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Wednesday Warblings
The Old News—The New News

By Charles Olken

Last night, at our Tuesday night tasting, one of our regulars chided us for not blogging on Monday. “How am I going to know how to think?”, he asked if you don’t tell me what’s new in the world and how I am supposed to understand it.

His little joke, of course, was meant to remind us that there are more words than there are new news in the wine business. I was thinking about that and how to prove him wrong as I perused a couple of dozen wine columns this morning. And what I discovered was more old news than new news. But, because I am worried about my friend’s mental health, I am going to help him understand what news there is.

For example, take the recent column in the Wine Spectator by its blogger, Jennifer Fiedler, entitled “What’s wrong with complexity?” in which she takes issue with another Spectator writer, Matt Kramer and his definition, and then the one comment on her criticisms of Kramer is from noted writer, Harvey Steiman who takes issue with both of them. Now, Ms. Fiedler is certainly not the experienced hand of the caliber of Kramer or Steiman. She is probably not half the age of either of them, and judging by her definition of complexity, she has clearly perplexed both of them.

Here is the new news from Ms. Fiedler: “ . . . .good wine evokes a sense of motion and movement. When I taste a really good wine, I feel like I'm driving fast in a car or being pulled up into the sky by a rope”. If you want the old news, you will need to read Mr. Steiman’s classic response, or better yet, go back to Steve Eliot’s blog of last Friday entitled, “Finding Great Wines—The Search For Utter Brilliance”. Now, I don’t mind when twenty-somethings try to redefine classic wine understandings, but this new news is meant for those who think being pulled up into the sky on a rope is a good thing. For me, I will go with the notion of extreme joy at the layering and unfolding of a wine in its many and intended pieces. That may be the old news but it still works for me.

On an entirely different front, there is the continuing debate about “natural wines”. Never mind that the term has no definition and that there is no wine in the world that is 100% free of the winemaker’s hand, those who profess to be making natural wine will nevertheless have you believe that their non-existent “naturalness” is better for you. This is a debate that has no end but many lies purporting to be new news such as this horrific statement, “Wines that are not natural are indigestible”. But, since that statement is nothing more than the usual poppycock spouted by those who think their way is the only way, it is not new news at all. It is just poppycock,and the world has been full of that commodity for centuries.

And, finally, today, we are left with the news that Antonio Galloni, who was anointed by Mr. Parker to take over for him in his semi-retirement, has flown the coop and will set up on his own. This genuine new news set the wine commenting world alight and by now you have read more words on that topic than you care to ingest or digest, and you perhaps found something of them indigestible—just like the wines you have been drinking all your life.

Now, I admit to being fascinated by the continuing twists and turns of the Parker saga, but there is one part of this new news that is very old news. Every time someone takes a swipe at the “dying” Parker empire, that person invariably also takes a swipe at all wine criticism and tells us that every part of the writing industry involved in evaluating and rating wine is now dead and does not know it. This, of course, is really old news. It is part of the “I am young and know what I like so why should I pay someone to tell me what to drink” disdain for whatever it is that has come before. And we have seen it play out now for decades and more as first one wine critical approach and then another has been proclaimed to be dead—only to find that it is not wine criticism that is dead but only the current authors. And believe me, after nearly forty years at this stand, and having seen Parker and Laube and Steiman and Heimoff get to an age at which retirement is a lot closer than commencement, I understand. But what these fools fail to realize is that there are well-over a million and counting people who subscribe to the various wine publications and their number are not dropping. They continue to increase. The new news is the wine writing world is continuing just fine, thank you. And that is also the old news, because it has been forever thus. It was that way when I started writing back in 1974 and it will be that way when someone as yet unknown is writing Connoisseurs’ Guide in another forty years.


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by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:2/21/2013 1:05:25 AM

Sir Chalres,

I think many of us are growing weary of the whole blogging thing. Such a thankless task, for no money and people break your bawls for it...aside from The HoseMaster I can't think of many of us that want that kind of abuse. That and as you mentioned here, there are only so many stories and holy hell do bloggers run with something once it is out there. Ron can tweak things and make it fun/funny and therefore way more interesting than it has any right being...the pope piece? Come on now, but the majority of us bloggers, (not talking about you here love) just choke the ever living life out of something until the public just finds the whole thing unsightly and backs away. Winning? Not so much.

Always nice to come by and read you Charlie but one tiny tip, lay off the twenty-somethings comments or I will be forced to get you a pair of black socks, scrunched up old slippers and a long hose to help you get those kids off your lawn! Much love to you.

One more day of mental health
by mongo
Posted on:2/21/2013 11:51:50 PM

My guiding light shines again, for at least one more day. No need to stumble alone through the baffling morass that is trousseau gris ('Wente Grey Riesling Sees Explosive Growth!"), cement eggs, and the probable emergence of Old Vine French Colombard as the Next Big Thing. You could look it up.

By the way, responding the Ms. Fiedler's comments, maybe your tastings could provide a few moments in which the tasters could offer their analyses of the wines through movement - dance, bowling ball release, washing a dish, you name it - to enhance their descriptions for your use. Just trying to help you see the future.

Take Care of Your Braiin
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:2/22/2013 1:17:56 AM

Dear Mr. Mango--

I worry for your mental health if you find any kind of wine descriptinve guidance in Ms. Fiedler's article.

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