Wines To Drink…Not Write About
Neal Martin at The Wine Journal coaxed a fascinating quote out of Michael Broadbent in what is really a fabulous interview:
"What I cannot understand are these writers who write columns in the papers about supermarket wines. I guess it is horses for courses, but I, for one, am not interested in writing about Sauvignon Blanc for example. These wines are for drinking, not for writing about."
"For drinking, not for writing about"
I think I agree.
What is there really to say about a $5 "California" Cabernet Sauvignon or a $7 "Southwest Australia" Chardonnay? Most are serviceable, though unremarkable, wines that really don’t engage the intellect or advance anyone’s education in the vinious arts and sciences.
We do need these wines and they, in fact, are the what the vast majority of drinkers gulp on a daily or weekly basis. They lubricate the market. They serve as a diversion from beer and cola, and they often are the introduction to the world of wine.
But they don’t inspire.
Yet they do get written about, don’t they. We read they represent value. Ok. That’s fine. We read that there are more and more of them in the market. Very true. And we read that they have lovely forward, sweet fruit. Indeed they do. But after that I’m not sure what there is to say.
What Mr. Broadbent believes is that a certain category of wines are worth writing about: wines that inspire you to think, to consider their cultural context, wines that have history, wines that provoke us to look to their sisters, brothers and cousins for confirmation of style, pedigree and quality. And there are indeed a great deal more interesting ideas associated these kind of questions than the question of value and how fruity they are.
Broadbent is old school, a monsieur I offer that comes with the highest esteem and great pools of envy. Probably no man alive has tasted as many pre-1900 wines than he. His personal knowledge of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and German wines is really remarkable. He’s a man whose memory of wine as it has been presented over the past half century is nearly unparalleled.
The kind of writing Michael Broadbent would endorse is the kind you often see in The Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Decanter Magazine, Wine News and the many newsletters that focus on fine wine through either reviews or probing articles.
There is an argument to be made that writing about affordable, though probably simple and adequate, wines goes the greatest distance toward addressing the largest group of wine drinkers. Or, that by writing about these "supermarket wines" the writer helps those who don’t need to hear the elitist ramblings of the wine cognoscenti.
My experience as a wine snob and a former newcomer to wines tells me that while these arguments might make sense, they don’t overcome the problem that Supermarket wines are just plain boring. They should be drunk….not written about.