Two months ago, Nick Williams wrote a feature on a wave of natural wines making their way into the Triangle. This elicited an impassioned response from Durham wine importer Jean-Christian Rostagni, who says the story’s premise is a fantasy. 

“I exclusively import French wines, almost all from really small producers, and while they are not all organic, because sometimes climate change makes it challenging, they are all trying to use as few chemicals as possible,” Rostagni writes. “Even in Bordeaux, where organic wine growing was an oddity only a few years ago, it is now developing, and that is true everywhere in France at least, because most have realized that organic growing produces better wines. After reading your article, I am wondering if you are not exposing a non-issue. 

“It is unclear to me—and to the producers to whom I have shown your article—what meaningful difference, except drinkability or excellence, there really is between your so-called natural wines and organic ones. Organic winemakers certainly won’t use treatments if they don’t feel they need them. Like last year, it rained a lot in the spring, even in Provence, and the ones who saved the year are the ones who managed to pull out the tractor and spray the ‘Bouillie bordelaise’—copper—as often as needed because that stuff gets washed away by rainfall. But without it, the vine gets mildew, and then there is no harvest. 

“So are these guys in the hands of the chemical magnates? Really, the natural wines you are describing can only be the result of amazingly rare growing conditions, where little intervention is necessary, or yield questionable results. Let’s also not forget that, given the worldwide shortage of wine, especially good wine, we would all have to drastically ration our consumption if we only had to drink these miraculous ‘natural wines.’

“The premise of your article rests on the fantasy that people use chemicals for the kick they get out of it, or something like that, while such use is actually born out of pure necessity, at least for the good winemakers. Because let’s face it, winemaking is truly an art, and it never ceases to amaze me observing how different the outcome can be between a talented winemaker and his or her neighbor, who may not be as well inspired. So let’s not try to create an issue where there is none, and if you want to be a good steward of the earth, your body, and your palate, drink organic wines when they are available, and good, for they are not all equal. But please also understand that quality wine, like everything else, cannot be cheap.”

Last week, Erin Williams wrote about efforts to improve pedestrian access to downtown Durham from Hayti, a historically black neighborhood cut off from the rest of the city during Urban Renewal. 

“I worked in a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the mid-eighties where the same thing happened,” writes Susan Carver Williams. “A thriving, multiuse working-class area was cut off in the sixties by the new Interstate 40. It became a neglected, unsafe near-ghost town. The big, beautiful church hangs on, but just barely. It’s a sad reality that redevelopment has not typically been for the people already there. I hope Durham can do better going forward.”

Referencing the recent purchase of Heritage Square by a Texas developer, KD Choquette writes: “My concern is not only the squeezing out the historic community from Hayti in redevelopment or gentrification of downtown Durham, but also the potential loss of a much-needed organization that helps underserved population of people living with mental illness or substance abuse recovery—Recovery International. I’m not sure of the specifics, but having spent time there among the people RI serves and the staff, I know that losing this community outlet to redevelopers (who will inherently push out vulnerable populations) will be deeply felt and become a wound that may not ever heal for the overall community. Thank you for bringing this issue to light!”

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