Sunday, August 09, 2009


Bagging 'n Bragging

How many times do we have to read about it? Yes, some folks out there get to taste some a.m.a.z.i.n.g. wines. But to open up the wine magazines or blogs and constantly have to be reminded how lowly we are because we didn’t taste a 10 year vertical of Gaja Darmagi or an 1852 Naval Reserve Madeira Sercial, really, how much of this can we take?

I am on a riff about Elitism again, because it is rife in the 21st century of electronic wine literature. A wine lover opens up a whole slew of rare wines and invites a friend or two over and, Pow! an enthusiast or blogger has to regurgitate every wine, every nuance, every breath of their so wonderful evening. As if us knowing about it will make it greater for us? Maybe for them! But really does it?

I was thinking about some of the wines I have tasted and not tasted in my life and asked myself the question: “Is there any wine you just must have before you die? Will the experience do something for your health and sanity that to not have it would have irreversible consequences?”

I mean, really, all the wines I have had to this point won’t prevent me from running into a wall (or a wall running into me). So, no, there is nothing I need from here on out. Not more of anything. Probably less of some things. Most things.

But think about it. We run from coast to coast or continent to continent, chasing things, Wine, love, fresh air. Around and around we pace ourselves in our lifetime ring looking for the big match, the score, the experience of a lifetime. Will getting to taste a 1947 Cheval Blanc really matter?

But we desire something outside of ourselves. Wine is joyous; yes I’ll give it that. And getting together with friends and colleagues over a lineup of wines is more than the sum of the parts. Yes. But what is there to this kiss-and-tell we are seeing all over the place? On TV the newscaster reads his prompt screen, “Today Michael Jackson died. And Hugh Robinson cracked open a bottle of 1934 Calissano Barolo. Details at 11.”

So what?

Measuring the fullness of our lives by what we have drunk vs. the next person is shallow and snotty. I can’t taste it, reading about it. So what good is it? What does the reader take away from it? I’ll tell you. That the person who brags about their wine conquests is saying, “Look, mere mortals, up here on Olympus this is the way gods drink and enjoy their position. And you’ll never make it up here with us. So stick to your longing and your desiring, because as long as you have it, you make us more powerful.”

Hey, this is my Sunday supper rant, and braised with a little tongue-in-cheek. So before you fire off some flaming comment meant to defend the uber-tasters, stop right now. Look at yourself. Think about what it is you do when you read a post or an article about some great wine tasting. And then, if you write, think again about what you want to say about an event like that, if you even do.

“Personal history must be constantly renewed by telling parents, relatives, and friends everything one does. On the other hand, for the warrior who has no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with his acts. And above all, no one pins him down with their thoughts and their expectations.” -Carlos Castaneda

the magnum of 1911 Lafite... was interesting. It was 75+ years old, same age as the U.S. president at the time, without the benefit of lighting and secret service. It was brown and losing its fruit in the glass. But the elusiveness of the fruit made it precious. Here was a wine that was dying, and we were allowed to sip its last drops, breath its last perfume before it said adieu. Wonderful moment.”

Pretty, yes, and a nice memory. But a 75 year old wine tasted 23 years ago isn’t important. It’s someone’s personal history and it should now be erased.

So, in this August summer of 2009, as one goes forward, all this posturing and measuring must be just that. History.

And with it comes the exhilaration of freedom one gets from stepping into the ring of the unknown.

Photographs of 20th century boxers (many Italian-Americans) from the Harry E. Winkler Photographic Collection


CJ said...

I feel a degree of kindred-ness to this post.

I live in the South, where the industry is a fledgling and archaic liquer laws that inhibit its growth remain intact due to Bible Belt puritanism.

Nonetheless, I would like to hear more about wines that aren't out of Cali, Oregon, Washington, and NY. Who is writing about tasting wines from Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, and Texas, to name a few. Even here in Alabama...we're making wine too! Where's the state pride?

Perhaps if, through blogging and various other means (irl), we stir up enough furor, then the powers-that-be will begin to shift and respond. Perhaps our battle cries will become victories and the small guy will get a fair hearing... and maybe, just maybe, he'll end up making great wine to boot.

Cheers, brother.

Mattie John Bamman said...

The saddest part, for me, is that the majority of the magazine publications that focus on wine write in this way. It is protocol to write for salaries $20,000 above those of the average reader. The articles are jam packed with appeals to authority rather than information.

As a young wine writer, I am focusing on wines that cost between 10-30 dollars. Why? Because that's what I drink. Bravo di nuovo.

Jeff Siegel said...

CJ, raise your glass and toast everyone fighting the good fight -- like Brother Alfonso, whose bully pulpit is one of the most valuable weapons that we have.

And please, go to, where we believe what you believe, We're frustrated that regional wines are routinely shrugged off by major wine publications, retail stores, restaurants and even consumers. In too many places, local wine is still treated as a novelty. It's about time regional wine gets the respect it deserves.


WineCouple said...

Like you say, most wine lovers do not get the chance to taste what has been deemed "elite wine" by the world's wine press.

In over ten years of wine writing, we have made it our mission to seek out and reccomend $50 dollar wine that costs $15.

There are so many wineries that go unnoticed by leading publications and writers since it does not fit into their egos to talk about them.

Great point and long live great inexpensive wine!

Marco Pizzo said...

As you know amico, the original meaning of Narcissism was that Narcissus could not love himself until he recognized his reflection in the mirror/water pool as other. Only then was able to love himself. It's not the popular 21st century narcissism.

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks Marco, but it's a different (and new)word, "Narcicentricism".

Marco Campofiorito said...

Oops! I stand or sit corrected. The heat has baked my attention. Please continue, as Italian wine warrior, to shed light on elitism and experience, on the wonders of wine and its place in life, on history and the eternal now.

BK said...


Well written, AC. I think the the new realities of the new economy will slowly change this area too, as it has many others in retail thus far. People won't buy, and people won't read, anything more.

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