My little dog Woody has a big dog hatred for the postman.
I have that same deep contempt for the food and wine media – often getting the urge to snarl and pee all over their stories – preferably while they are sitting at their laptops.
There was an article on Slate a week or so ago week by Brian Palmer on why you should be drinking cheap wine. Brian thinks that people should only be drinking cheap (and I mean really cheap – $3 to $6) wine. Palmer states: “there are plenty of reasons to go back to our 1990s habits and to start using 15 bucks to buy four or five bottles instead of just one”. Palmer believes in some sort of wine conspiracy in which wines costing $12 or $15 per bottle are not only a rip off but that people are wasting their money buying wines in this price range because they can’t tell the difference between a $5 wine and a $15 wine – or even a $30 bottle I presume.
My problem with this article is not only that Palmer is wrong. My issue is that this article is another in an endless series of phony, anti-intellectual, straw-man, anti-elitist wine articles that are contrary – mainly for the sake of being contrary. I am not sure that Palmer even believes half the things he writes about. In a way writing about his article plays into contributing to a sham controversy – one of the main hazards of the media and the internet in particular.
Palmer’s article is misleading. There is just enough correct information in it to be unhelpful to those who are less knowledgeable about wine or who are at the start of their wine learning curve. Palmer chooses to leave out critical information that doesn’t conveniently fit into his premise: He fails to detail all of the reasons why wines may cost more some places than others (E.g. Pennsylvania, Utah and the ins and outs of state by state pricing); he leaves out information on what it actually costs to put juice in the bottle and how the difference in the level of care that goes into vineyard maintenance and the making of wine at different price points can affect the cost; he doesn’t even mention the negative impact of corporate farming on the environment.
Palmer specifically negates an individual’s ability to learn to distinguish between manufactured, commercial wines and those that are handcrafted and that (ideally) impart a sense of place – something that a $5 wine can never do. To say that at the $12 to $15 price point, variety and the likelihood of improved quality doesn’t improve is disingenuous at best and a lie at worst. Articles like Palmer’s pretend that all there is to wine – is drinking wine you like. In reality, learning to know just what it is that you like in wine can be one of the most difficult things there is to learn. It is more than just knowing what level of crap is acceptable to you – Pepsi or Coke, Sonic or McDonalds, Two Buck Chuck or Yellow Tail.
Wine can be enjoyed and understood on many levels. Sometimes it is simple and easy. Other times it is extraordinarily nuanced and complex. Sometimes it is a little of both. Like so many other things in life – one can dissect it (and talk ad nauseam about it) or you can taste it and just move on. If your idea of great chocolate is Russell Stover – fine – but I think you can do better, appreciate it and still not spend your kid’s college money on your chocolate habit.
Articles like Palmers don’t educate – they pander and misinform.