The N word

From the “so to speak department” otherwise known as the “department of semiotics and semantics”…

It’s not a bad word.

Nor is it a racially charged or in any way nocive or noxious word.

It’s a nice, normal nomination that we use nomenclaturally.

It’s no nomen novum, nomen nudum, nomen dubitum, nor a nomen oblitum. No, it’s a word that most folks use nearly every day in one way or another.

It has become the subject of gnostically nuclear debate in the notoriety of Saignée’s recent series 31 Days of N… OOPS! SAWWY! I almost said it.

This morning, two of my blogging colleagues, both of whom I respect immensely, posted on its meaning and its contextualization with regard to enological epistemology here and here. In diametrically opposed stance (however unaware of each other’s posts), they contemporaneously espoused two radically different points of view. I won’t dare SAY the WORD but I do recommend both posts to you.

Last night, Tracie B made us a dinner of rotisserie chicken (from Central Market) and iron-skillet roasted potatoes and peppers that we enjoyed with one of our favorite wines of the summer of 2009, our current house white: Luneau-Papin’s 2005 Muscadet Sevre & Maine Clos des Allées, which retails for under $20 in Texas and is imported by one of the prime movers of N wines in this country, Louis-Dressner. We love this wine and I don’t know, nor will I venture to guess whether or not it is a N wine. All I know is that it is great, we can afford it, and we LOVE it. (Love is a great four-letter word, isn’t it?)

The minerality and acidity of the wine was FANTASTIC and was a great match for the spiciness of the peppers that I bought at a road-side rustic gastronomy on my way back to Austin the other day from Dallas, where stuffed armadillos guard over bottles of sorghum syrup. We love the wine so much that we cleaned out our local retailer’s stock and it has become our “go-to” white for the summer of 2009.

Yesterday, as I headed to Tracie B’s after a long day’s work, I snapped this photo of the sunset over Austin. One of the things that has impressed me the most about living in Texas is the beauty of the sky here. The sunsets and dawns are among the most stunning and truly inspirational that I’ve ever seen. When you gaze up at its beauty and its awesome expanse, you can understand why the Texans are such a G-d-fearing nation (and I mean nation in the etymological sense of the word). Like the N word, the word of G-d is not for me but for higher authorities to discuss.

Sometimes when a word is repeated over and over again, it begins to lose its meaning. Children often indulge in what scholars of linguistics call “nonsense-word repetition.” I will not dare repeat the N word but I will leave you today with the epistemological conundrum: could the bird be the word?

13 thoughts on “The N word

  1. What a superbly natty post. It got me in the mood to listen to some jazz, in this case music native to these shores. So I put on Nat King Cole’s “Non dimenticar.”

    Nice way to negotiate through the Ins-n-Outs of a normal day. Namaste, Jeremy P.

  2. This is not really an argument but a tiring encounter with a Straw Man you’ve constructed.

    It is intellectually dishonest and smug.

    You started a wine club and sold wines as natural wines that are machine harvested. Rather than just admit you made a mistake, honest or dishonest, you are now trying to proof that you are above all factual arguments and just call ‘em as you see ‘em.

    If a wine comes from a vineyard that is doused with Monsanto products and you enjoy the wine, you can call it biodynamic, organic or natural because you enjoyed the wine.

    No one is being a Nazi here. You are being sloppy or dishonest or self promoting or a combination of all three.

    It is not a flattering portrait.

    • @Joe I recognize and fully own up to the fact that one of the wines we offered in the Jaynes Gastropub San Diego Natural Wine Summit would not be considered by many people — authorities on the subject — to be a natural wine. And, frankly, in the light of what I know about the wine now, I realize we were wrong to include in the six pack. I take full responsibility for that. I never use the word that denotes historical National Socialism in Europe (nor would I ever) nor do I evade responsibility for the error. The wine in question was the Domaine du Salvard Sauvignon Blanc Unique, which, as was revealed to me and as I discovered, is machine harvested (as opposed to hand harvested). It was a mistake, an honest one, but a mistake nonetheless. As I’ve told you via email and on the phone, I recognize that I need to be very careful about the use of qualifiers — on my blog and my wine club site as well. This post is not meant to be disrespectful by any means. My background is in academics, specifically in philology and linguistics, and I often write about literature and linguistics and the nature of translation on my blog. This post — not that an explanation nor an apology should be necessary — is just some fun wordplay intended to draw attention to the debate.

