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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Preamble to the Wine Lover’s Declaration of Independence

In order for one to relish in their freedom of choice, one must first realize that their own subjectivity means everything when it comes down to making their decisions.

From a bird’s eye view, the insecurity involved w/in the environment of wine may not be dramatically different from any other, but I find no reason to play a part in said insecurity. Few experiences are more personal than one’s perception of taste, so why do the ambient forces in this micro-universe have such a strangle-hold on the countless consumers that call the grape their favorite vocation?

Well historically, fine wine was treated as an elitist beverage; suffice to say that some of the pseudo intellectualism and affluent bravado of its past has came along with it as unwelcome baggage to the present day wine consumer. If I were to pair a blue collar craftsman w/ a regal Brit, I’d imagine that the former would find poetic waxing on the longevity of a first growth Bordeaux to sound droll, pompous and a tad intimidating in an exclusive way (especially if Mr. Blue Collar were to take interest in such a beverage). So what happens when historic hyperbole meets today’s wine consumer? Although imbedded stereotypes can manifest themselves differently in time, their consequences can take eons to shake.

The American culture is primed to be the number one global consumer of wine by 2009, which puts our society in a unique position. The burgeoning sect of younger, less experienced wine drinkers are parched for information, direction and the tools necessary to appropriately exercise their ‘freedom of choice.’ This position can seem a daunting task for the uninitiated, as the retail shelves are inundated w/ unpronounceable names, unfamiliar geographies and eccentric grape varieties that can overwhelm just about any bright eyed novice. It is imperative that the very first thing these virgin connoisseurs learn to do is to taste, and more importantly, to trust their reactions to all that they taste. The trepidations involved in liking, disliking or commenting in ‘the wrong way’ cannot over-ride this deeply personal, pleasurable experience. The infant, vulnerable reactions to wine need to be embraced by all those that guide these young palates to maturity, as early suppression of personal taste can lead to nowhere but a lifetime of bitter insecurity. It is the seasoned wine geek’s responsibility to foster growth of such palates, not to mock them into uniform submission.

I’d be foolish to not warn those young palates out there that there are far more difficult roadblocks to handle than the fore mentioned ho hum historical stereotypes. There are vicious animals that will attempt to thwart the path to palate nirvana; including lemmings, trolls, parrots and perhaps most frightening of them all, beavers. Your journey through the booby trapped forest will evoke painful memories of all that you once loathed about grades school. Insecurities spawn from social acceptance, peer pressure, cliques and authority figures cannot get the best of you and your vision to find that which moves you. Succumbing to join a clique in middle school probably didn’t make you feel more independent nor self aware, just as those that may have dictated your future to you didn’t help you achieve that which could make you happy. Beware my friends, the right and wrong police of personal taste abound now more than ever, but fear not, you can always find sanctity in your personal taste. The cults, sycophants and bullies of wine must be avoided for your right to choose to be realized, as that choice is yours and yours only.

If professionals are moved by flavors that you despise, then I challenge you to proclaim your preference in as deafening a sound as possible, with utmost enthusiasm and passion. It’s the dynamism of human taste, which can be found in the wines that we drink, that provides such a rich environment to foster the sharing and obtaining of knowledge. Challenge the black and white and use others to guide you as you begin to define what it is about wine that you like so much. Use critics as baselines to calibrate your palate to and do not use critical information as an absolute determiner of what is right or wrong. Steer clear of those that offer no substance, nor insight other than the words ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ Ask questions of yourself and of others, as those who ask questions in return will likely be the ones that will help, not hurt your mission.

There is only one good and one bad, and they can only be defined by you. The only way to truly capitalize on freedom of choice is to have searched yourself for the answers that no one else can define. Search as broadly and as open-mindedly as humanly possible, as few answers can come within a narrow imagination. If you continue to do this with each smell, taste and moment spent with wine, you’ll be well on your way to achieving more than just wine knowledge. You’ll be on your way to achieving self-confidence in a world surrounded by the timid, and be alert as they will likely lash out at you every chance they get.

Fear not my friend, for at the end of the day, the pleasure will be yours because the choice was yours, and you sir, chose wisely.


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