My Google Reader overflows with feeds these days. It’s hard to keep up with them all and I regret that it took me a few days to catch up to Alice’s post on Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher’s article “A Waning Affair with Barolo”. In their piece, the wife-and-husband team priggishly express their disappointment with the 2004 vintage of Barolo. (I read The New York Times daily. It’s my tie to the Big Apple. And I dogmatically avoid The Wall Street Journal — required reading for the rich, a manifesto and manual for capitalist subjugation of the proletariat. As a result, I was unaware of the piece.)
They say they set out to find 50 bottles under $70 so it’s not clear how many they actually tasted. But their unwarranted, superfluous, and supercilious take on the 2004 vintage is decidedly negative. The wines, they write, “really just weren’t that impressive. You can’t imagine our shock and disappointment. Flight after flight left us cold. They weren’t bad. They were pleasant enough. But with wine after wine, we used a word that should never be used to describe Barolo: simple.” Pleasant enough? Simple?
In another one of her excellent posts wherein she continues her struggle (la lotta continua) to defend the world from Parkerization (and here I take her concept of Parkerization as it relates to the arrogant, chauvinist attitude that his followers — more so than he — exude), Alice rightly laments: “I have a hard time when writers smack down vintage. In this case, especially as they really don’t seem to be experienced when interpreting young vintages, it seems irresponsible.”
It is more than irresponsible. In fact, it’s reprehensible.
When you taste a great wine (like Barolo) in its youth from a great vintage (and it certainly will prove to be an excellent vintage, if not a great one), you don’t look for greatness in the wine. You look for the potential for greatness in the wine. Beyond its tannic structure (dominant in this phase of the wine’s evolution), you look for the presence of defects. In their absence, you can begin to assess the wine’s potential for development. You also ask growers and winemakers what they think of the vintage (they know better than any) and you do your homework by reading your colleagues’s assessment of a given wine.
I looked up Franco’s post on a tasting of 57 bottlings of 2004 Barolo in September 2007 with Roy Richards, Nicolas Belfrage, David Berry Green, and Stuart George. (Dorothy and John, if you don’t know who these guys are, please add them to your reading list. They seem to know something about Italian wine.) According to Franco, Barolo 2004 was “classic vintage.” He noted that “2004 seems to be a great vintage and there are many wines worth buying and cellaring — with all likelihood, wines that will get greater over the years… [In 2004], Nebbiolo triumphed with its elegance and its singularity… One thing is certain, 2004 Barolo is a great wine and it deserves our attention, our trust, and the consensus of all lovers of great wine. In English, you would call these wines fine wines: they are elegant, refined, complex, and nothing less.”
Arrogance, hubris, chauvinism, superciliousness, ignorance, disinformation: these are words come to mind as I ponder Dorothy and John’s irresponsible and reprehensible journalism. Once again, the haughty American attitude shows its ugly head. Once again, American wine writers haven’t considered the most important elements in any wine: the people who made it and the place where they live and work. Bite your tongues, Dorothy and John.