Do Proponents of “Natural” Wine Vaccinate Their Children?

no inoculation This question occurred to me the other day as I was reading a Newsweek/Daily Beast article about the increasing number of measles cases in the US. Author Kent Sepkowitz wrote this little nugget regarding people who refuse to vaccinate their children:

For these folks, and their 200-year-old forebears, vaccines are bad because they are not “natural.” This is true, but isn’t the point of civilization to rise above the blunt cruelty of nature? To arrive at some higher ground where we, and not Mother Nature, can call a few shots? … One of nature’s charter members is measles, which, even with WHO’s impressive efforts, still kills hundreds of thousands of children annually. Its victims die a slow, miserable, natural death as the virus overwhelms every organ within a few weeks, culminating in respiratory failure. Vaccination has saved tens of millions of lives, more than any other medical invention. It is one of the few health-care heroes out there. Wouldn’t it be more natural for us to be thankful?

This got me thinking about the insistence in some quarters that un-inoculated wine is “better” wine. I am in no way equating the importance or consequences of choosing whether or not to vaccinate children with whether or not a winemaker chooses to add yeast to a wine, or with a consumer choosing to only drink wines with no added yeast.

I AM wondering if there is any intersection between the set of “natural” wine advocates, and the anti-vaccination set.

If there is strong overlap, it would clarify things for me a bit. If there is little or no overlap, that would raise questions for me of coherence and consistence in the philosophy held by “natural” wine advocates.

16 thoughts on “Do Proponents of “Natural” Wine Vaccinate Their Children?

  1. Marcia

    It’s actually crossed my mind, too, but I’ve seen no discussion or speculation on it until now. I think you may have something though due to the similar thinking expressed in both practices.

    As I recall, “natural” wine was made thousands of years ago by simply leaving a vat of something open (then closed) with just the right juice, at just the right given ambient temperature, and just the right amount of forgetfulness on the part of the dude in charge of food and beverage storage for the right amount of time. And voila! Wine!

    Unfortunately, it was a bit unpredictable since all those factors changed year in and year out. Too bad. 🙂

  2. Tom Johnson

    I can’t resist a question of data interpretation, try as I might. And you’re right: it would be interesting to see if proponents of nature-for-nature’s sake carry that beyond the boundaries of wine and food.

    The hard core “naturists” I know make their lives immeasurably harder without appreciable gain. They seem to have forgotten that there’s a reason people sought to improve on nature. Nature, as PJ O’Rourke once noted, consists primarily of things that make you itch. Romanticize what you will, when people drank natural wine it mostly sucked. And when people took the natural approach to disease resistance, they mostly died.

  3. Steve Slatcher

    I have also wondered about biodynamic producers and their use of complementary therapies like homeopathy. And what about the astrological aspects of biodynamics? Do their prononents use astrology in the rest of their life?

  4. SUAMW

    There probably IS a LOT of overlap/intersection. I would think that they would all fall in the collective “unthinking left” box (as W. Blake Gray coined the term).

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      Pretty sure this is not a left/right thing. Definitely sure these are not “unthinking” people. In my experience they think a lot. However, in my opinion their thinkers are out of whack. We live in the same objective reality, but they act on what seem to me to be irrational beliefs.

  5. Ruth

    I don’t think there is a correlation or connection, other than Rudolf Steiner who thought up both the bio dynamic system and the anthropological philosophy, that has a lot to do with education and raising children. I have friends from that school of thought, and they don’t vaccinate their kids. I, on the other hand, do vaccinate my kids, but am interested in natural wine, although not exclusively. It could be that people who don’t vaccinate their kids would be more interested in natural wine, but I don’t think they are the only ones interested.

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      I make a distinction between “interest in” and “commitment to, to the exception of all others.”

  6. Thomas Pellechia

    While researching for one of my books, I came across information that in first-century Rome the majority of wine volume turned to vinegar, and that Roman winemakers were so glad when the benefit of sulfur dioxide was discovered in the 2nd century…and we all know about those unnatural acts of Rome.

