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Getting Back To Wine Talk Cannot Come Soon Enough

By Stephen Eliot

We are moving into the final weeks of the most caustic, vitriol-laden, brass-knuckled political season since 1968, perhaps ever, and, while I confess with a certain embarrassment at being unable for even a single day to turn my eyes away from the wreckage that seems to be piled higher and higher each time I look, I do look forward to the post-war dust settling in November and to a hopeful few days of quiet. It seems that most everyone who is breathing, and I include myself among them, feels that the presidential and congressional stakes are as high or higher than they ever have been.

The internecine battles over wine style, vinicultural technique and cultural relevance that have been such a big part of the conversation about fine wine over the last several years now strike me as even sillier than they were before. Still, I look forward for them to resume. They look downright genteel when claims and counterclaims of misogyny, racism, felonious behavior, and international electronic subversion have become daily fare. They say everything is political, and that may be true, but debates about wine lack the numbing gravitas of the nightly news and, I look forward to getting back to arguing about things like what is natural and authentic, whether ripeness is a blessing or a bane and if great wine can only be made in miniscule lots. My rights and economic well-being are not threatened.

Thanks to a few timely visitations of very good luck, I have managed to spend a professional lifetime learning the ins and outs of wine, and, as regular readers of this column are well aware, my concerns over the combative tone that has marked the fine wine conversation have gradually deepened. Everyone has an opinion and countless, far-reaching social media platforms from which to voice it, and, while I very much feel that debate is always good for the spirit and soul, I do not like the sense that choosing up sides is a necessary component in wine appreciation. Insidious, not-so-well-hidden messages of right and wrong are antithetical counterpoints to the new mantra of “drink what you like,” and I can only hope that the next generation of wine lovers does not feel the tug to make summary conclusions about what is intrinsically “right” or “wrong” but instead spends their time pulling as many corks as possible and learning what “is.”

The drama being played out on the national stage has nothing to do with wine, yet it nonetheless puts certain things into perspective. It is best to remember that wine is, well, just wine, and the discourse about it is no place for acrimony. Leave that to the folks seeking your vote. As for me, I find myself making an early resolution for the coming year to accord new respect to those whose views on wine disagree with my own…even when they are irredeemably and criminally wrong.


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