The five or six of you who follow vinofictions may have noticed the absence of a post for a few weeks. What used to be weekly, slipped to every other week, and then to “post when I feel the urge.” Lately, the urge has been usurped by my activity reading and commenting on other wine blogs. Luckily for my real life, I don’t read all the wine blogs out there, but the ones I do read hold me fast at times: some for their humor, some for their glibness, some for their good writing, and some for their ability to raise the hairs on my back and motivate me to vent.
The other day, after I bemoaned my personal blogging fate, a wine industry colleague asked me why I don’t review wines. He knows me well, but obviously not well enough, as he believes that I have a decent palate for wine. Before I snapped back at my colleague with my standard quip, “why should anyone care what I like?” He said, “And don’t give me your standard response. Wine reviews are what people want from a blog.”
Little did my colleague know, but I had long ago come to that conclusion. It was in fact partly behind my choice not to write reviews. My whole life has been accented by an attempt to tweak prevailing wisdom or, with any serious good luck, to maybe change things.
Such hubris needs to be guarded against. The person who sets out to make change likely isn’t going to be the one to effect change—that happy fate often falls to the humble who plod along doing what they love, and doing it well.
Still, my colleague made me think.
Wine became part of my life as early as age seven in Brooklyn. Over my young years, I helped the next door neighbor who hailed from Napoli, as most of my neighborhood had. We loaded boxes of grapes into his cellar for him to press and I helped him move things around and clean up in the cellar. With my first sniff of just emptied barrels of wine that he had bottled, a lasting fume took residence in my soul. Later, I drank some of the wines (cut with water, of course) at our dinner table—they were all red wines, and they each reminded me of what we called tar beach, the smell of an asphalt rooftop in mid July. And they tasted like earth, and not really the Good Earth!
How curiously stimulating wine was to this seven-year-old.
Later, I became the only 19 year-old on the block that owned a corkscrew, used during those times when, flush with cash, I could forgo Thunderbird for a Monsieur Henri Selection to go with that tube of airplane glue. Hey, it was Brooklyn, circa 1960s; what did you expect?
As the years went by, I shed the glue and sundry bad habits and built a relationship with wine. Later still, my horizons opened during my military service in the Vietnam period, as I met people that had life experiences to teach me, and then by my own travel abroad after I got “back in the world,” as we used to say.
In the 1970s, I lived in Iran for two years around the same time as Cat Stevens, but neither for the same reason nor in the same place. My trip was for work and for education. Drinking Iranian Riesling and a red wine named 1001 began a thirty-plus year infatuation for me with the connection between wine and civilization. Then, it was on through Europe, with parts experienced along the soon-to-vanish last stops of the Orient Express. From Holland to Greece and many points between, I learned about food and wine, not to mention that I found cultures other than the American form—that actually work.
Soon, I found myself studying the winemaking process; then, I practiced at home what I learned; then, I was licensed to make the stuff commercially; then, licensed to sell it; and then, licensed to wax philosophic over it. Not really. There is no license for that. There’s also no license that gives you the privilege to tell others what a wine should be or taste like, and that was okay with me. I didn’t want the horns that I believe it takes to “know” the unknowable, what Lucifer promises but always manages to extract a price for in return.
It was always a mystery to me the way wine grips people. Today, the only thing that I think I know is that wine is elemental—like blood. Too often, however, instead of viewing wine as part of our id we place it squarely in the part of us that is ego.
With the launch of vinofictions about four years ago, my intention was to wade through the PR and the crap that surrounds the subject of wine and then try to tell things the way they are. It’s not only painfully clear that few people want to hear it, I am painfully aware of how egotistical my intention was.
Therefore, I’m not so sure when my next vinofictions post will be or if a next one materializes what the subject of it will be, but I am sure of one thing: I have no intention to review wines.
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
February 2010. All rights reserved.