Ok, geeks; REMAIN CALM.
That’s the message we need to repeat to our geeky wine selves after reading the article “Science has spoken: Big wine doesn’t mean more flavour” by Beppi Crosariol in The Globe and Mail.
In case you missed it, the scoop is that a rather cleverly executed experiment involving 26 “relatively inexperienced wine consumers” who tasted wine and had their noggins MRI scanned revealed that those tasters had a bit more brain activity happening when the wines that they tasted were lighter-bodied and lower in alcohol.
To the tape:
“Contrary to prevailing wine-industry wisdom that most consumers prefer brawn to finesse, the scanner revealed startling images. There was greater activity in the taste-processing regions while the subjects drank the lighter wines. The implication: Lower alcohol encourages stronger attention to aroma and flavour nuances.”
Is this finding interesting? Hell yes.
Is it definitive enough that we can draw any serious conclusions from it? HELL NO!
Also, even if we did draw conclusions from this study, I am not sure those conclusions are where are focus should actually be trained…
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A friend of mine – Elaine Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews – recently sent me a note indicating that another friend of mine (David White of Terroirist) and I were mentioned in an online article over at FirstWeFeast.com that was written by yet another friend of mine, Jonathan Cristaldi.
Yeah, the wine world is kind of small like that.
Anyway, the article is titled “10 Dirty Secrets of Wine (That Nobody Wants to Talk About)” and it makes for a fascinating, funny, and at times kooky read about some revealing but less-than-glamorous aspects of the wine trade in general (my personal favorite from the list, which is funny although it sells many bartenders seriously short: “Bartenders and mixologists don’t give a shit about wine”).
The item in which we’re mentioned is “Wine critics aren’t necessarily more qualified than bloggers,” which I am quoting below so you can get up to speed quickly:
If we drew a line in the sand and asked established Wine Critics (capital C) to stand on one side, and amateur wine bloggers (lowercase b) to stand on the other, we’d immediately expose an ongoing war of credentials—one which leaves its bloodied tracks on bitter comment threads around the Internet.
Wine bloggers are correct in assuming that many notable critics have bypassed formal beverage industry education in lieu of “life experiences.” They take great pleasure in declaring that major critics are class-act bullshit artists—the likes of Robert M. Parker Jr. (a lawyer and self-taught wine guru), James Suckling (an undergraduate tennis pro with a graduate degree in journalism), and Eric Asimov (the nephew of author Isaac Asimov, with an undergrad degree in “American Civilization”).
Still, the relationship between the two camps is complicated. When the Critic unleashes a bad score or expounds on the subject of natural wines, wine bloggers will heap waves of tyrannical expletives upon them—but only behind closed doors. Put those same bloggers in front of the venerable Critic, and you’ll see them whimper in admiration and jealousy.
The Critic is well aware of this duality, and several of these esteemed scribes take great pleasure in lashing out against people they consider to be amateur fluff writers. In truth, many amateur wine bloggers are anything but amateur, having earned legit credentials from industry-lauded institutions like the Wine, Spirits & Education Trust (WSET), the Society of Wine Educators, or The Guild of Sommeliers, and many of them contribute articles to the very publications that major Critics write for — folks like Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude; David White, who founded and edits a daily wine blog called Terroirist; Elaine Chukan Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews; and many others.
Does formal education trump life experience? Do professionals owe it to their readers to earn a formal degree? Who, then, is rightfully deserving of the title “Critic”?
There are a whooooole lotta worms in the can that JC opened up there…
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A few days ago, I received an email containing a unique (for me, anyway) request:
“On your page you have a special photograph of Sammy Argetsinger. Can you email me a high resolution copy of that picture? I would like to frame it and I know a local wine owner in Hector wants one to hang in his winery near Dave Bagley.”
The photograph to which this person was referring is below; it happens to be one of my personal favorites, because of the subject – I was lucky enough to capture Finger Lakes grape grower Sam Argetsinger at a moment that seemed to encapsulate his explosively buoyant and totally unique personality (it helped that the backdrop was his gorgeous vinous “backyard,” too).
From a follow up note from the same person requesting the photo, I was informed that Sam Argetsinger had recently passed away.
It’s sad news for Finger Lakes wine country, and, given how impressive FLX wines have been recently, a loss to be mourned for the greater U.S. and global wine communities, as well.
For more on Argetsinger, see my Finger Lakes write-up from back in may of 2010; he was one of the most authentically unique wine personalities that I’d ever encountered, and trust me when I tell you that when it comes to personalities in the wine world, that is really saying something.