The Inconsequence and Beauty of Wine in a Right v. Wrong World

Despite what my occasional rants and polemics might suggest about my disposition, I do get the beauty of wine. There are so many things that make wine beautiful, actually. But the one that I think I like the most is the fact that when you decide to honestly and enthusiastically engage with wine, you don’t have to choose a team.

This trait seems all too rare today. There is no choosing between right and left or between right and wrong with wine. One isn’t forced into drinking Democratic or Republican wines. One needn’t take an ethical or moral stand on the meaning of Chardonnay. One can engage in wine one night and be a Spaniard, while the next night you may be Australian. And no one doubts your loyalty from one drink to the next.

Some would argue that to engage with wine, one ought to take a stand on sustainability, and they say anything but the proper stand would have you harming the planet. These people are few and far between. My fear, however, is that the number of such people will grow to the point where deciding to engage in wine publically requires one to confront some sort of politics.

The “Them v. Us” element of wine has always been little more than forays into the bleeding edge of the evolution of the wine world. Old World v. New World: “American Wines will never be at the level of the French”. I remember this one from my earliest days in the wine business. You don’t hear it much anymore.

Parker Wines v. the Pursuit of Balance: “Winemakers have taken things over the top in pursuit of points.” This was an inevitable divide as folks dealt with a new enthusiasm for bold flavors among wine drinkers. This engaging and folly-filled debate is largely over.

Wholesalers v. Consumers: “Middlemen wholesalers are intent on depriving consumers of choice in order to fill their pockets.” This divide resulted from the explosion of new wineries in the 80s and 90s. But it hasn’t really been much of a debate since it has always been such a lopsided conversation with only a smattering of individuals taking the wholesaler side.

The “Them v. Us” debates in the wine world have never been important or compelling in the way the same kind of debates in the business or political world tend to be. Today, to honestly engage in the civic sphere one seems forced to choose sides and even then adopt the whole bag of ideological tricks of one side lest you be declared insufficiently pure.

On the other hand, to believe winemakers had fallen too hard for the points chase didn’t require you also only drink well-aged French wine and rail against the middleman. It’s a freedom that stems from the fact that when you engage in wine the consequences are mainly sensual, not moral, ethical and certainly not life or death. In this respect, wine is inconsequential, which is one of the things that makes it beautiful.

We wine lovers are spoiled too. There is nearly no end to wine. The inconsequence is endless. One may get tired or bored with wine, but it will never be due to the fact that there is nothing else to explore in wine.

Still, I worry that the growing stridency of our culture and civilization will invade wine. I worry that, somehow, in some way, with just the right circumstances, self-righteous people will turn wine drinking and one’s wine choices into a political act. Given the beauty of wine’s inconsequence, what’s left after that happens.

Posted In: Culture and Wine

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4 Responses

  1. Helene - October 20, 2018

    I like this post, Tom. As Brits, we get to see/taste pretty much everything. My self-taught Keller-meister asks what I am cooking and then pulls out a bottle (or two). So, for us it might be 1989 Leoville-Barton for the grouse and Rutherglen Muscat to join up with the salted caramel, chocolate cheesecake. Of course, as any really serious wine professional wine, I am obliged to taste completely blind. Keeps my tasting skills honed, although mostly I’m NOT trying to figure out what the wine is (or might be), rather its quality and maturity. And we aren’t in any ‘camp’, as it were. Last night left-over spag-bol and he pulled out a young but easy-drinking Bardolino, which I managed to spot the age although I thought it was Valpol. But there’s no reason we might not have a bottle of California Chardonnay with scallops or sea-bass. And Marlborough Sauvignon is not too bad with steamed artichoke and a dill-mayo dip. Think global, everyone, please?

  2. Judd Wallenbrock - October 21, 2018

    “Water separates the peoples of the world…wine unites them.”

  3. mort hochstein - October 22, 2018

    TOM..SOMETIMES YOU WRITE GREAT,INSIGHTFUL COLUMNS. THIS IS A MEMORABLE ARTICLE. MORT

  4. tom Wark - October 22, 2018

    You are very kind, Mort. Thank you.

    Judd: I hope it continues to unite. I have my doubts.

    Helene: I want to eat and drink at your place.


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