WineSleuth 1: ‘a bland introduction’

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A bland introduction

the grand blanderizer?

Michel Rolland, controversially featured in the film Mondovino, was shown to be contracted by wineries to advise on their wine production. He is extremely popular.

However, his was and is a very polarizing role; some saw him as the saviour of Bordeaux, and still do.

Others as the man responsible for making all of those previously distinctly varied wines taste the same; like Pomerol; perhaps his favourite. that must be boring, after a while, even if you like that style.

So who makes the best wine in the world? It depends where you are (of course) and who is discussing the question, but the standard answer for quite some period of history, and right now if you are stood in Shanghai speaking with any Chinese buyer (with an awareness of the beverage) still seems to be ‘the French’.

Why is that? I don’t mean ‘Why the French?” I mean; Why is that still the standard answer? France cannot make the best wine in the world anymore than the Americans, Germans, Italians or Japanese can be said to make the best car in the world. It doesn’t take a genius to know that ‘best’ is, at best, subjective. What is needed is context, some criteria. Less opinion and more reason.

Mass media would have us imbibe such simplistic claims. Agents, manufacturers, multinationals want us to think things like that. Black and white = simplicity. Simplicity = predictability. Predictability = marketability = profits.

It makes for a simple world.

dumb and dummer

Actually, it makes for a narrower, possibly dumber or more boring world. When the marketers take over the consumers just get more of the same: what sells. The same TV, the same movies, the same wines. More and more until interesting  boundary-breaking creations become sidelined, even dropped for ‘fiscal’ reasons.

I guess one standard argument has the market as ultimate arbiter of what succeeds and falls by the wayside. Small scale innovators and artisans don’t fit the mass market, global model of the late 20th century very well. There are the exceptions that we wine lovers seek out; the innovators, the boutique wineries, the risk-takers, the free thinkers. Those are the guys who make the wines I want to drink.

What happens when the market fails is interesting: seems half the multinationals don’t fit the model either.

I believe that personal preferences and suitability to the task are at play in everyone’s purchasing decisions no matter what the product (hopefully, despite advertising) and they do therefore matter when making that sort of ‘Who is best‘ claim. But marketers have and do make those claims.

Forums have been discussing for some time, concerns around standardization or globalization of everything from cheese to milk to culture and even, to thoughts. Even governments make declarations against culture-creep in a bid to shore up their own cultural heritage, and garner stability/predictability.

Let’s face it, we know the power of Orwellian mass thought control; have witnessed real world disasters from regimes around the world who have sought to directly regulate free speach and thought. Of course, not all such controls are so obvious but there is a constant conflict of opposing ideas swirling about the airwaves.

Beware the global ‘blanding’ crisis. It might just make your life a little more dull each day without your ever being aware of it. Worldly experiences narrowed methodically, according to a balance sheet, not whether they are sensible or in our ‘best’ interests is the stuff of conspiracy theories, I know, but…

…the argument goes, the more you are fed ideas and controlled the more you can be of use to the guys who control everything. Who knows if this is modern paranoid clap trap or a real phenomenon, purposely orchestrated, to keep us stupid. The Occupy Wall Street (and now, Occupy Davos) groups certainly think its time to look closely at these types of mass control of the few by the many.

There is evidence that wine has ‘blanded’ over the last 30 years. And while that is bad thing for some observers, is it a bad thing for everyone?

We are going to discuss at the world of wine in a series of between 5 and 10 essays over the next few weeks and months, aimed at dispelling a few myths, and putting across my unique and occasionally, extremely subjective perspective.

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge. Benjamin Disraeli

The Wine Sleuth

January 2012

I look forward to your comments. Maybe you can share an experience.

next time: In episode 1 I will look at the dominance of French wines in China and what this means for westerners here.

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