Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Words We Use for the Truths We Seek

Lately I’ve been pondering the words we choose, when writing and talking about wine. Notably, I have seen a burgeoning use of words like curated, gifted, humbled, blessed, privileged, literally and journey. And let’s not forget “my bad.” Along with that, we’re seeing more first-person representations. In other words, there’s a lot more of me and a lot less of thee.

I was in a local wine store and the young pourer was talking about Super Tuscans. This person noted that the wines they were pouring, Sangiovese based, were similar to Sassicaia. True, in that they were in and around Bolgheri. But Sangiovese in Sassicaia? I waited for the area to clear and mentioned to the pourer, in private, that I didn’t think there was ever any Sangiovese in Sassicaia. Cabernet Sauvignon, yes. But no Sangiovese. The body language I read was telling me that they didn’t want to believe me, so I suggested we look it up. “I could be wrong,” I said. I knew I wasn’t. But, baby steps.

Sure enough, no Sangiovese. Ever. “But there is Cabernet Franc in it. It’s not just Cabernet Sauvignon.” he replied. I guessed that was a gotcha, intended to return me to my invisible slot. “OK, very good.” I answered, and then slithered away.

Afterwards, it felt idiotic engaging in a discussion with someone who didn’t really know that I probably knew a little more than the average Joe about Italian wine. It felt like I might have sneaked up on him.

But when is it the right time to correct someone? Is there ever a good time?

Yes, there is – when the person to be corrected has an open heart and an open mind and is engaged in furthering their understanding and knowledge of things on their journey in wine and the greater world.

I’ve truly forgotten more than I probably know right now. The ancient brain literally scuttles data and curates it into little piles to send it out as flotsam and jetsam into the present, where facts and figures just really don’t matter as much as they used to.

So, why did I press, ever so gently, the young neophyte on that point? Because I knew? Because they were wrong? Because I wanted to assert my primacy and humble them?

How about, because if you are selling to the public, you should have your facts straight and correct. Just for shits and giggles, if for no other reason. Because you’re involved in a profession and it pays to act professionally. And to get your facts straight. It’s a blessing to have such freedom to be wrong and be able to correct oneself when gifted with the truth. There we have it – the word – truth.

Because one should tell the truth.

Ha! In today’s world? Really? The truth? Boy, what a privileged dreamer I be.

And it isn’t just the truth, but it’s the passing of knowledge from one generation to another. Since the internet age, that has seemingly become less important, along with books and facts. Anyone can google anything and get to the truth. Or can they? We already know there are many versions of events on the internet that are far from the truth.

And in actuality, Italian wine information has always been rife with misinformation. How many times do I hear someone talking about the clones of Nebbiolo, when what they really mean are the biotypes (a nod here to Ian D’Agata, for shedding light on that small tidbit of truth).

This same person who was pouring the Super Tuscans also had some frizzante/orange/yellow/pet nat wines they were pouring – currently the darlings of the upcoming generations in their journey to curate their humble knowledge of the diversity of Italian wine. And sure, OK, let’s do that. Why not? Except the name they used in identifying the grape was nonexistent. I mean with 1000+ grapes already in the pantheon of Italian wine lore, do we really need another one?

Look, this isn’t a new thing. It’s been going on for ages. If I had a lira for every time I heard something about Italian wine that was incorrect, I could retire. Oh wait, I’m already on that (last) leg of my journey. My bad.

So, it seems we still have miles to go before we sleep. Italian wine has come a long way, and there is some wonderful momentum with Italian wine, even with three years of a world wide pandemic under our belt. Hey, Prowein is up and running this moment and Vinitaly is a few weeks off. The mill of God grinds away.

But the proceeding generations cannot let all the work that has been done be undone. We got here by the work and toil of thousands and thousands of men and women who poured their hearts into their work in the wine trade, and the Italian wine trade specifically, for purposes of this blog and this post. People died to get us here. And we stand on their shoulders in order to see as far as we can. This is just an appeal for greater persistence in finding truth and accuracy and standing behind it.

OK, so I’ve used all those clichĂ© words a time or two in this post, just for the hell of it. But let’s drill down now and look at those words and see why I think they can be so annoying.

Curated – if you run a museum or a parish, curate away. The rest of us just needs to step the eff back and stop using such a pretentious word. Screen, cull and select away. But for the love of God, enough already.

Gifted – Two other words work perfectly well – gave and given. Why complicate life with a pompous exaggeration?  Use the words that work, quit making up shit.

Humbled – If you have to say you are humbled (about a promotion, a recognition or some landmark in your life) then you probably are not being as humble as you might be claiming to be. Knock it off. Walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. Be humble.

Blessed – Again, if you have to draw attention to yourself for being singled out by God for Almighty Grace, maybe you aren’t being as graceful about it as you can be. Just be grateful and leave it at that.

Privileged – We know, most of us in the western hemisphere are already uber-privileged out our ass. No need to rub it in to the rest of the folks aspiring to get past the velvet rope. Keep it simple. Give some of it away. You got lucky, that’s really the gist of it. We all did.

Literally – Simply, plainly, actually. You’re not Joan Didion or part of the literati. Go simple. It’s simpler.

Journey – Yeah, we know. We’re all on one. Have a nice trip, now get back on the road and stop talking about it. We get it. You’re special. Just like everyone else.

My bad - Of course, after this screed, I might be excused for indulging myself and offering up to you all a personally curated “my bad.” But that would literally look so uber-privileged. So, I will not, and ask everyone in my world to please stop using these two words together. Unless you are someone I love, just say “sorry” and leave it at that. (If you are someone I love, you can forgo it, for as Erich Segal said, “Love means never having to say you're sorry.”

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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