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A BRIEF NOTE ON THE “DEFAULT TO COMBATIVENESS”

I don’t know the context and I don’t know the guy, so I apologize in advance if I’m being unfair. But: a recent article in 750-Daily approached (yet again) the subject of wine vocabulary, and whether it is helpful as we currently use it.


“The use of technical jargon is another concern, [he] says, particularly with the chemical realm of the aroma wheel.” It continues - “It’s hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide,” he says. “Well, what does that smell like? You’ll go to a tasting and people are talking about terpenes and pyrazines. That’s great, but you’ve just alienated the person who is brand new to this space. In itself, the jargon becomes gatekeeping.”


Can this possibly be taken seriously? “Alienated???” “Gatekeeping???” You have by no means alienated this poor newbie; you have prompted this person to ask a question. “What are terpenes?” Ah, sorry; terpenes are <xxxyyyy>….” Total time elapsed: 11 seconds. Total undies in a bundle: zero. Does every freaking thing have to be seen through the social-justice-warrior prism? What a miserable world.

The point itself is reasonable enough on its face. I’m bothered by the immediate lunge to a syntax of injustice. I’m sure “he” means well, but what’s next? Is this “alienation” another micro-aggression? And is “gatekeeping” invariably an evil to be fought against?


The instructor uses the terms to which he is habituated. Sure, he could say “The cat-pee aroma is an example of what are known as pyrazines,” but his (probably unconscious) choice to do otherwise doesn’t need to demonstrate either cluelessness or a haughty “gatekeeper” mentality that “alienates” the student.


Again, pardon me if I’m over-stretching this point, but it seems to me we always have the option to pause and be reasonable, but the more tempting option seems to be to spoil for a conflict. It doesn’t make the world better, and since I’m adding to it here and now, I’ll STF up.



A quick note; though Theo is working alongside his daughter, who will (one assumes) inherit the estate, and who is already making her influence tangible, her name isn’t yet attached to the label. Thus “Theo Minges” is in fact the work of Theo and Regine Minges.


Many of the wines stood with the very best I’d ever tasted from this fascinating grower. But I felt pretty cranky about the dry Rieslings, as you’ll see, and then I felt cranky about feeling cranky. How gnarly could they be? So I babied the samples and tasted them again in different sequences and sipped them in the kitchen while dinner was cooking. And then I wondered, what’s motivating this? Yes I have great regard for this estate, but I was always cool toward the dry Rieslings and offered very few of them. What’s different now?



On reflection I arrived at three possible explanations. One, I had grown relieved that most dry German Riesling was pretty tasty these days, because that meant I didn’t have to struggle and fume about it any more. A guy has to preserve his jocund mood, after all. Two, it was brutal to be reminded that all was actually not okay, and there were still some wines that were nastier than they needed to be. Three, each of the wines smelled inviting only to crash land on the palate. What was the thinking behind them? If it was to “satisfy a clientele who demanded this sort of thing,” then what on earth is the taste behind that demand?


The most judicious way to answer that question is, it is a taste either highly tolerant or actually relishing of a degree of sourness and bitterness that happens to baffle me. That’s because I don’t like those things. I’ll separate out the radicchio leaves from my salad. I’ll pass on the endive. Too much acidity feels caustic to me. I need to believe that other people might really like those kinds of things. But, I can’t quite.


I peeked at some reviews from tasters for a leading wine publication in Germany. We perceived many of the same details, but we were 180 degrees apart on the overall impact of the wines. This means – it has to mean – that either those tasters didn’t perceive sourness/bitterness, or that they liked those things. Really liked them, as the wines were “scored” in the low to mid 90s. Either I have an extra DNA strand making me oversensitive to ugly flavors, or those tasters are snakebitten.

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