What happened to the middle?

August 30, 2014

What happened to the middle?

Recently, there’s been a lot of fuss on social media about the validity of obscure wines from tiny producers or from overseas being over represented on wine lists in Australia.

There’s a lot to be said about it of course, but it seems to me that the glaringly obvious question is “why is the polar opposite of one view being touted as the only alternative”?

Let me give you an example.

For some time, the American Wine Critic, Robert Parker has sung the praises of a very particular wine style.  So influential is he in fact, that Bordeaux estates who’ve changed very little about the way they make wine in hundreds of years have begun to change the way their wines ultimately taste in order to receive better scores.

Of course it’s not good. It serves very few people, least of all the consumer.

But, is the only alternative the option that’s furthest away, stylistically speaking?

Is death metal the logical alternative if you don’t like opera?

Is Marxism the only alternative to fascism?

Of course not.  But, too often, in all forms of argument, and lately, in wine, the vinous equivalent of the far left is being touted as the only reasonable response in opposition to the mainstream views being promoted by the likes of RP jr.,

I would argue that the proponents of the so called ‘Natural’ wine movement, or more specifically, those that suggest that ‘naturally’ made wines are the only wines worth drinking are just as detrimental to the world of wine as those they oppose.

The poster child of the natural wine movement is Alice Feiring.

The subtitle of one of her books is “how I saved the world from Parkerization’

I’m sorry Alice, but are you kidding me?

What’s wrong with a little compromise? What’s wrong with finding good wines from all along the spectrum?  With the wines loved by those two mentioned above and everything in between?

At least Parker doesn’t demand a philosophical observance before even considering trying a wine.  He also doesn’t treat people like they’ve not progressed to a point in their wine appreciation (even cultural) development so as to be able to appreciate such wines.

It reminds me of being in high school.  You remember… “Yeah Nirvana were great before they sold out… I was in to them before nevermind came out and they went mainstream”

So often, as sommeliers, we bang on about trying to make wine more accessible, more user friendly etc.  But as much as we want it to be, it’s rarely only about the quality of the beverage.  Funnily, I’ve never once seen the fully biodynamic wine made by Angove’s on any of these lists that only support wines made that way.  It’s not just about the wine, it’s also about being “alternative” in the same way people will always tell you that British versions of programs are inherently better than American ones.  (I prefer the American version of the office, just saying)

My point is this.  Neither Parker nor Feiring is right, outright…  And just because you disagree with one of them doesn’t mean you have to completely agree with the other.  The vast majority of wine opinion must sit somewhere between these two extremes and anyone who suggests you have to like one style, or even worse, that only one philosophy is valid is contrarian, elitist and simply wrong. If you’re interested in seeing more of either Mr Parker’s or Ms Feiring’s views, check out
Alice Feiring
Robert Parker Jr.






1 Comments on “What happened to the middle?”

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