To the Emperor’s Censor: Parole in Libertà!

I was appalled but not surprised to learn that my friend, natural wine champion and excellent writer Alice Feiring, had been kicked out of the Robert Parker chatroom when she joined a charged discussion/thread that took shape in the wake of Lettie Teague’s recently published and already much-talked-about piece on Barolo.

Evidently, the chatroom’s policy does not allow wine writers to weigh in when another writer is already participating — directly or indirectly — in the thread. See Alice’ post on the episode here.

The good news is that Lettie Teague has launched a very positive dialogue on Barolo. In her article, she addresses a highly contentious and often divisive issue or, rather, body of issues: can Barolo be consumed young? if it can’t, what’s the point of buying it unless I can cellar it for 20 years? what defines Modernist vs. Traditionalist Barolo? and, after all (and here’s where it gets really tricky), where does the line of tradition end/begin? and what does tradition mean when we see that winemaking styles are constantly changing? Whether or not you agree with Lettie and/or you appreciate her research and tasting notes, she has sparked a hypertext that will certainly help to enlighten would-be Barolo collectors and/or lovers.

In some ways, the current dialectic is analogous to that of Postmodernism, wherein any discussion on the nature of Modernism and Postmodernism has to be prefaced by a discussion of where the historical avant-garde ended (and what, if anything, can come after Postmodernism???!!!). The discussion becomes even more complicated when you consider that (as the erudite Darrell Corti recently pointed out to me) Renato Ratti radically changed the nature of Barolo with his 1971 bottling. Did the “tradition” of Barolo begin only in 1971? Does Ratti’s approach to Barolo mark the birth of Modernism in Langhe? Does this make Paolo Scavino a Postmodernist producer? More on this in another post…

The bad news is that once again, the Emperor of Wine has sent his censor into the αγορά or agora, the “marketplace” (where thinkers, writers, and, in this case, nebbiolophiles gather to contemplate sensation and its meaning) to stifle our dialogue.

Granted, Alice is well known for her strong positions on winemaking and her critical eye and absolute and fierce devotion to the wines she loves have more than once bruised the ego of a peer and/or colleague. But shouldn’t Robert Parker — of all people!!! — encourage positive and meaningful dialogue on wine, wine collecting, and wine appreciation? The Parker chatroom should celebrate her superb wine knowledge, reason, and wisdom… if not for anything else than for the love of wine.

Borrowing a phrase coined by the father of the historical avant-garde, F.T. Marinetti, I have three words for Parker and his censor: parole in libertà! “words in freedom!”

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