, and Putnam Weekley’s love letter to Detroit and natural wine.

Many of the people reading were already knee deep into natural wine, but quite a few had no idea about the politics surrounding it, some of the controversies, or, most importantly, many of the wines we drank. I think people are getting more and more into it now, but the credit is really all due to the producers making the wines rather than the people writing about them. You can get a better understanding of the wines by sitting down with a bottle of Puzelat’s Brin de Chevre than you ever can reading a blog.

Relatedly, how has the series been received by industry? Have you had any feedback or input from natural wine producers themselves, or from retailers or restaurants?

People in the restaurant industry were probably the ones most excited by the series because they’re the ones who have to wade through so many terrible industrial, over-extracted wines to find these little gems.

How has last year’s experience influenced how you structured this year’s project? Have your goals changed?

Have you seen my blog?  It’s a pretty low-rent affair. I haven’t upgraded it or fixed the art or anything. I don’t care for designer blogs or any of that nonsense. My blog lives or dies on whether people want to read it, and the only way to get people to read is to post stuff I believe in or am interested in. People got into it last year because it worked. So, no.

Who will be participating this year?

Here’s the full list of writers: Eric Texier, Joe Dressner, Guilhaume Gerard, Alice Feiring, Linda Milagros Violago, Edward Behr, Pam Govinda, Anthony Wilson, Hardy Wallace, Thor Iverson, Jeremy Parzen, David McDuff, Scott Luetengau, Whitney Adams, Lyle Fass, Amy Atwood, Alfonso Cevola, Sharon Bowman, The VLM, Brooklynguy, Iris Rutz-Rudel, Manuel Camblor, Joe Manekin, Joseph Di-Blasi, Putnam Weekley, Detroit Jarred, Nic Gorevic, and Vincent Fritzche.

We’ll also run interviews with Audrey and Christian Binner, Jared Brandt, Hank Beckmeyer, and other winemakers.

Final thoughts?

If there is one goal for this whole thing it’s to get people to go out and try some of these wines. And no tasting. We drink here.

Cory Cartwright is a 30-year-old ex-videogame designer living in San Jose. He’s currently starting an import company, Selection Massale, with Guilhaume Gerard.