Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beauty & The Underdogs

"Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder."
--Aldous Huxley

A sense of aesthetics and a support of the underdogs in the wine world can be valuable traits for a wine blogger. Are you embracing both elements? Both are aspects I have discussed and promoted before, though Randall Grahm probably more eloquently addressed these issues in his keynote speech this weekend at the Wine Blogger's Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Though I was unfortunately unable to attend the conference, Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon Vineyards, was kind enough to post a copy of his keynote speech, Domaine Des Bloggeurs, on his blog, Been Doon So Long. You definitely should read it as you will find it both enjoyable and thought provoking. Two points especially spoke to me, issues of which I am in full agreement with Randall.

"First of all, since we’ve established that, at least for us, it’s not about money, let’s then talk about beauty. What voice might we lend to illuminate wine’s strange beauty?"--Randall Grahm

Randall believes we need to embrace the nature of beauty, to see below the shallow surfaces and seek the inner wonders of wine. He wants us to share that beauty with others, to let our writing reflect such aesthetics. His words mirror some of my own thoughts. Last summer, I wrote Rant: Beauty & The Beast, urging wine and food bloggers to " embrace beauty, to praise it, to savor it, to share it." It was my desire that "...I would like to see more food and wine writers embrace the beauty, in what they experience as well as how they present themselves."

This is an issue I continue to struggle with in my own writings, to try to convey that sense of beauty as best that I can. It is certainly not easy but it is a worthy endeavor, and will help to elevate your writing to a higher level. Part of the difficulty may be that sometimes beauty is hard to put into words. It can be a struggle to write about something which is better experienced than described. Do you aim for beauty in your writing? If not, why not? If so, how do you overcome the obstacles?

"We need to speak up on behalf – this is maybe a little self-serving here, forgive me – of those who are innovating new styles, or preserving something precious: an old style, an old variety, respecting the authority of a great terroir." --Randall Grahm

This is also a sentiment I have often urged other wine bloggers to embrace, to write more about the underdogs of the wine world rather than the same old Cabernets and Chardonnays. As bloggers, we have the freedom to write about any topic we desire. We do not possess an editorial staff which might limit the potential topics of our posts. So we can embrace the unique, the unusual, the under-appreciated wines of the world. That is a powerful opportunity and we should grab the reins and charge forward with that chance.

For myself, I have been more successful doing this than in my attempts at integrating beauty. I have often written about the compelling underdogs, hoping to entice more consumers to try them, to savor their pleasures. I have championed wines like Sherry, Port, Madeira and Grower Champagne. I have been an ardent proponent of Sake. I have discussed the joys of wines from places such as the country of Georgia, Israel, Nova Scotia, Greece, Uruguay and more. I have raved about unusual grapes such as Koshu, Saperavi, Chinebuli, Mtsvane, Tsitska, Malagousia, Roditis, Limnio, Mandilaria, and much more. I have highlighted small wineries all over the world, while discussing others who value terroir. I have tried to provide plenty of diversity, giving a voice to those wines which are often ignored by consumers and even a fair number of wine writers.

So how much coverage do you devote to the underdogs of the wine world, those unique wineries and wines which truly need promotion? Or do you still concentrate on the big name countries, wineries and grapes?

To improve ourselves and our writings, it is always good to take time every so often and ask ourselves questions like these. So read Randall's speech and think about the questions he raises.


JacquelineC said...

I always root for an underdog. Lovely concepts. I think we are drawn to beauty in many different forms if we are at all alive in the world. Partly why good photography speaks to us. Good design, too.

Randall Grahm said...

Richard, Thanks so much for your post. We are certainly on the same wave length. There is no question in my mind that at least as far as fine wine, there is definitely a question of the artistic sensibility at work. Great wine is not made by the numbers or in attempting to hit a sort of aesthetic "mean," i.e. the attempt to offend the fewest number of people or please the greatest number. I mean to say that there is something like a real artist (or craftsperson, if you will) sweating the issues of how does his/her efforts conform to some artistic ideal, if it is only his/her understanding of the qualities of a particular terroir. We should not be afraid to use the term "beauty" to describe a wine, nor be reluctant to admit the emotional reaction it might precipitate in us. This is simply an admission that we are human beings.