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TUESDAY TRIBUTES
10/26/2010
Tuesday Tributes: Best of the Blogs
AUTHENTICITY—PART TWO

By Charles Olken

Oliver Styles is an Englishman turned Spanish winemaker who writes an incredibly entertaining blog by the name of wine-life.co.uk, which, of course, is also its web address (www.wine-life.co.uk). Smart boy, that Olly. In an earlier entry, which I just discovered in tracking down Mr. Styles’ comments on authenticity, he offers us a humorous dismembering of a wine advocate under the title, “Where Have You Gone, Robert Parker”. No matter that Mr. Styles is just the latest in a long line of folks who have piled on Mr. Parker this year in what has become the wine blogosphere’s favorite parlor game, the points he makes about what Parker has become over the years are close enough to the truth, and profound enough to be worth reading—even if this kind of stuff does not amuse.

But we are not here to congratulate Mr. Styles for bashing Mr. Parker. No, that is a game for another day. Today, we are honoring Mr. Styles for bashing Matt Kramer and his notions of authenticity. And, while Mr. Styles does not go half far enough in his explorations of authenticity, a shortcoming we intend to address later in the week when we discuss how all these wine buzz words fit together, he does a pretty good job of explaining why authenticity is, as Steve Heimoff called it in his yesterday’s comment, the wine writer’s equivalent of biodynamicism as a marketing idea rather than a way of life.

Below, I quote his key paragraph. Go read the rest of it on his website.

“Surely ‘authenticity’ is a construct. We Just as claret had an authentic stamp for the English wine merchant 50 years ago, authentic (in other words, ‘top’) Bordeaux has a different authenticity now. Indeed, many of the machines Kramer points to as not being authentic in winemaking terms (reverse osmosis, spinning cones) are easily found in some of the world’s top wine estates – I know that a top Bordeaux Second Growth owned (still does?) an evaporation machine for concentrating juice. If one wishes to be pedantic – and one does – a crusher/destemmer, the ubiquitous machine in wineries worldwide, is not authentic winery equipment because originally, grapes would not have been destemmed (peasants don’t have time for that kind of thing).”

And considering his wit on the one hand and common sense on the other, you now know why I am so delighted to have found my way to Mr. Styles’ blog.

Comments

Styles is right on
by ThomasPellechia
Posted on:10/26/2010 8:27:44 AM

To be truly authentic, grapevines need not be cultivated, pressing must be done by slaves turning and turning a large bag on sticks, pumps are not necessary but gravity is, bottles must be made of clay, corks must be replaced with rags, sugar and salt water must be in abundance in the wine, and vinegar must be the desired result, preferebaly within a matter of months, not years.

Amen Brother
by Charles E. Olken
Posted on:10/26/2010 8:49:09 AM

That's putting it into perspective. Authenticity equals vinegar.

I admit that I like Matt Kramer and his writing, but what he has done is to equate that which he has experienced in the "good old days" with authentic. What you and Styles and most of the rest of us know is that notions of what is authentic change as progress makes them change.

It is not like we are talking about Picasso here, for example, but it is a good thing we are not because his art changed dramatically from his early days to the late years--just as the whole art world moved out of Impressionism and into phases of modern expression.

Wine may not be modern art, but the wines fo 1855 in Bordeaux have nothing to do with the wines being produced there in the early 20th C. Technology and increasing understandings, not to mention global warming kept the moving the goal posts on what was possible and thus on what is authentic.

Matt Kramer did not mean to ignite this firestorm, and he certainly understands the calculus of shifting goal posts. In my view, he tried to give us a way of understanding our wine world and wound up oversimplifying.

This discussion is not over, however, because it has always been with us in one form or another and will keep rearing its head to remind us of where we have been--and maybe even where we are going.

humbly submit
by ThomasPellechia
Posted on:10/26/2010 9:31:50 AM

Charlie,

I'd like to humbly submit that the reason the argument, er, debate will never end is because people cannot take the "I" out of the discussion.

When everythign revolves around the one doing the pontificating, then nothing else exists. Few people write about wine.

 

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