  3. There is no debate.

    You create a strawman through a lack of research, knock it down, and claim the higher moral ground because you are not a dogmatist.

    I’m not telling you if you should or should not like the Domaine Salvert Cheverny. That’s your judgement.

    But why drag everyone into a totally unnecessary argument based on your lack of research.

    Enjoy the wines you like, be they soaked with Monsanto products, sustainable, organic, industrial or just plain shitty. Or even natural.

    Just, please, don’t try to stake a higher ground for yourself and Stacy B. Soon, I’ll have to read how you are being persecuted.

    • @Joe I agree that there is NO debate. I do not claim to be an authority on natural wine. I simple enjoy many of the wines that higher authorities (to whom I defer) call natural wines. In some cases, I’ve shared some of those wines with my friends, my family, and people who buy wine from me (mostly my friends and family, btw). There is no question of morality here. And there is no moral ground to stand on. I appreciate and admire what you do and have done historically for the natural wine movement and Tracie B and I LOVE your portfolio of wines. Open your heart, o Big Joe, and see the love…

  4. By the way, the Luneau-Papin is in the Natural Wine grey area. I would not call it a natural wine, even though Luneau is one of the handful of growers who still hand harvests in the Muscadet.

    I hope the estate moves to organic farming in the future and I would also like to see a lower dose of sulpher in some of the bottlings.

    Regardless, the key thing about the estate is their wonderful holdings, their insistence on hand harvesting, and the preponderance of selections massale in their vineyards, rather than clones.

    I gladly drink this wine and drank a 1997 and 2000 L d’Or this summer.

    It is not dogmatically correct but is still delicious.

    But it is not really a naturally made wine as it stands now. We hope it will be in the future.

    The paradox of viticulture is that someone with inferior holdings might do everything “right” and the wine may not even approach Luneau’s wines because they have clones and bad terroir. Life is long and we hope Luneau and his Pierre-Marie will move to an organic production soon. We are doing all we can to bring this about.

    For me, the leaders in Natural wine Muscadet are Guy Bossard, Jo Landron, and Marc Ollivier.

  5. I want to apologize if anyone mistook my Nazi mention as being a charge against Jeremy. I know that Jeremy is very much anti-Nazi.

    I am also not accusing Jeremy of calling me a Nazi. Jeremy knows my anti-Nazi credentials are impeccable and would never stoop so low.

    Even Traci B., God Bless her, is innocent of all charges of Nazi-ism or accusing others of Nazi sympathies.

  6. Thanks, Joe, for checking back. I’ve not tasted the Bossard, nor the Landron, but I love the Olivier. I know that your anti-historical-National-Socialism-in-Europe credentials are impeccable (as was evidenced by your old blog). The Luneau was great last night and we have a few bottles left and will continue to enjoy it in the days of summer that remain.

  7. I think that to arrive to accuse someone, like Jeremy (of Jewish origin)to be “nazist” for a question regarding natural wines or machine harvest and not by hand, apologies for my poor English, is absolutely crazy and without sense. We are talking about wines, sirs!

  8. Joe, I have the strongest respect for you, for your work to propose great and authentic wines in USA, for your history, but I think that yesterday you exaggerate with my friend Jeremy. It’s only a wine history, we must not save the world…
    Also from Parkerization, like suggest our friend Alice…
    kindest regards
    Franco

  9. Pingback: Just What Makes a Wine Natural? - The Pour Blog - NYTimes.com

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