The N Word

I love words and the way they can behave differently depending on the context in which they are used. So, if a middle-aged white TV presenter recites an old nursery rhyme that used to contain the N-word, he has to ‘beg forgiveness’, while a black musician who calls himself ‘Handsome Ass Nigga’ has attracted over a million followers without creating even a ripple of controversy. 


There’s another N-word with a divisive quality of its own. People who make, sell and like to drink wine fermented with wild yeasts and produced with little or no SO2 happily describe it as ‘natural’ and can see no reason why anyone should object to them doing so. As someone who has been drinking wine for rather a long time and feel as strongly about it as I do about language, I however take offence at the suggestion that the Burgundies, Rhônes, Mosels, Barolos and Aussie Shirazes that I’ve enjoyed over the years are all, by implication unnatural. 

On the other hand, I relish the way that those who favour the use of ‘natural’ with reference to wine are so ready to align themselves with some of the cleverest flavour chemists and industrial food manufacturers on the planet. 

When I teasingly raise this issue, some N-word fans happily propose ‘authentic’ as an alternative. But that doesn’t work for me either, because, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing inauthentic about any of my favourite wines.

The people who choose to use these terms clearly care about language too. None of them have embraced my proposal that a wine made without any additives be called ‘primitive’. Apparently, they find the term distasteful and ‘negative’. So I’m relieved that they know how I feel.


Anyway, this post is merely to say that I not only vow to continue not to use the N-word that got Mr Clarkson into such trouble; I’m also giving up on the other N-word that – rationally or irrationally – offends me when applied to wine. From now on, I’ll happily talk about zero-SO2 and low-SO2 wines, whenever it’s appropriate. 


One comment

  1. Unfortunately, the wine-related 'N' word just doesn't appear to be black-and-white; would be so much easier if it were!

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