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?

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