Saturday, 5 July 2008

Campanilismo corner

I have experienced some very narrow thinking in the wine world. In Bordeaux they used to greet the mention of Burgundy with ‘Ah yes, they make wine there too, don’t they?’

If you go into a wine shop in Geneva, they will not stock wines from Zurich.

In Canada it is very difficult to buy wines from British Columbia in Ontario and almost impossible to find anything from Quebec there. In the USA it is still illegal to ship wine across some state lines.

Northern taste.
We explain the fact that alcoholism seems to get worse the further North you go in terms of lack of sunlight, cold, damp etc. So the popularity of ever higher alcohol wine can also be down to the fact it is mainly appreciated in North America, Northern Europe, Scandinavia etc. rather than Mediterranean for instance. I believe there is something else going on here, not related to climate, more cultural. My wife was in a restaurant with two friends in America a few years ago. They had finished a bottle of wine half way through the main course so decided to order a second. They waited but there was no sign of the wine. On reminding the waiter he said he had thought they were joking. Typically many Americans have a glass of wine with their meal so the glass should be a ‘mouthful’. And now for something truly wierd. Did you know that a leaway of 1.5% is allowed when declaring alcohol content? What is more, producers frequently raise the acohol level printed on the label by 1% because they believe it will sell more bottles! I would have thought the opposite. What is going on?

I love Robert Parker. Reading about him you would think he was the Clive Barnes of the wine world, Reading Parker himself is another thing altogether. His default setting is one of wonderment at most wines. I find he bends over backwards to say nice things if he can. The harm only comes when people take his marking as a standard for the entire wine world. He would not make that effect if people trusted their own opinions. Of course I pay attention to what he writes but one should exercise as much scepticism as when reading a newspaper. I love him for the facts that I can learn from him and mostly for his mistakes. In his third edition of his Wine Buyers Guide he dismisses ‘Most reds from Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Veneto’ as being ‘washed-out, vegetal, thin wines that have little redeeming social value.’ (p.686). If that helped to keep the prices down of all the red wines I have appreciated from those areas, then a big thank you to Robert Parker!

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