It's not often that you get the chance to travel backwards or forward in time, so I'm still in a state of some shock at the 30-year leap into the past that I took on the first of the two days of the third RAW wine fair, London's annual gathering of "natural", low- and non-sulphored and low-intervention wines. Back in the 1980s, most wine tastings I attended were minefields in which a line-up of bottles would usually include some that were delicious and several that were more or less disgusting. When Charles Metcalfe and I ran the earliest International Wine Challenges (IWC), we came up with shorthand terms for these efforts. These included NTBTI - Not To Be Taken Internally - and DNPIM - Do Not Put In Mouth and my favourite: AE - Auto Eject - which referred to wines that were so horrendous that they were automatically rejected by the human body.
Some of these unpalatable efforts were searingly acidic - brimming with acetic acid - while others smelled of rotten meat or horse manure. They were mostly the result of poor winemaking that had allowed the wine to be affected by some kind of bacteria.
By the mid 1990s, the cleanliness-conscious model set by New World wines and the efforts across the globe of young Australian and New Zealand "flying winemakers" had more or less relegated those faults to the past. Even the least successful wines in the IWC tended to taste dull rather than actively nasty.
The ascendency of "natural" wines - produced with as little human intervention as possible, and little or no sulphor dioxide, has, however, taken us back to the days of actively faulty wines, in much the same way that the decision by a generation of British mothers not to give their children MMR immunisation jabs has recently led to over 1200 cases of measles.