User ID:

Remember me
Lost password?

It Is Time To End “Absolutist” Attitudes About Wine: Three Writers Speak Out

By Stephen Eliot

The topic of just what constitutes “balance” in wine is one of the mainstays of wine writing these days, but balance in journalism itself seems to go missing. Dogma and opinion routinely trump careful thought, let alone genuine research, and the reader is encouraged to choose up sides in what too often has the feel of a holy war. Opinions about proper ripeness, correct alcohol levels and how terroir is defined and should be expressed are daily grist for the mill, and, amidst ubiquitous pleas to recognize the subjective nature of taste, respect for the same is largely forgotten in the righteous championing of objective truths. It all gets too contentious, and wine’s personal pleasures are lost. I often wonder at what those who like wine and want to know more but do not live and breathe it as professionals do must think when bombarded by the polemics of vocal true-believers.

Every so often a piece of writing comes along that leads the interested reader to think and ask questions rather than choose sides, and, over the last week, three caught my eye and are worth recommending.

The first, from Andrew Jefford writing in Decanter, is a reprise of an article first published in 2011 regarding the often misunderstood notion of terroir and both its influence and limits on determining fine wine and the utter folly of thinking that absolute formulas exist.

Next, Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine elicits winemaker Sean Thackrey’s thoughts about the conflicts being waged by various advocates of balance, ripeness and how wine should taste, and those who are sure that their views are right would be well advised to listen to what he has to say.

Finally, Laurie Daniel checks in with a concise look at what the fuss is all about and reminds that there is a great middle ground in the vinous battle for hearts and minds. As she so capably points out, not all good wines are great nor are those rarities made in tiny amounts by artisan makers the only wines worth drinking. That great wines exist does not mean that everything else is junk.

What all three pieces show is a certain disdain for absolutes and all come without a call to arms. They inform and afford room for opinion and a variety of tastes without holy judgment, and they leave “answers” up to wine drinkers themselves. That is, after all, what the joys of vinous discovery are all about.


The CGCW Experience - Take the Tour

Meet the New CGCW

For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.

Leave a comment below, but please limit your comments to 1,200 characters or less. We find it helpful to make a copy of our comments to be sure that they fit. In that way, you can edit them if they run long.

(Please note: your e-mail address will not be visible after posting)



Note: Refresh your browser to see your latest comments.

Having technical problems with the comment system? Click here.