Fodder for Criticism

“We have to protect what’s best about wine. It is ancient in our civilization, it is a perfect mix of the intellectual and the sensual, it enriches our lives. The beauty of great wine is that it lives inside of you after you’ve had it. It’s a stimulus for memory. What it tasted like, but more importantly, what it made you feel, why you drank it, what you talked about while drinking it, and with whom. Wine is a social event, not fodder for criticism,” Neal Rosenthal.

It’s amazing what we Americans have done to wine and, for the matter, food. Somehow we’ve changed one of life’s quiet pleasures into a sporting competition. In the beautiful quote above, importer extraordinaire Neal Rosenthal not only defines the essence of why wine is so compelling to us, but why his selections are matched in quality by a list of importers so small you can count them on one hand. In fact, I could easily spend my life limited to the wines of only two, Rosenthal and Kermit Lynch, and never be bored.

Wine is indeed a social event, it’s what should be for dinner not “fodder for criticism.”

It seems to be a part of the American psyche that we take things that should engage our senses in relaxation and pleasure and turn them into a competition. The television is full of food and chef slap downs. Dining is turned into Monday Night Football and now many self-defined “foodies” spend more time watching people cook instead of cooking themselves. Picking up carry out so you can rush home to watch Iron Chef does not make you a foodie. 

Taking time with wine, food and sharing that experience is what makes them such a rewarding part of life. Critics rank wines and taste wines against each other, which is a cruel thing to do to wine of subtlety and grace. Just like in the cooking shows theatrics always win the battle when little time is taken for reflection. It’s the quiet side of wine that needs more attention these days. Its easy to find the biggest and baddest wines, just refer to the wine critics as that’s what their system will give you. Perhaps one of the best parts of the rise of the wine blogging community is there you’re more likely to find someone writing about how a wine makes them feel rather than how they rank it.

When looking for wine recommendations take them from someone who spent some time with them. Tasting dozens of wines a day (or hundreds) is not a reliable way to form a meaningful opinion of a wine and such recommendations must be taken for what they are, meaningless. Does it really matter if the wine you are enjoying so much with your dinner was ranked a few points lower than the wine being enjoyed at the next table? Wine appreciation is about appreciating wine, more accurately about appreciating life.

In the scope of things in today’s world it’s a small thing for sure, but it is exactly those small things that make wine and food so wonderful. Pay attention.