Monday, January 24, 2005

criticism

Speaking of the Jamesian American, I want to draw your attention to Huge Johnson, who, despite the clever name, does not appear to be the sharpest candle in the deck. His heart is at least partially in the right place -- cheap wine should indeed be better and cheaper -- but it is unclear why he feels so strongly that "that the United States should not trail the civilized world in wine consumption per capita." Dude, it's not the Olympics. Why do you care? He was very excited about the LA Times Gallo story, but drew exactly the wrong conclusion. Red bicyclette is a hit because its label is unthreating while nevertheless evoking the mysterious frisson of frenchness that tantalizes and terrifies the american consumer (Gallo's marketing and distribution don't hurt). It is the Year in Provence of wines. The wine itself, as long as it is also unthreatening, has nothing to do with it. There is nothing wrong with this (although I don't see why the world would be a better place for anyone but Gallo if the masses switched from Coke to merlot). The problem is that once you "rationalize" those complicated french wine laws, so confusing to the poor Safeway shopper, you eliminate that sexy otherness that, banalized, sells the wine. Diversity, dear Huge, is the key to winning the wine Olympics.

Huge is right, however, about the pervasively stupid snobbery that accompanies wine in the new world. Witness the Times's mockery of a supposedly new supposedly Texan cocktail of merlot and 7-up [last item here]. If the Times were less provincial, it would know that this is a tinto de verano, and it is furthermore an excellent way to dispose of inferior wine, which, pace Huge, is an apt description of almost everything labelled merlot.

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