“G-d is dead,” wrote Nietzsche (The Gay Science 1882).
“The author is dead,” wrote Barthes (“The Death of the Author” 1967).
“G-d is dead, Marx is dead, and I don’t feel too good either,” wrote the students on the walls of the 1968 revolution in Europe (quoted by Ionesco in 1979).
In the demotic age of wine blogging, is the wine writer dead?
I really loved Eric “the Red” Asimov’s column this week on the nature of oenography, “A Wine Critic’s Realm Isn’t a Democracy.”
Calling himself not an “impartial arbiter” but rather “a guide,” he politely argues that personal preference is fundamental in wine writing.
The back story is that for many years, there’s been an ongoing behind-the-scenes feud between the editors of points-based publications and “narrative” wine writers, where the former hold that their evaluations are superior because they are the fruit of an empirical, impersonal system for critiquing wine.
I would take Eric’s argument a step further. Echoing the Gertrude Stein of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, I contend that all writing is purely subjective — including point-based wine reviews. That is the nature of writing. And that is, above all, the nature of wine.
From St. Augustine, to Stein, to Barthes, to Derrida… critical theorists have considered the issues of subjectivity in discourse and perception for thousands of years. Who are we, now, to lay arrogant claim to a new and purely objective means of observation?
Why not embrace our humanity and our human shortcomings in wine writing?
After all, we see through a glass darkly.
Also for your consideration…
My friend Katie Parla, a Rome-based food, wine, and travel writer, wrote this superb article for Punch on the Antinori-Boncompagni feud over the legacy of the Fiorano wines. In it, you’ll find an excerpt from my translation of an interview that Prince Boncompagni gave to Luigi Veronelli before he died. It’s a great piece.
Lastly, the most lyrical of wine bloggers, my friend Levi Dalton, delivered one of his most brilliant essays with his post this week for EaterNY, “As Wine Culture Gets Older, the Sommeliers Get Younger.”
Everyone in the trade has been talking about Levi’s insights into the evolution of wine connoisseurship in this country.
Buona lettura e buon weekend, yall. I’ve gotta hop on a plane…