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All The Buzz

2011 May 16
by Mike

Here’s my latest Slate column, in which I wade into the debate over high-alcohol wines. What’s your take on this issue? Is the high-octane style a legitimate expression of pinot noir, or just execrable critic bait? I’ve now offered my thoughts and am curious to hear yours.

ADDENDUM: Pinot Noir and Salmon

Financial blogger Felix Salmon of Reuters served up such a willful misreading of my article that I felt obliged to respond. You can read his post here, and you can scroll down for my reply.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. May 19, 2011

    Mike – agreed and I should clarify (in light of my last remark) that I felt you were quite right to respond to what was basically a personal attack. And from someone who also makes a living from words (not that my writing here would suggest that to anyone) I did enjoy the rather thorough job you did in responding. I know I get a guilty pleasure when someone gives me the occasion to, how shall I say, “open up the engine” :)

    The whole episode reminds me of a YouTube video I saw once of a young cellist doing impersonations for laughs of some of the greats – Casals, Du Pre etc. As one commenters remarked – great way to get a terrible reputation.


  2. May 19, 2011

    Bill, Rob, and JJ: thanks very much for the comments. Yes, that was a spirited exchange–full-contact, I guess would be a fair way of describing it. Rob, it did seem that was some sort of personal animus involved, which is odd, because we’ve never met nor corresponded. Bill, as you know, I’m all for the democratization of wine writing, but I think what we saw in this instance was a classic example of the perils of blogging (spoken like a true blogger!). For a lot of these guys, speed and quantity are the priorities, and they tend to spout off without giving adequate thought to the matter at hand. I suspect he skimmed my piece, decided it was useful fodder, and proceeded to rant. I have no problem with someone taking issue with something I’ve written; I have a big problem with this kind of willful misreading, and I responded.

    Although I responded to Salmon’s article, I do agree with you, JJ, that we wine writers tend to blow issues out of proportion. Wine is not war and peace, and we probably do get too exercised over matters that, if not entirely trivial, are not terribly consequential, either. And your point is exactly right: wine is about pleasure, a fact that sometimes gets lost in these spats.

  3. May 18, 2011

    Salmon got served. Well done, Mike. If the dude had bothered to check out pretty much anything else you’ve ever written, he would realized how wildly off-base he was. Hell, if he’d actually read the article in question, he ‘d realize it! I guess these kind of junk posts are just an occupational hazard for you, particularly in the “democratization of wine writing” era. I should have tipped him off to your classic e-mail exchange with Squires, so he’d know you’re not someone who takes this stuff lying down.

    Way to lower the boom,

    Bill Moore

  4. Rob Caden permalink
    May 18, 2011

    That was an exciting read. He almost seems to have something personally against you. Maybe he’s just a high-strung type of person. Maybe he wrote it during a 10 hour delay at an airport (like the one I had yesterday in Beijing). He’s obviously lashing out at something.

  5. May 18, 2011

    Ugh. What a nasty little piece that Reuters article was. What happened to basic respect, for starters.

    On the debate more generally Mike, and this Retuers piece added to it – just goes to emphasise in my view that only the wine press can take something that’s meant to be about pleasure and invest its arguments with the same sense of life and death urgency as the topic of Catholic succession to the throne of England circa 17th Century.

    And, as a final shot, since I have the floor, watching wine writers debate aesthetics, or philosophy – and I mean in serious terms as opposed to the basic common sense propositions like it’s all about diversity – is just embarrassing. These are proper disciplines with thousands of years’ arguments behind them. Quaffing a lot of Languedoc natural wines is not a substitute for the formal training in philosophy – try dating a proper philosopher, and you’ll quickly (and bruisingly!) find out it’s not a field for dilettantes.

    That last point isn’t a swipe at your writing Mike – just general spleen at certain tendencies that reveal themselves in wine writing. Some writers can’t resist drawn into fields that they’re eminently unqualified for, I suspect because they’re seduced by a sense of their own thoughts, and, moreso, there isn’t I think, in wine writing *really* that much to get worked up about.

    Everyone just chill out FFS.

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