Didactic Marxist Ideas and Wine….Hmmm, Yum!

In the comments section of an earlier post this week about a new book on philosophy and wine, Richard from A Passionate Foodie made note that there was in fact a second book recently published that also deals with the convergence of wine and philosophy: "Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine", Edited by Barry C. Smith.

I obtained that book and like the earlier one I posted about, "Wine & Philosophy: A Meritage of Ideas", it tills deeply into this topic with essays on is wine art, the objectivity of taste, wine vocabulary and language theory and "wine epistemology".

Two books in one year on what might be the most obscure wine-related topic that exists: wine and philosophy. The audience for these two books is small and as obscure as many of the points made in them. Yet, there they are. It borders on a trend.

What combination of forces would lead to this mini rush of wine and philosophy books?

I think it must largely be due to the huge increase in interest in wines, and wines from a variety of sources, as well as the increase in people working in a way that is connected to wine: it means more people are thinking about wine. And when more people are thinking, there are a portion of those folks thinking about things obscure.

Now, these two books, published so near each other, simply could be an example of chance, a coincidence. But it’s not fun to attribute things to chance and coincidence if only because it offers no good reason to write about it on a blog. So, let’s stick with: more people think about wine.

Let’s be clear though. The publication of two books on philosophy and wine will not necessarily lead to any upsurge in the number of folks thinking about the meaning of wine.  Let’s face facts, when you have the phrases "didactic Marxist or Christian Ideas of art", "a wine may ‘speak’ of terroir" and "it has no intellectual or cognitive content" all in the same paragraph you just aren’t going to convince too many devotees of wine to read further. Where the hell are the wine ratings????

Nevertheless, I’m going to advocate that you at least try one of these books. After all, wine is too interesting to simply be a hedonistic pursuit. My argument is that the joy it brings is heightened if it brings you intellectual stimulation also and helps to further define the meaning of life.


5 Responses

  1. Marcus - October 24, 2007

    This is an interesting convergence. I thought I was seeing two different covers for the same wine philosophy book, but no, this one’s got a Jancis forward! …I’ll have to look for it.
    I know what you mean about the small audience. But I think it’s the p-word in the title that only going to hold people back.
    The approaching was ultimately refreshing and fun when I picked up and posted about Fritz Allhoff’s book of essays “Wine and Philosophy” yesterday.

  2. RichardA - October 24, 2007

    I think one of the factors that may have led to the publication of these two books is the recent surge in philosophy books that deal with pop culture.
    Within the last couple years, there have been philosophy books about such diverse topics as Lord of the Rings, Zombies, South Park, Sopranos, Atkins Diet, Pink Floyd and so much more. All of these books engage in serious philosophical discussion. I have read several of them. They have proven to be so popular that additional books have been planned for the future.
    So, it does not seem as odd to me to be seeing wine and philosophy. These books are not casual reads. They do require attention and contemplation. I will agree with Tom and also advocate that you try at least one of these books.

  3. RichardA - October 25, 2007

    I received my copy og the Allhoof book today. After skimming through the book and its various topics, I think this book is the more accessible of the two wine/philosophy books. It may also be of interest to more people as well, with some more practical topics.
    The Smith book is probably more philosophically technical, and thus not as easy to read or understand without some background in philosophy.

  4. Barry Smith - October 26, 2007

    The reason for two books on this topic probably does have to do with people wanting to think more about what they are drinking and what goes on when they assess a wine.
    In 2004 I put on the first conference on Philosophy and Wine and found wine professionals and the public genuinely interested. The book followed and like any new idea in philosophy (let alone a good one) it wasn’t long before it caught on.
    Although Questions of Taste – the philosophy of wine came first, I think it’s great to have two books on the topic. Neither requires any technical knowledge of philosophy to read it. Several contributors are not themselves philosophers . The essays start with the sorts of questions we all have when we become fascinated with wine. The hope is that the books will show people that when they start thinking about wines and assessing them they have already begun to do philosophy.

  5. virtual philosopher - October 26, 2007

    For a less prickly review of Questions of Taste, see

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