Great post! If wine could be fully demystified, it wouldn’t be worth passion or discussion. It is human nature to want to skip to “the best” but someone needs to point out that it takes a lot of experience to understand why a wine is truly great. That learning process is a big part of what makes wine so exciting.
There are many ways to approach wine. Dismissing the “academic-lite” approach as worthless seems like a silly thing. These books open people up to the world of wine. What’s the problem?
Nice blog post.
Terry Thiese has a whole chapter in his book entitled Remystifying wine written like only Terry can…
Yes, I agree with every word. The best part of Wine is that it is an endless journey that I will never fully understand.
This is hogwash. My ringtone has way more than three notes.
Nice post. If it can stop even one person from repeating the phrase “it’s just fermented grape juice” it will have been worth it.
Seriously, I like his list of factors going into wine, particularly “legislation” (which is curiously paired with climate). Maybe I have missed it, but this topic seems to be mostly missing from discussions here, save for the US alcohol levels. For example I don’t see much on yield requirements and what is done to meet them in various AOCs.
Did you read the linked post?
Yes, excellent piece, although Marlow omitted history from the heart-and-soul of wine list.
I’ve been harping on this demystifying trend for awhile, since the emergence and spread of those ridiculous “wine made easy” retail shops that categorize everything into tidy descriptive categories like Rich, Clean, Crisp, or Bold. I always figured that concept would be handy only for the absolute novice like their first two, or three times in the shop, before they get that concept; really…is that your business plan to sell wine, only to absolute novices, where each time in is the first time? Thankfully, most of those places around here have shuttered or turned into more thoughtful places.
Now if we could just get the restaurateurs to stop thinking of solid glass pour lists as cab/chard/zin/pinot grigio/sauvignon blanc/pinot noir…
Not sure if critics would want to be thought of as de-mystifying wine, I certainly don’t see them that way.
All people’s brains are not wired the same. If one person comes to appreciate and understand wine via a “flavor map” and another through wine travel and another by tasting with a “scent box” and another by a more holistic manner as the blogger wishes; what is the harm?
Or, more importantly, not everyone cares that much about wine. For most people it’s fermented grape juice that occasionally fills in for beer or hard liquor. If there’s some over-simplistic way to break wine down for the casual wine buyer, then there’s no harm done.
Now, if the wine for dummies marketing is being done to push mass-market plonk, then that’s a different story. Then it amounts to filtering the meaningless tasting note on the back label to produce tidy categories. Garbage in = garbage out. But if it’s used to introduce folks to something outside the Chard/Merlot/Cab/Pinot Griogio/Zin spectrum, at worst it’s harmless. As long as the old guard regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa have money to market their wines, you can be assured de-mystification is not a serious threat. The mystical qualities of terroir, elevage, and celebrity winemakers are a large part of the appeal.
Wine geeks are really a self selected sort. What those who are less interested in the minutiae do really isn’t that important so long as the interesting producers have a large enough market buying their wine. I’m not convinced “wine for dummies” approaches are a real threat. To me the “wine for point chasers” approach of Parker, Suckling, Miller and the mags is far more dangerous.
Really, you should read the article! You might find it interesting!
My take on this back in Feb
No doubt that everyone does not care about wine to the extent that they’ll be an enthusiast. However, given that, why should so much of the message be tailored to that subset that cares so little? That’s my beef, and I think Marlow is on this as well.
Really, if some people will go beyond “it tastes good! and become wine enthusiasts,” why should the dialogue stop there? Shouldn’t there be some effort to engage that subset? Do they know how interesting and varied the world of wine is if they’re not taught about it? Why not add a little more-- the re-mystification Marlow writes-- that the “self selected” set can latch onto and delve into the subject?
In my work, I engage the general public a lot, doing tastings and the like, and my experience is that while there are those who just like the buzz, there are also a good a deal of people who simply have no idea about how diverse the wine world is and are very interested when they learn about it. They enjoying learning about, thinking about, and talking about wine as it relates to culture, history, place, agriculture, and cuisine, but they find very little of this in the mainstream presentations about wine, which I think Marlow nails as being dominated by oversimplification. They’re novices today, but could become engaged wine enthusiasts if they weren’t being considered too dumb, busy, or disinterested to deal with the real complexities of wine.
Oversimplifying is often just Capitalism at work trying to expand a market or just trying to open a door for people who can then checkout the house for themselves.
If wine is really is a rich and complex subject then the richness and complexity will take care of itself. No one needs to tell people that it’s rich and complex.
Embracing complexity and “mysticism” can be a ploy. Too often the folks who feign modesty by saying they have tried to understand for years but still don’t are really just making clear that they know a lot more than you. Not always but often.
Get people to taste, let the wine do the talking and let people draw their own conclusions.
Maybe one has to accept some silly attempts at formulas but it is better than Aristocratic approaches.
Hell yes! Great post!
I loved this:
“…the road to Chez Panisse doesn’t get shorter by making stops at Applebee’s.”
To me the issue is as simple as the choice between telling people the truth or telling people what they want to hear.
People love hearing wine-made-simple claptrap for the same reason they would love to be told that it’s possible to learn to play the piano without practicing. But it isn’t true. Wine isn’t simple, it’s complicated, and you can dedicate a lifetime to it if you’re inclined to. If you’re interested in drinking wine without dealing with the complexity, you can do that - just find a few bottles you like and keep buying them - but if you’re interested in learning more, you’re not well-served by most of the material that masquerades as introductory literature and tells pretty little lies.