Posts Filed Under zen wine
As much as social media wine wizards and millennials rail against established wine media, most of them (myself included) share with those ‘old media’ types a similar and mistake-prone approach to wine evaluation and appreciation.
And that is, the rapid-fire assessment, review, and perfunctory judgment of any given wine. We are judge, jury and executioner of the glass’ contents, often within the span of two minutes.
We see this happen all the time – in fact in some cases (like certain Twitter Taste Live events, or the “speed dating” wine blogging at the Wine Bloggers Conference), it’s encouraged and necessary. I often participate in and have grown to love those events, provided that we don’t take them too seriously.
And we shouldn’t take them seriously, at least as far as true wine appreciation is concerned. Why? Because every glass of wine, from the pedestrian to the sublime, is speaking to you, trying to tell you something about itself – you need only take the actual time to listen to it.
In the case of many wines made in the ‘Old World’ style (what my compadre Randall Grahm calls Modernist), where typicity of place and nuanced complexity are the goals, that message may be “Come back later.” New World (Postmodernist) wines usually (and probably unfairly) fare better in rapid-fire evaluation scenarios, precisely because they more often offer their treasures quickly and liberally – “Hey! Over here! I’m talkin’ to YOU!”
In a globally-connected, information-based economy like ours, we are progressively programmed with positive reinforcement to spend as little time as possible on something – in fact, we’re rewarded for doing many things at once, and the more quickly we can shove them into the same time slot, the better.
The trouble is, if you want to appreciate wine fully, you need to dump the Speed Racer + Multitasking Pro persona. Pronto…
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I seem to be in ‘book mode’ the last week or two. I’m a bit of a bookworm, so it’s fun for me to mess around at the intersection of wine and the printed word. I still don’t own an eReader device, by the way – I prefer Book 1.0 – you know, the kind with actual pages that you can stick a bookmark between.
Anyway, here’s another piece of printed word that intersects with the wacky world of wine.
David White’s Sippin’ on Top of the World: Toasting Good Times and Better Days, of which I recently received a sample copy, is a bit of a strange book.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s being misrepresented.
Sippin’ on Top of the World isn’t so much a list of wine toasts (as the subtitle would lead you to believe) as it is a series of spiritual wine meditations. Which makes sense when you consider that its author, David White, is the co-founder of the “WineSpirit Institute for the Study of Wine and Spirituality.”
At this point, your mind may be screaming “CULT! CULT!” and planning to run away as quickly as you can lest you be tainted by the odiferous funk of the religious cook. It would be an understandable reaction, though one that I’d argue was totally incorrect.
In fact, depending on your point of view, dismiss Sippin’ on Top of the World too readily and you’d be missing out on some potentially enthralling conversation topics, not to mention possible sources of inspiration…
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Well, I’m not actually an Alsatian. And I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) related to any Alsatians.
That naturally didn’t stop me whatsoever from sampling the wine in Alsace last week while I was in nearby Strasbourg. In fact, in a very un-Alsatian manner I joined a native Strasbourgian (Stras-borg?), a Spaniard, and an Australian and visited the IlVino (Vino Strada) wine bar, located in a converted boat right on the river in downtown Strasbourg.
The French aren’t nearly as snobbish about wine as most Amahr-icahhhns might expect, of course. At Vino Strada, they sit at tables named after famed French wine regions and sample French wine over dishes of French-inspired tapas (smoked meats, cheese, nuts, fruit, cheese, bread, cheese, and cheese). And they don’t really talk about the wine – at least, they didn’t talk about it as much as I wanted to talk about it.
They also snuck some Aussie and Chilean selections in there. But nothing from California (it hasn’t been that long since Bush left office, I’m afraid).
It’s a tiny place with tight quarters, but a very decent selections of wine (I started with Cremant d’Alsace, and worked my way up to some Vendange Tardive Rouge), and if I’d spent more time writing things down instead of talking, drinking, eating, and living, then I might have more to tell you about it all.
So, why am I telling you this? After all, it’s probably some boring-ass reading, right? Guy goes to France; guy goes to wine bar in France; guy has French wine in French wine bar.
Well, I could have whipped out the tasting notebook, taken copious notes, and come back here detailing the anecdotal intricacies of my tastings, and probably going gonzo-style and embellishing fats about my dining partners, sort of like Hunter S. Thompson meets Bruce Chatwin.
But as it stands, I decided to instead follow my own advice, and enjoy the moment, the wine, the company, the food. Might be boring reading for some of you, but for others I’ll bet that a little zen wine action probably can’t hurt.
As it stands, I opted for the living and not the writing, so you’re just going to have to get your butt over to France and check it out for yourself.
If you can stand taking a break from all that California vino, that is.