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Wednesday, March 30, 2005



at reason (a place i shouldn't expect to understand, perhaps), an overview of a new film, mondovino, which examines the democratization of fine wine. typically, reason finds it laudable.

i can not. publisher's weekly had this to say about lawrence osborne's book, "the accidental connoisseur":

By the last chapter, Osborne can't say exactly what Chateau Lafite Rothschild tasted like, and he has just encountered the foulest bottle of his life. But he also sounds strangely contented, because he's found the rare world where aesthetics still matter—even if the terminology and the people who employ it can be maddening.
this is why the americanization of wine is an awful thing. america represents the democratic and pragmatic -- the fucking wine box -- and the democratic and pragmatic are the death of the pretentious and aesthetic.

before you pooh-pooh pretense, consider that it is fundamental to every human view -- including (perhaps especially) vaunted reason. pretense is furthermore the seed of aspiration. it is the articulation of the human need to be better and higher and uncommon -- to be apart.

fine wine is one of the few concepts to stand in modernity, defiant, against the communization, the descent following individual empowerment to the standards of the lowest common denominator. the egalitarian ethic (itself a pretense) demanding the destruction of the elite works against this fundamental human aspiration on all fronts in an american society that merely pretends to be classless.

note that it is not change i eschew -- change is inevitable. no roman would understand as wine what we drink today, and there's nothing to lament in that. what is lamentable is this: yet another devolution of the sniffy and snobbish and rare into the commonplace and widespread. the wal-marting of wine, as it were.

is it useful? is it utilitarian? is it empirical? is it economic? yes, gads yes! no one can argue that it isn't.

but is it aspiration to something finer? utterly not. this is what is lost. and so is it the basis of a renaissance? i must think not, and if it is it comes with that heavy qualification.

i submit that it is not enough in life to simply be joycean, to celebrate the mundane and efficient and pretend that the possibility of or the aspiration to something more is nonsensical because it may be difficult or obscure or even impossible. it may be nonsense -- but it is human and undeniable. this is the appeal of fine wine, of all great and elite things, and to understand this is to see that terrior is the perfect understanding of fine wine. its fundamental tenet is that place and particularity of the finest grain truly matter, in fact make all the difference. about what else can we say this anymore? what else is so nakedly and unashamedly elitist? it is in this that fine wine finds its durability on the world stage, and the old world vintners are not mad to fight to preserve it.

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