  7. Iain

    I guess it depends a lot on what the “natural wine proponents” you’re talking about have as their agenda.

    It might just be the proponents I’ve met, but the aim I’ve seen is not “drink natural wine ’cause it’s natural”, but “drink great natural wine because it’s great”. No doubt there’s “natural wine” that’s not worth drinking, just like there’s undrinkable “processed” wine.

    The “natural proponents” I listen too (mainly Stuart @ Fix St James here in Sydney) are pursuing “naturals” in the same way that other people pursue the simplest perfect italian pizza, or a magnificent single origin espresso. Not because they expect that wine (or pizza or espresso) to be “perfect”, but because when you _do_ find a “great” one, it can show you so much about both the raw ingredients and the skill(/luck) of the maker.

    There’s no doubt that the processing applied to wines that stop them being “naturals” is often a good thing, and can make a good wine better and a great wine spectacular. It can also make a poor wine drinkable, and and at least sometimes is used to make an awful wine saleable. When a winemaker goes the natural route though, there’s much less options available to cover up mediocre or bad wine. On the flip side, an “acceptable” or “good” or “great” natural wine is something to be celebrated – and can often give a much more detailed view of the varietal/regional/vintage specific characteristics, and sometimes minor flaws are well worth accepting for the added benefit of that extra clarity you get knowing the flavours, textures, acidity and mouthfeel are from the grapes and the vat; not from the additions or manipulations or chemistry set of the winemaker.

    Great wine is great wine. A great natural to me is like a handmade version of something usually mass produced – that hand knitted jumper or hand woven rug or hand made knife or hand painted pinstripes; from a distance there’s no visible difference, the handmade object doesn’t do it’s job any better than the machine-made one and often has “flaws” that mass produced things don’t, but from up close the skill and effort becomes apparent, and occasionally the “flaws” reveal more about the artist and materials than the mass produced alternatives ever could.

    (Of course, I suspect there are the _other_ type of “natural wine proponents”, who are also proponents of magnets and pyramids and anti-vax and other-craziness-de-jour. I just consider them “crazy people” and ignore their opinions on wine the same way I ignore their opinions on most things…)

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      Well said, sir. May favorite bit: “…like a handmade version of something usually mass produced” – especially when that handmade version is the product of the practiced and loving effort of a highly-skilled artisan. Great wine is indeed something to celebrate, and in my experience is most often encountered when the hand of the winemaker is at its lightest and most deft. I will quibble with the “extra clarity” comment, but that is a subject for an upcoming post.

  8. David Lamb

    The most important thing is what’s in the glass!

    If I can get a wine made naturally that I really like, then I will probably gravitate towards that over a more ‘industrially made’ wine. But flavour is king.

    This doesn’t mean I shun modernity. I still use computers, drive a car, wear clothes of questionable origin and have probably eaten chocolate with beans harvested by underage workers. These things aren’t the ownership of ‘progressive’ thinkers. Linking these choices directly to wine making decisions is tenuous at best and really doesn’t change anything.

    If I get sick, I try to avoid (and rarely take antibiotics, head ache tablets etc). But I will if I need to. Maybe I should just die a martyr to follow my preferences to the cold, bitter end?



  9. Dave Brookes

    Pondering the correlation between drinking/making a wine with less manipulation and saving the life of your child.

    And yes…I read this bit ” I am in no way equating the importance or consequences of choosing whether or not to vaccinate children with whether or not a winemaker chooses to add yeast to a wine, or with a consumer choosing to only drink wines with no added yeast”.

    Congratulations on possibly the most ridiculous post concerning natural wine that I have read so far.

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      Thank you – coming from you that’s high praise indeed. Perhaps you actually did get the point.

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      Synchronicity! My alternate working title for this piece was “Tinfoil Hats & First-World Problems” 😀


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