“I really didn’t think anyone would listen, but I had to write about it,” says Alice Feiring, the author of a 2001 exposé printed in The New York Times that uncovered the widespread practice of employing additives in wine-making. “I guess I was more of a whistleblower than a writer.”
Since that landmark article published nearly two decades ago, Feiring’s wine writing has only continued to garner attention through her contributions to magazines like Time and World of Fine Wine, the launch of a bimonthly natural wine-focused newsletter, The Feiring Line, and seven books she’s authored on the topic. “I didn’t just have opinions, I had something to say,” she states.
But growing an audience for natural wine writing wasn’t always a guarantee. In 2001, she pitched a guide to the growing movement, only be told the subject was “too fringe and never going to happen,” she recalled recently in a phone conversation. Times certainly have changed, however, and last week saw the release of Natural Wine for the People, published by Ten Speed Press, which covers everything from Feiring’s eight tenets of great wine to must-know producers and regions.
Beyond offering a comprehensive handbook to the evolving natural wine frenzy, Feiring hopes her latest book will engender a degree of tolerance between hardline supporters and critics (i.e. pro-sulfur additives) of the craft. “It’s super important to remember that this was never a dogmatic movement. It’s an aspiration, an ideal,” she explains. “Natural wine is not a style of wine—that’s like saying it’s no different than Napa Valley Cabernet. It’s a process and a philosophy. It comes in all shapes, sizes and weights—not all of it is cloudy and fizzy. And it doesn’t all taste like apple cider vinegar, either.”
So what does Feiring do when she’s not writing hundreds of thousands of words about natural wine? Here, she tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share her favorite bar, the best meal she’s ever had and her hangover recovery plan. —Tatiana Bautista
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
Whatever the last best thing I drank was. But if I had to be pressed this year, so far, the most memorable wine I’ve had was the Domaine les Miroirs, 2015 Entre Deux Bleus, Savagnin.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Tasting in someone’s cellar in Lanzarote. The wine was such a complete bacterial mess—I almost died.
First time you ever got drunk:
Does age four count? I remember having too much Shabbos wine and having a tantrum on the floor, kicking and screaming as if I were a baby and I remember not liking it. The second time, I was 17 and had a super crush on a guy who was about a foot [and] seven [inches] taller than I was, and we were drinking Southern Comfort. I remember thinking, as I had trouble walking, “This is what they mean by staggering.” I didn’t like it at all. I think that was the last time.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s too bad, because it’s a guarantee that I’d end up hating it, but I suppose I’d have to say Unholy Modal Rounders Have Moicy! because it’s impossible to listen to it and stay in a bad mood.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Morris Dancing (not weird to me but others think it’s peculiar).
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Well, it’s a little more than five years ago but the lesson I never learned early enough was that it’s not how good you are but who you know, and only then it’s how good you are—maybe.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
It’s weird enough if I make a cocktail. But I did big batch some great gin and tonics last week, and I was on a French 75 kick for a while too.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Not applicable mostly, but I admit to being a little weirded out when a dinner guest brought cans of Red Bull and swigged on that through the tagine.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Vino Underground, Tbilisi, Georgia. Because magic happens there.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
A great tomato, Georgian sunflower seed oil and flaked salt with some green hot sauce and fresh mint leaves.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Laphroaig 15. If I’m not making them, cocktails are always too sweet for me.
Wine is always changing, so there isn’t one.
In a dive bar?
Jameson or Johnny Walker Black.
Your preferred hangover recovery regimen:
Two tablespoons of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, Doliprane 1000 before bed with a lot of seltzer.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Sex on the Beach.
The last text message you sent:
M, your piece on vegan butchers!