Updated: Feb 3
The World of Fine Wine often reads like poetry and I consider it a proposition put forward by wine connoisseurs as to how to lead a good life, in part. Whether you agree with Aristotle that the purpose of life is to possess all those things that are good for us, or with Nietzsche that we should strive for edification from the humanities, superman, or love of life, wine may play a significant role in our lives, both individually and culturally. I say may because wine appreciation will play no role for many people despite its heritage and pleasure. I believe a fine wine is in the eye of the beholder – so intermixed with knowledge, expression, and individual circumstance that I'll fall back on the definition proposed by Hugh Johnson OBE in the first issue of The World of Fine WIne: fine wine is wine worth talking about. Of course, fine wine includes great wine, described nicely by Karen MacNeil.
I have found it odd that snobbery is often associated with wine connoisseurs. First, because the more one knows about a subject the more humble one naturally becomes because they learn how little they know. Second, because wine's historical patronage by aristocracy and leaders of religion cannot have occurred without the concomitant viticulture and winemaking performed by those without noble titles. Wine was the basis of these workers livelihood and often consumed with their daily meal so one might expect its status to reflect its agrarian legacy. Yet it is precisely because wine is worth talking about that it leads to whiffs of elitism. Other beverages are surely noble, water as a foundation for life, beer as a foundation for civilization, and spirit as a model of ingenuity and purity, All are worth talking about technically and historically as is any topic subject to intelligent discourse. Fine wine, like fine food (Paul Bocuse comes to mind) is different. Fine wine cannot be consumed or discussed without an additional sense of appreciation, akin to music and beauty, well beyond its mere utility.
Fine wine is not so because of its quality or price, the meaning of which change over time. Fine wine is so because of our communion with wine, Equating snobbery with appreciation ignores the value of education and experience over impulsive outbursts. Assailing experts with accounts of their faults and arguing that this means reason is hogwash rather than acknowledging human frailty is simply silly, a refuge for the lazy. Michael Steinberger (The World of Fine Wine, issue 24) presents the case for reversing the reverse snobbery of populist evangelists as "the need for true wine knowledge to be heard has perhaps never been greater."
So raise a glass, indulge the senses, and let sharing your wine, make it your fine wine.