Whether you know it or not, you’re witnessing a revolution. Being a wine drinker in recent years has meant taking sides (or refusing to take sides, which is just another version of a side) in a revolution in how wine is made and consumed.
While the battle has been waged mostly beneath the radar of the non-wine geek world, a recent article in the New York Times Magazine has changed this.
In “The Wrath of Grapes,” Bruce Schoenfeld embeds himself on the front lines where upstart winemakers and sommeliers have been fighting for balanced and “natural” wines — against overripe, alcoholic, bombastic “Parkerized” wines — in the very territory where the enemy seemed to have the surest hold: California.
The revolution took shape in all the regular ways. There was the overbearing, conservative dictator (Robert Parker) who controlled the information and, increasingly, seemingly, the means of production. There were the radical gorilla fighters (the biodynamic winemakers) getting their hands dirty while other rebellious ideologues (sommeliers, bloggers) pursued the Manifesto of Balance online and in the coolest new restaurants. Across the disputed zone, in underground wine stores and restaurants – and deep in the bunkers of certain online wine blogs and boards — weak and staticy instructions were sent out to the comrades and a counter-market of natural wines gained foothold on both coasts. And there’s been a lot of carnage; just ask the Australian wine industry.
Perhaps more than anything else, the Times article makes clear that The Dictator is all too good at playing his role. Like any good dictator, he ignored the voice of the opposition. And then, precisely at the point his power was most tenuous, he only acknowledged the counter-movement to say that it didn’t actually exist: “The jihadist movements of nonsulphured wines, green, underripe wines, low alcohol, insipid stuff promoted by the anti-pleasure police & neo-anti-alcohol proponents has run its course as another extreme and useless movement few care about.”
In his inimitably gruff, paratactic writing style, Robert Parker speaks with immodest certitude, disregarding the opposition while issuing his 100-point decrees.
Admittedly, no matter which side you’ve been on, it’s been exciting times to be a wine drinker. But I’m ready to climb out of the trenches. I’m going AWOL. Read the rest of this entry »