jay's natural winemaking bookshelf
If you are into wine, farming, and the environment - or maybe you just want to know why other people are so interested in these things - these books are a great starting point.
This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list but rather a grouping of books that share common themes. While taking different viewpoints, each author understands that our interaction with the land we farm has a profound impact on our food, wine, and ultimately the way we live. Each of these books has been helpful or inspirational to me as I consider how to improve my approach to working in the vineyard and the cellar.
The One Straw Revolution - Fukuoka:
Part manual and part memoir, One Straw Revolution examines organic farming before it was called organic farming. Masanobu Fukuoka details his trials and errors farming the land in a simple, low-input way. He describes how he found himself integrating into his own ecosystem. This book is the epitome of working with, not against, the land. Stewardship, cooperation, and collaboration.
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations - Montgomery:
Soil is the root of everything - any farmer or grower will tell you that. The Erosion of Civilizations not only follows the history of soil health since the introduction of the plow, but also attributes the growth and decline of civilizations to farming practices. A need-to-read for understanding why no-till farming is important, and how to build topsoil health and fertility.
Uncultivated - Brennan:
The concepts in this book could scare a conventional, or even organic winemaker. Looking to the past as a source for cultivation styles, Uncultivated follows a cider maker and former artist in upstate NYC who was ultimately unsatisfied with organic farming. Instead of the “big effort” to make an organic orchard which involves destroying or removing many parts of the ecosystem, Andy Brennan instead planted a “forchard” (forest-orchard) on his homestead. He is best known for creating wild fermented regionally foraged ciders, with much of his production coming from his foraging efforts in the region.. Uncultivated reveals what is still possible without traditional cultivation methods (and P.S. inspired me to make a cider for Pét Project.)
Adventures on the Wine Route:
A true expert in large-scale buying, Kermit’s story is about importing wine, and his discovery of what wines he truly enjoys- big shock- it’s natural wine. Tracking changes between generations of wine makers, this endlessly entertaining book provides a glimpse in the decision making of a formative leader in wine imports- showing us all that it’s actually okay to change our minds about those conventional wines we used to love.
Biodynamic, Organic & Natural Winemaking - Karlsson:
Possibly the most voraciously underlined and re-read book in my collection, Biodynamic, Organic & Natural Winemaking is a practical winemaking resource that helped me realize it was possible to make truly excellent, natural wines - and more importantly understand their risks/rewards. From specific biodynamic preparations, to recipes for experimental compost teas (delicious), this book is definitely a cover to cover read for a budding natural winemaker.
Natural Wine - Legeron:
Written by the founder of RAW Wine (catch us at the events this Spring in L.A. and New York) this book is like an encyclopedia- including technical wine making information, stories and experiences from producers around the world, regenerative vineyard management, and more. Also included is how to use medicinal vineyard plants, like the nettles we fermented to make a spray at our Estate this year. Almost a quarter of the book is a glossary of producers from around the world- which would inspire even the natural wine skeptic to create a to-do list of wineries to try.