Arrogance

Arrogance is a tricky thing. Some people in the middle 2000s called Roger Federer arrogant because it became hard to believe him when he praised Nikolai Davydenko for being a tough out after barely ruffling his shirt while crushing the poor guy 6-0 6-1 6-0 for the seventh time in a row. I happen to disagree because I liked watching Roger Federer play, because he did fundamentally new and interesting things with tennis balls that I could only do if I had a muscle spasm in the middle of hitting a different and less inspired shot.[1] Nonetheless, I recognize that the monogrammed Ralph Lauren Match Jacket could be interpreted as a little tone deaf.

Of course, it is also true that by cultivating this aura of untouchability, Federer started every match with a massive psychological advantage over every opponent he faced but one, so perhaps a little arrogance is a good thing.[2]

Many wineries throughout the world embrace this attitude. Wherever your allegiance lies in any of the forty or fifty playful arguments between wine regions–Burgundy v. Bordeaux, Piedmont v. Tuscany, Sonoma v. Willamette, Mosel v. Alsace, Napa v. everybody, and so on–there is a winery that agrees with you, this or that region is clearly the source of the world’s best wine, thinking anything else simply means you haven’t tried the good stuff. I myself have been prone at one time or another to this sort of terroir-driven chauvinism.

I’m not naming names; first because I would grow old before naming every winery with exaggerated self-regard; second because I may betray my own favoritism by ommiting my favorite regions; third because I’m hoping that some of these people will hire me; and forth–perhaps most importantly but certainly most poetically–this tell-tale flavor of condescension is a natural byproduct of success. It’s oddly axiomatic in human nature that we’re irrisistably drawn to the charismatic underdog; the artisanal grower with dirt in his fingernails and a vision of the future dancing in his eyes. That guy or gal makes fantastic wine, but he or she usually goes bankrupt. The investors who come to buy his or her vineyards are the people who bring the trumpets. They come because they believe that they’ve found a new Secret, a new flavor of world-class wine, and that they have the ability to unlock this vineyard’s potential. It takes a healthy opinion of oneself to decide that dirt+me=world class wine, but one also has to have an equally high opinion of the dirt, and in order to attract the kind of attention that will attract the kind of trend-setters who will attract the kind of sales and justify the kinds of prices that truly mark world-class wine regions, one has to be willing to tell everybody about it.

Try to remember that this sort of confidence shading into arrogance is–in large samples–inseperable from excellence. There will always be starry-eyed dreamers. There will always be vinters determined to deliver excellent deliciousness per dime. The cash cows whose tasting room staffs wear white Ralph Lauren blazers represent the rising tide that floats all boats. Try to ignore the worst of it, and enjoy the wine.



[1] And as you may have guessed, I didn’t like Raphael Nadal for consistently beating my guy by simply hitting the ball harder, peeling off the fuzz in a tornado of topspin, and snarling a lot. To my mind, Federer’s game was an artisan at work, thought-without-thinking, fluid geometry, and physical poetry; while Rapheal Nadal was a Minotaur with a warhammer.

[2] Also, I will die believing that what some people considered elitism was simply his natural and neutral attempt to describe reality. What is he supposed to say?


The Oasis

This Northstar merlot was the very model of a modern new world wine. Supple to a nearly embarrassing degree, the sort of mouth-filling texture that traces a perfect bell curve across your palate. The aroma was rich black fruit, accented with the sort of earth that makes a cloud when you walk across it, and […]


Branded

There are few words in English with as interesting a history as brand. Originally, a brand was simply a burning thing, usually a stick.[1] Since people were in the habit of using burning sticks to mark their cattle for, like, most of human history, the burning stick grew a verb, as nouns are wont to […]


Drinking Wine Like the Ancients

I spoke recently about dry wine and sweet wine, and how it’s all very complicated and when I try to explain it people look at me with that delicious combination of confusion and pity as if I’m making an argument for geocentrism[1] and then my head starts to hurt and it all makes me yearn […]


Afternoon Drive

I took a little drive around my city,[1] because I felt like turning left on 76th, and eventually happened in on a place called Woodstock Wine and Deli in the un-self-conscious willi-wither-whackers of SE, so far off the beaten path they don’t even know there are fucks to give. I once worked a tasting event […]


Sack, Hock, Plonk, and Claret

Golly do the English ever drink a lot of wine. To be sure, the average Frenchman or Italian drinks more than twice as much wine as the Englishman,[1] but since France and Italy produce about a hundred thousand times as much wine as England, their own quest for the sauce has been less dramatic.[2] While […]


Hearty Bowl, Hearty Glass

When pairing wine with your food, there are some very important rules.   Don’t Take it Too Seriously You wouldn’t catch me dead drinking red Bordeaux with seafood, but there are people who do, and they’re not wrong. I could make my writing completely unreadable with the chemistry of wine pairing; how bitter tannic flavors […]


The Elusive Charm of Sparkling Wine

I have always had trouble liking sparkling wine. This is an embarrassing confession for a self-professed wine nerd; because there’s nothing nerdier in the universe than sparkling wine, and since it comes in so many shapes and sizes, the category fills in enough of the flavor rainbow to impress a mantis shrimp. I can’t even […]


Why Do We Like Dry Wine?

Do you like cookies? Chocolate? Ice cream? Do you drizzle syrup on your pancakes?[1] If you answered yes to any of the above, you like sweet things.[2] On the other hand, if global sales are any indication, most of you have been presented with sweet wine at a restaurant or a wine shop and reacted […]


Alsace Unfiltered

I am a translator. When I describe a wine, the process begins in my actual nose and on my actual palate, where chemical compounds mix with my sensory receptors, and transmit aroma and flavor information to my brain. I have trained myself to process that information into a fairly rigorous set of official terms found […]