I Was Going To Take The Day Off…

     …until I saw this piece at Power Line. As I have a huge disdain for “wine snobs,” it immediately elevated Steven Hayward to my Pantheon of Heroes. A brief “tasting:”

     Talking about wine lends itself to the same kind of silly jargon that has justified the fraud called “modern art” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and ruined literary criticism. Someday I’m going to write a book about the subject. I’ll call it Higher Humbug for the Truly Pretentious: How to Sound Like George Plimpton in Three Easy Lessons.

     The degradation of criticism through “Deconstructionism” and other preposterous fads may yet achieve the unthinkable: the writing of novels so unreadable that even the critics will look for another line of work.

     All you need do is await your host’s solicitation on the evening’s main wine, look thoughtful, and say, “Superb, but—it dies a sudden death on the middle palate.” If you wish to mitigate this cruel blow, you can add, “But it finishes well.”

     [C]onsider this assessment of a Chateau Woltner 1987 Chardonnay: “Has an extreme style that’s hard and austere . . . a wine of disjointed character and little charm.” Now, I’ve had my prose described this way, but never my wine.

     I think I’ve spotted the next bogus trend. Here’s the Wine Spectator’s rating of Ferrari Carano’s 1988 Fume Blanc: “Rich, intense and concentrated with round, smooth fruit that offers grapefruit, citrus, fig and stone flavors that finish with a soft touch.” “Stone flavors?” I don’t think I want to know.

     Read it all. You’ll thank me later.

     Critics are people who lack creative talent, but who seek to “horn in” on the labors of creative people with supercilious commentary that’s ultimately meaningless and valueless. Oftentimes it’s not even acceptable English. Moreover, what critics in every era seek to become is an Establishment immune to criticism. Enjoy the irony; I always do.

     Myself, I think this timeless, priceless essay does more for the typical wine drinker than any “critic’s” sesquipedalian effusions. But ultimately, it’s a matter of taste…isn’t it?


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    • SteveF on December 22, 2023 at 7:21 AM

    See Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! episode on bottled water, water bars, water sommeliers, and water snobbery.

    I’m convinced that most wine snobbery is The Emperor’s New Clothes. Your coworkers who go on and on about the wine provided for the office party don’t want to appear to be uncultured hoi polloi so they nod wisely, take another sip, and add a few words of babble to the conversation.

    I’m convinced that most wine experts are frauds, with the note that I’m including the self-professed experts and not only the trained experts employed by wine companies. Blind tests support this thesis, as even renowned experts often can’t tell the difference between a $20 bottle of wine and a $200.

    See also: my opinion on modern art, experimental or postmodern music, “boundary breaking” fiction, and so on. If the “professional artist’s” output cannot be distinguished from that of a happy six-year-old given a paintbrush for the first time, if the novel could have been written by a schizophrenic having an episode, then it ain’t art. Which is fine. Just don’t use my tax dollars to subsidize these “artists”.

    • doubletrouble on December 22, 2023 at 9:43 AM

    Heh.  Yep, I’m here to thank you…that was hilarious!

    • Margaret Ball on December 22, 2023 at 11:28 AM

    If I recall correctly, there are some more wine-talk suggestions in Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship – as well as many other hilarious ideas on how to pose as an expert on a subject of which you know nothing.

    • GlennH on December 22, 2023 at 1:43 PM

    No matter what type of wine, the bottle alone usually costs more than the wine inside it. All wine is just fermented grape juice….plain old grape juice in a bottle, with a cork and a label.

    The few times a year  I get wine, I always go for the cheapest….”Two-Buck Chuck” (Charles Krug from Trader Joe market, which used to sell for $1.99 a bottle, hence its name), or the $9.99 a gallon Carlo Rossi or Gallo. I have yet to be disappointed.

    When at fancy dinners at relatives, some of the snobby expensive wines taste like paint remover.

    1. Charles Shaw was once asked why he priced his wine so low, since he could probably have charged $10 a bottle for it. He simply replied “I want people to drink my wine every time they have dinner. not just for special occasions.” Two Buck Chuck is now Three bucks, but Trader Joes still has damn good wine for damn cheap. They have wine my wife can drink, from Italy, for about six bucks a bottle, which is unreal in today’s economy.

      1. There are some delightful, easy to drink, utterly inexpensive wines in the marketplace today. In particular, there’s a little-known winery in western New York, Bully Hill Vineyards, that makes several kinds of wine, all economically priced and none of them designed to cater to the “wine snob.” I would be remiss not to mention Chateau Lafayette Reneau and Glenora Wine Cellars, two more New York makers of delightful, inexpensive wines, and Willamette Valley Vineyards of Oregon, whose “Whole Cluster” Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Rose are family favorites here. All of them will ship to your home address. (Full Disclosure: The C.S.O. and I are part-owners of Willamette Valley Vineyards.)

    • Univ of Saigon 68 on December 23, 2023 at 9:32 AM

    James Thurber wine cartoon –

    “It’s a naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by it’s presumption.”

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