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Mark Squires' E-Zine on Wine

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Articles, December, 2000

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   WINE GEEKS AND THE REST OF THE WORLD......
Needing something to complain about, 
and something to have over others.....!

 I have a friend who considers himself the Wine Elite, with capital letters. He and his pals have such narrow tastes and palates that it is really quite remarkable. I tend to like his favorite wines. But that's the only compromise between us. Nothing that deviates from his likes is appropriate. Indeed, it is an abomination (in his case, no doubt made by Parker-worshipping slaves). Basically, anyone who doesn't validate his personal tastes is an idiot. 

When someone asked me recently if there was some sort of "upper level" wine geek group consensus on a certain issue, I thought of my friend. I don't think there is an upper level consensus on a lot of  hotly debated issues. As to what the upper level is, I think it is a broad group with a variety of opinions and styles. But,  I think there are sometimes self-annointed minor Deities. Self-annointed is the key phrase there.  They are convinced that they know more than everyone else (even though demonstrably, often, they do not). They take their own personal preferences and turn them into Holy Grails. Disagree with them? Obviously, you just "don't get it." You are not serious about wine. Sniff. Most often in the past I though that this group tended to be composed of traditionalists. Wine has always been THIS way, and hence it must always be that way, notwithstanding the obvious and numerous improvements in winemaking technology and storage. I would have to say in this revision, their opponents are just as bad and modern winemaking styles have imposed equally rigid orthodoxies and equally extreme tirades.

Perhaps this article should be read together with my last one on what is a Wine Snob; because these folks are surely the ultimate in wine snobs. They quite amazingly are able to denigrate anyone who disagrees with their preferences, tastes or wine ideologies. It doesn't matter how many credentials the person denigrated has. The only way to avoid denigration, really, is to agree with the self-annointed.  That is the key. No one escapes condescension. From A to Z,  you will  find an amazingly famous and increasingly long list of people whose fame and accomplishments are insufficient to withstand this opinionated barrage. Just shake your head; I do.

Of course, wine geeks love to argue about the number of angels on the head of a pin, whether they are self-impressed or not!  As a result, I find the same issues tend to come up over and again on the Bulletin Board. There is no resolution to them. There doesn't have to be. But it's often fun to watch. Here's small sample of the Top 10 Wine Geek issues. Many eventually devolve into the "I am an expert and you're not" attitude I've tried to describe above. Some, well, some are Just The Way Things Are! 

10. Vintages. Are vintages important? Do ducks sing? Do geese quack? Vintages have many useful purposes. The most important is allowing wine geeks another subject to debate. (My answer: Vintages are guides. There are too many exceptions from region to region and wine to wine to make a vintage guide reliable. It is most useful for referencing a style, but rarely used that way.)

9. Wretched excess. How many bottles can a wine tasting support? This ratio may differ in California where every taster seems to bring 6 bottles. Apparently, this is an earthquake "backup" procedure. But inevitably, they open them all anyway. We buy all these expensive wines, and often, we seem just to waste them in mad events, not drink them. Frankly, they are too pricey to drink, I suppose. Have to find something to do with them. See #8.

8. Wine pricing. We moan. We groan. We hyperventilate. We buy anyway. Spock would say this is not logical. Silly humans. And silly wino humans at that. The silliest are Americans. When last heard, a bottle of Thunderbird 1964 went for $18,000 at auction. The high bidder explained, "It's very rare, was one of the best of its type ever made, and with the dwindling supply, I figure this is just a good investment."

7. Acid. In the first version of this article, I criticized those who lauded every conceivable level of acid. That needs a retake. As time has gone on (it is now 2013), it seems that modern winemaking styles have turned the tables for reds. Apparently, wines with no life, no vibrancy and syrupy demeanors are the norm.

6. How old can wines be? Rumor has it that the tomb of Ramses III was unearthed with a quaint but piquant little merlot that was still vibrant, had good fruit and showed hardly any decay. Some said it was not yet ready. I think a London auction house  is organizing a vertical from 5700 BC to 5500 BC.

5. Europe v. New World. It is not enough to just like the wine. You must decide on your favorite to the exclusion of all others. All others become products of the Evil Empire. Wherever that is. Then, the enemy must be villified.

4. Brett. C'mon. Weren't you the winemaker that achieved that gout de merde by leading Snoopy to the barriques? Is this what the French mean by Value Added Tax? Hmmm. Yes, I agree that a little brett can be interesting. The problem is holding it to a little brett and defining what that means.

3. Oak. SO much oak, so many types, so many issues. So little talk of relative balance. How many winemakers does it take to overoak a barrel of wine? A. None. Someone will think the wine is overoaked no matter what. That said, the use of oak in white wines in particular is something I find increasingly annoying.

2. Parker. No matter what the issue..... The Japanese have the most appropriate saying: "The tallest tree gathers the most wind." If Parker did not exist, surely we would have to invent him.

And the winner is.....

1. Terroir
Just mention the "t" word....and.... Good for at least 50 bulletin board notes every time it comes up. It is a little known fact that terroir is a bulletin board administrator's dream. Keeps traffic up, people busy. Idle hands...!  It is revealed here for the first time that a cabal of bulletin board administrators invented terroir for our own base purposes. It does not really exist. The deception was weighing upon me....heavily.

The moral....hey, guys. Lighten up. It's only wine!

 

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Copyright Mark Squires, 2000 all rights reserved, with minor revisions copyright 2013.