“What Can Best Be Left Unsaid”

I’ve been following with interest the comment thread on Eric Asimov’s post on The Pour addressing what not to write about when writing about wine. He explains:

“…writing these sorts of columns for a general audience is always a sort of balancing act, where providing basic background information for novice readers needs to be done without boring more learned readers. And sometimes, one needs to take the public temperature and decide that the basic information that was required in one year is no longer necessary in another.

Asimov’s struggle and his reader’s responses got me thinking about my own pet peeves in wine writing (even though he is my favorite bad-boy wine writing hottie, I read beyond Jay McInernery). But every time I thought of something that irks me, an intrepid commenter would bring it up.

Instead of creating my own list, I’ve distilled what I think are the best points from the readers. I’ve paraphrased and/or summarized and/or restated what others have said. I have original thoughts…but apparently not on this topic. (The first commentator, Thor Iverson, should get props for getting the comments thread going…the first seven points below closely reflect his.)

1. No holiday columns (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, etc.)

2. Take care when writing about Beaujolais: avoid instant condemnation and the use of  “banana yeast;” avoid re-telling the Nouveau marketing story

3. No need to mention chenin blanc being called “steen” in South Africa; no need to mention syrah is referred to as shiraz in Australia, South Africa and Canada

4. No more pointing out the linguistic and stylistic versions of the words “blanc” and “gris;” no need to mention fumé blanc is sauvignon blanc

5. German wines: do not discuss at length the labeling and pradikat system; no need to remind readers that not all German wines are sweet

6. Avoid the history of petite sirah as an offshoot of syrah

7. No need to point out Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, etc. are places

8. No need to point out that pink does not mean it’s sweet; no need to bash White Zinfandel

9. Statistics about the ranks of countries in wine consumption and production are dull

10. No need to finely dissect the differences between biodynamic, organic, sustainable, and natural when these wines are discussed

11. California wines are world class–no need to rehash the Judgment of Paris

12. The history and meaning of the term “Super Tuscan” is widely known

13. The history and meaning of the term “terroir” is widely known

14. Don’t appeal to the lowest common denominator– no need to explain the definitions of widely used wine terms

15. No need to dispute a myth: Napa Valley is not full of Ferrari’s, ridiculous snobs, and plastic surgeons turned winemakers. (Okay, that one is all me…distilled from a comment I made on Asimov’s blog in 2006.)

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2 comments

  1. Her says:

    Champagne gets the “micro-oxygenation” treatment in Champagne…story in SF Chronicle. I can’t hear/read this phrase without thinking of Michel Rolland making an ass out of himself in Mondovino.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/12/13/FDC61B0M5D.DTL

  2. @nectarwine says:

    Nice! I love it – very witty. I’m probably guilty of a few – specifically 3,4,7, & 8 – I mean really White Zin sets itself up for easy debasement!

    Cool blog, just stumbled on it through Twitter follow. Can’t wait to read more. Feel free to check me out – well not me, but the blog at least.

    @nectarwine (twitter)

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