Rejoice Ever More

Depending on your spiritual and moral disposition, there may not be anything too wrong with beating a dead horse. This post might reveal my spiritual and moral disposition.

I wonder if the critical establishment surrounding wine is too unforgiving. I wonder if the predilection among the reviewing class is that it tends to oversubscribe to the notion that a wine can be too wrong, rather that right enough for those who will put up with its character.

Oddly I was once again brought back to this issue of reviews, quality, preference and standards in wine upon viewing the last episode of HBO’s brilliant "John Adams". The last episode, entitled "Peacefield" is a brave and beautiful meditation on legacy, and that all too human combination of joy and sorrow that appears to be a symptom of the end of life.

I’ve been very pessimistic lately of the probability that any set of quality standards can be rationally conceived when it comes to wine. And even after taking the counsel of a number of the "Wise Men" of the wine reviewing trade, taking to them my doubts, and having been reassured by them that some measure of standards can be construed if only we have an appreciation of man’s unchanging physiology, I find I remain pessimistic on this issue.

In the last episode we see the former President Adams in the last years of his life at his family home. Death and irrelevancy surround him as his dear wife and best adviser Abigail dies, his daughter dies of breast cancer, his revolutionary compatriots slowly wither and die and his own significance in political matters seems to amount to very little other than his symbolic value as one of the remaining founders. And yet, Adams is able to overcome all this and is able to insist to his youngest son, "Rejoice Everymore!" as he takes in the beauty of nature on an early evening stroll.

I wonder if there is a brand of wine connoisseurship and wine writing that places the focus on rejoicing rather than reviewing, even in the face of the competition, the business, the tackiness and the need to be bigger and better? I wonder if the world of wine can be described by its chroniclers more as an adventure, intellectually and sensually, than as a world of ranks and precedents?

This would take a great deal of forgiveness on the part of those who tell wine’s story; forgiveness of imperfection, forgiveness for wines being less than we desire, and writers themselves seeking forgiveness from those who have relied on the writer to offer joy, hope and discovery rather than decimals, points, numbers and flaws.

I’m not suggesting that reviews of wines ought to disappear. But I wonder if they might become something more. I wonder if the best writing might be known as that which rejoices in simply finding something new that isn’t quite up to our standards but which is best described as surely up to another’s standards.

3 Responses

  1. Arthur Przebinda - April 21, 2008

    Beautifully written Tom.
    Interesting that I’ve been thinking something along the same lines: after I’m gone, will all the philosophical stances I take blow away? (I’m getting too close to quoting Kansas here)
    Will any of our debates and arguments matter?
    And do we define wine or is it constant and defines itself?

  2. Thomas Pellechia - April 22, 2008

    I’m sure you know that I agree with your sentiment.
    In fact, take it its logical conclusion and you have gotten to where I arrived a few years ago, when I realized the true nature of wine reviewing: it often seems more about the reviewer than about the reviewed.
    This notion that wine needs definition or that it has a connection to philosophy is a construct of ours that I am sure grapes, yeast, and filters pads never discuss.
    My total metaphysical belief about it all: we think we are so important, but just by looking at what we have done to this planet we have proved that fallacy. Why should wine fall under our spell?

  3. Morton Leslie - April 24, 2008

    Except for a small minority of the millions of people who drink it, wine is a boring read. Love, sex, adventure, sex, intrique, and sex are what we want to read. Wine is what we want to drink and have to buy. A bottle is expensive. There are thousands of different bottles. There are 50 different Napa Cabs on the shelf, they are all over $50. Which one? Talk to most 30 year old males about wine history, terroir, regions, types of oak, grape varieties and they hear, “Blah, Blah, blah” and change the subject and suggest we just open the damn bottle.

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