20071023

For the wino who ever thought he might be too pretentious, someone's always got a bigger party tube

Today my wineblog got its first complimentary copy. It came to my office in a yellow padded envelope and I pulled it out on the bus that took me home tonight.

It made me happy to suddenly have a book to look at because it had been a long day with unforeseen public transit delays. And since I was supposed to be researching an unresolved wine tasting issue mentioned in my last post, I was thrilled to have this book in my fidgeting hands, a book all about wine no less.

So I open Wine & Philosophy, original essays edited by Fritz Allhoff and subtitled as a Symposium on EatingThinking and Drinking. Okay, now I get it. Cerebral. Abstract. Yesterday's Muscadet tasting notes which concluded with a "sur lie" conundrum -- a puzzle over what its presence on a bottle means and what it doesn't mean -- was clearly not going to be resolved by this book.

Nevertheless after flipping through quickly, I dive into the sturdy softcover by paging to the Muscadet reference listed in the index. It's in chapter thirteen, which as if by a stroke of bad luck, started with this sentence: "In the popular mind, wine tasting has often been thought of as a subjective, idiosyncratic experience, masquerading behind a false façade of expertise."

What? ...masquerading behind a false façade of expertise? That's ornery. But what made me stop short should have done to the copy editor. A false façade? The word façade in this sense is by its very definition "a deceptive or articifial face," so couldn't we say façades are always false?

Soon the essay had moved on to Kant and I began to glance around the bus furtively. Was anyone reading over my shoulder? Were passengers looking askance? I could picture them, students mostly, snickering at such a grandiose evaluation of the elitist and trendy pastime, one that I have a hand in -- with verbose writing to boot!

I'll concede that I panic easily and don't read (or ride buses) often. In any case, my worry of being ostracized proved entirely needless. A student in black jeans and Chuck Taylor Allstars had just sat down beside me with a Riedel Party Tube set of four wine glasses -- one of those long capped cylinders used to sell and transport fine crystal -- also stylishly swaddled in black. Exactly this if you need a picture. I'm assuming it still had the prohibitively expensive glasses inside and he hadn't re-purposed it for his architecture homework.

I think I stared too longingly at his Riedels too long and he caught me looking. All of a sudden, I was the plebe on this wine appreciation bus.

And realizing that, I went back to my book, and the writing got much, much better. I was really getting into the well-constructed arguments but then my stop was next. I flipped directly to the page with the Muscadet reference, page 218.

Because of the way a wine of a particular style registers on the palate as one proceeds through the ingesting stages, one can prescribe how one should taste the wine. For example, a white wine like a Muscadet from France's western Loire presents itself as a light crisp taste that is followed by a middle range of mineral qualities. It is a wonderful wine with shellfish because it cleanses the palate without dominating the subtle tastes of the seafood. Food and wine complement each other. To taste the wine expecting great complexity and a long evolving finish would be to misperceive the wine's functional character.
That's a juicy paragraph. It's the second from last in the essay, which is by Kevin W. Sweeney and is titled "Is There Coffee or Blackberry in My Wine?" and I promise I will finish it as well as the rest of the book so that I can it give a proper review. Soon.

But next I've got to get to the bottom of the sur lie situation.

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