A large internet hawker of wine recently sent a mass marketing email that offered “rock star wines”. What could that possibly mean? Why would I want to drink a “rock star” wine?
For that matter, why would anyone want to eat the food of a “rock star” chef? Yet we hear this description constantly in reference to the latest “wunderkind’ of the kitchen, vineyard or cellar.
When I think of a “rock star” winemaker or chef, I envision some dude with holes in his jeans carrying more ink than the New York Times; who looks like he fell face first into someone’s tackle box.
But I assume what the writer really means is the wines she is pushing are the “the latest hits” - surrounded by adoring critics and fawning fans who are willing to spend lots of money just to see an over-the-top performance. Not what I’m looking for in a wine, but thanks anyway.
And I’m not looking for a “rock star” chef or a “rock star” winemaker either.
And who hasn’t known the middle aged knucklehead in a mid-life crisis, who suddenly decides to live what he calls a “rock star” lifestyle. In my circle this usually involves a portly fellow in hipster garb showing up anywhere there are women under 35 with lots of expensive Champagne and other cult wines to be drunk far before they’re ready - with maybe a little Bolivian Marching Powder thrown in for good measure. In other words the quickest transformation to “jackass” that one can conceive.
No, I’m sorry. Rock star in relationship to wine will never do. It means nothing and describes nothing. It’s almost as inane (but not quite as creepy) as the use of the word “sexy” to describe wine.
Thanks to Robert Parker this unfortunate term slipped into the wine lexicon in the early days of wine’s modern resurgence, when wine criticism became main stream and wine writers were popping up like Matsutakes after a northwest rain shower.
Whenever someone describes a wine as sexy - and believe it or not it still happens frequently today - it summons images of creepy, lonely old men sitting around the table caressing a bottle of First Growth and staring lasciviously into their half-filled Zaltos.
Or maybe a hotel room dimly lit by afternoon sunlight where some rich guy sits in a velvet robe with a Cuban cigar, lustily gazing at a Methuselah of Screaming Eagle adorned with a garter belt and French stockings.
Wine is not sexy and although your relationship may be bitter and gritty, your girlfriend is not tannic. Can we please keep that straight?
When I read such nonsense I long for the great wine writing of the past. Gerald Asher, Clive Coates or Hugh Johnson all come to mind.
Mr. Asher and others like him managed to convey the beauty, grace and subtlety of wine and the faraway vineyards in which it is grown without bombast, sensationalism or nonsense. When you read their gentle, understated prose, you somehow came away feeling just a bit wiser and with a thirst to taste and learn more. Not like you’d just stood in front of the speakers at a punk rock concert.
Everything is already turned up to 11 today as it is. In such an environment it’s refreshing to go back and read the writing of someone such as long-time Burgundy critic Clive Coates. When he likes a wine he describes it as “good”. When he really likes it he describes it as “very good indeed”.
Ah, now that’s music to my ears.