car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

Categories

[The Days of] Wines N’Roses

You don’t really have to go very far these days to find some really obnoxious writing. If you subscribe to one of the big national newspapers –say,perhaps,The New York Times –you’ve probably been subjected to some pretty atrocious critical reviews. Maybe I really am that much of a snob to be nitpicking this,but,more often than not,I find reviews –particularly those of literary,gastronomic,or musical subjects –generally overblown,hackneyed works written by people who probably have no idea what they’re talking about. As a matter of fact,you can dispense with the reviews altogether. A French literary professor has already published a book that will help you sound like an expert literary critic without even knowing what you’re talking about.

I was driving back from school to visit my parents last month and happened to tune in to “Whad’ya Know”as I pulled out of Madison. Joe Queenan was a guest in the first hour,and he spent nearly twenty minutes riffing on “astonishing”literature. If you’ve got the time (and RealPlayer),take the opportunity to listen to that section of the show. I think you’ll be amazed at Queenan’s quick wit and virtuosic improvisation. You can stream that portion of the show via the archive for 27 January 2007. Select “Part A”and cue it to about the 9:00 mark. If you know you have RealPlayer,just click here for the stream and cue to nine minutes.

Dating back to my days in culinary school,I couldn’t help but chuckle when reading restaurant and wine reviews. It might just be an opinion derived from my personal breadth of experience,but the foodies seem to be far and away the most prolific offenders. A delectable article condensing what I’m complaining about has already been written,so I’ll merely state that my step-father mentioned to me last weekend that he’d recently read a wine review in a well-respected wine publication that claimed a wine exhibited “hints of tar”in a course of the article.

Now,I understand that the sense of taste is closely linked to the sense of smell,but why anyone would state a wine tasted of tar is beyond me. Licking tar isn’t something I would consider appealing,but Pa told me that a number of the reviews in that article mentioned “tar”as a flavor component. Maybe it was the hot word of the month. Or maybe these people have no idea what they’re talking about.

When I think of the reviewers pounding out these articles,what springs to my mind first is a sort of semi-pro literary Jackson Pollock. Instead of flinging blorps of paint,raspberry preserves,and motor oil at a canvas like Pollock,these absurd abecedarians delve deep into their numerous thesauri and sling random nouns at their articles,waiting to see what sticks and what runs down the page to pool in a sticky puddle at the bottom. Whatever clings to the page makes it through the final editing. The Pollock Method of writing is what gives you notes of tar in wine. Either that,or sections of freeway built through vineyards via eminent domain.

I’ve actually had a solution to the review problem for quite a while,though I’ve kept it under my hat. My friend Rob and I were discussing wine at one point and hit upon the idea of comparing vino to music as a method of imparting a more accurate sense of what a wine actually tastes like. Reading that a wine “is dominated by floral notes”really doesn’t tell me anything because,generally,I don’t eat flowers. But if a reviewer were to tell me that a wine should be consumed in situation appropriate for listening to Nat King Cole sing “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,”well,I’d know what he meant. And even if I didn’t,I could snag the song digitally via various legal and illegal means.

I could be easily induced to try a California Pinot Noir that was the distillation of “Come on,Let’s Go”by Ritchie Valens. If I read a review of a Rioja that was compared to The Gipsy Kings‘“Trista Pena”I’d probably buy a case. Claim a fresh Patrimonio is akin to Alizée singing “Gourmandises”and I would probably scratch my head and wonder what exactly that was supposed to mean.

Of course,not everyone listens to the same music. Comparing wine to music is as silly as comparing it to flowers if the reader doesn’t know a particular artist or song. Fortunately,CDs,or even DVDs,are so cheap these days that a pre-recorded or even interactive guide could easily be compiled. Along with a description of the wine the customer gets an mp3 of the song best suited to that wine. Make the guide a website with a subscription base after a year or so of sales and such an enterprise could turn a nice little profit while being much more intuitive than searching out tobacco aftertones in a bottle of Beaujolais. The guide could even be tailored to the musical tastes of various audiences,such as The Classical Wine Companion or Wine Country! (and Western). Marketing opportunities abound.

I’ve wanted to head such a project for as long as I’ve had the idea,but I don’t possess the knowledge of wine,or the budget (or liver function) to attain such a knowledge. I’d like to see it take off,but of course I’d also like to see it take the form I’ve envisioned.

You see,I don’t want to waste the three comparisons I’ve already hit upon.

For that dynamite mid-price Chenin Blanc that should be drunk early,I’ve selected Chet Baker and “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

The expensive Cabernet Sauvignon centerpiece of a good wine collection would rate The Alan Parsons Project performing “Old and Wise.

And that bottle of Bordeaux that is aging gracefully in the cellar,and though it isn’t quite ready to drink is ever-so-tempting to uncork? Easy. Guns N’Roses and “Patience.”

If I tried hard enough,I could even work in Sinatra and “It Was a Very Good Year.”But I thought I should spare you.

Note to faithful readers: I’m sorry for my unannounced hiatus from Carriage Return. Between moving and starting school again I’ve been a bit more overwhelmed than anticipated. A few readers have been kind enough to prod me back toward posting,and while I can’t say I will be able to adopt a schedule just yet,I will be making attempts to update with greater reliability. If my buddy Stick over at Stick and Ball Guy was able to sustain a blog while studying for the bar exam,I sure should be capable of keeping things going around here as an undergrad.

5 comments to [The Days of] Wines N’Roses

  • When I think of the reviewers pounding out these articles,what springs to my mind first is a sort of semi-pro literary Jackson Pollock. Instead of flinging blorps of paint,raspberry preserves,and motor oil at a canvas like Pollock,these absurd abecedarians delve deep into their numerous thesauri and sling random nouns at their articles,waiting to see what sticks and what runs down the page to pool in a sticky puddle at the bottom. Whatever clings to the page makes it through the final editing. The Pollock Method of writing is what gives you notes of tar in wine. Either that,or sections of freeway built through vineyards via eminent domain.

    That has to be the best and most colorful description of the absurdity of food reviewing I’ve ever read. Well done. Great article.

  • brianS

    Perhaps you could first apply yourself to a beer-and-ballads guide? Much cheaper research. I’ve participated in barleywine tastings that have run towards 40+ different samples. There’s nothing like excessive amounts of barleywine to make you start hearing things :-)

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href=""title=""><abbr title=""><acronym title=""><b><blockquote cite=""><cite><code><del datetime=""><em><i><q cite=""><strike><strong>