I love wine. Love, love, love it. What I love even more are wine aficionados who take themselves way too seriously—people who overreach to describe wines. Like the blogger who says the bouquet of a white had "a smell that runs away as I try to pull it in." Oh, lordy! Imagine trying to talk football with him.
But nothing tips the smug scale into the obesity range like the current spat between Uber-wine critic Robert Parker and a film director named Jonathan Nossiter, who made a movie about global wine tastes called “Mondovino.” Seen it? Neither have I. Nossiter also has a new book called “Taste and Power.” At least that's the English translation. The real title is in French, (of course!).
Parker--accused by some of having too much sway in the wine world and of being the reason so many wines taste the same-- is instead accusing Nossiter of promoting standardization! According to Decanter Magazine’s web site, Parker says, “Anyone with half a chimp's brain can see through Nossiter's transparency easier than a JJ Prum Riesling…It is Nossiter and his ilk (call them scary wine gestapo) chanting the same stupid hymn that demand wines be produced in one narrow style.”
More transparent than a Riesling? Gestapo? Stupid Hymn? Laughing yet? It gets better.
The magazine’s web site says Nossiter isn’t taking the barbs lying down like some French oak barrel! He counters that, “after Kant, judgments of taste are an expression of human autonomy, symbols of moral liberty…We live in a strange time, characterized, it seems, by the collective and willing abandonment of this liberty.” Man, I need a drink.
So, criticizing one’s desire to freely judge what a good wine is, turns into an affront to the post-Kantian philosophical new age where all judgments are relative because you don’t really know anything for certain? Wow. That takes smugness to a whole new level. I mean, I was a philosophy major (stop rolling your eyes) and I remember studying Kant, and the only connection I can make between him and wine is that I needed a lot of it after reading 800 pages of the "Critique of Pure Reason."
On a more empirical level (a little philosophy joke), my friend James Brisson, aka The Wall Street Chef, is busy in Napa and Sonoma doing “quality control” at the World of Flavors Conference at the Culinary Institute of America. His wine tasting verdict? “The reds are tasting much better than the whites.” Now THAT'S a critique I comprehend.
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