“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





17 February 2015


The round thing we live on
must be running out of words:
What the hell will we do?

"Buzzword overload today," Caroline Tunnell Jones tweeted last night. 

"Wines of place, environmentally sustainable, minimal intervention, winemaking philosophy, gravity flow #samesame." 

Caroline is a good freelance writer who's working on her Master of Communications degree at the the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. We're fellow followers in the twittersphere.

As a curious bloke who spends many hours each week scrounging through winery websites for useful information, I know exactly what she's talking about.

She's talking about the fact that winery websites are largely abject crap. I dunno who gets all the money for writing these things, but they must have got a lot of it, and I suspect it's all the one mob doing it. If not, there's two of 'em and they copy each other.

It's worth a moment to consider these things.

"Wines of place" came from the United States. It means the wine came from somewhere. Which is a unique thought, whichever way you look at it. I suspect it was a fey attempt to replace the simple French word, terroir, with something Amurkhans can grasp.

As usual, Australians are quickly adopting it.

Terroir is not a particularly tricky word to comprehend. It covers the place the wine grapes are grown. Like, you know, rocks, soil, altitude, aspect, climate, relative humidity. Like the geographical conditions of the vineyard, total. Which must include the influence of the humans who run the joint. Like your veggie garden. The stuff of which it's made; the many things which influence the nature of what you grow. Your actions.

We live in the Anthropocene, an epoch in which humans have, for the first time, influenced the geologic form of the planet. That's the round thing we live on.

Humans are the biggest single aspect of terroir, yet they pretend in their website nonsense and propaganda material that their terroir is something unique to them, and is not replicated anywhere else. Case complete. Their terroir would have no reason to be there unless they were there to notice it. Which they eventually begin to do, or some of them eventually begin to do, when they try to convince us that their wine is unique. Which it usually is not. Because of them.

When they say that theirs is a "wine of place" they mean it comes from the place where they grew it. Which pretty much means bugger all.

"Environmentally sustainable" means that the farming techniques these people have imposed on their terroir is morally superior to the techniques used by their neighbours and rivals.

In my narrow recollection, Don Dunstan was the first person with any poke who mentioned the word environment. He said it was a thing and we'd have to start learning about it and respecting it, or he'd shut all the dirty miners down. It was like ecology, which has slipped from the fashionable patois.

It wasn't a bad word, ecology.

Jacquie and Jake Gillen were the first people to teach me the sustainable word. It was 1988, and she was the local boss of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Together, they'd just completed a significant and beautiful report, the Coongie Lakes Natural History Study with the Australian Geographic Pty. Ltd. and the South Australian Department of Environment and Planning.

"The new thing," Jacquie confided, in a rather solicitous manner, "the new word, is sustainable."

I presumed it meant lasting. Like, you know, sustainable.

So environmentally sustainable meant treating the local ecological network with the respect all nature deserves from the humans who are naturally imposing ourselves upon it. As only we can. But that was before the Anthropocene got its name, mainly because we were still too ignorant to realise that we were doing, like, anything.

"Minimal intervention" is the term we were forced to conjure to indicate that we weren't doing anything. Like you're expected to overlook the bit that goes "these plants were brought here by our ancestors or our grandfather or somebody and we rounded them up and coralled them and planted them to make the poisonous depressive drug called ethanol, and to make it cheaper and easier to mine the land for the sugar which we refine to get this ethanol we trained them to grow on these fence things so we could more efficiently spray poison everywhere in order to kill everything else and get more tonnes of ethanol per hectare."

To avoid the mention of all that, "minimal intervention" became a morally superior winemaking term which means the sugar you harvest in these little skins full of juice is exposed to yeast which rots the grapes and converts their sugar to ethanol if you're lucky and you don't bugger around with it too much.

Lately, this term is being replaced by the word "natural."

Which is where "winemaking philosophy" comes in handy. Winemaking is a term which covers all of the above. It has graduated from a craft to a science and back to an art in the last fifty years.

Lately, it's gone back into the darker, more occult arts, as the hipster fashion dictates a denial of science and the wines are all murky and stale again.

Bacchus knows, we need a good alchemist to lever us out of this occult nonsense.

As for philosophy? Philo means to love, as in I'm an unabashed philogynist, which means I love women rather than hating them which is what a misogynist does.

Sophic means learned, full of wisdom or speculation, which in itself is dangerously close to sophistry, which means specious bullshit. Like sophisticated, which means adulterated, artificial, falsified or deprived of primitive simplicity or naturalness.

I love it when winemakers boast of making sophisticated wines.

So I'll leave you to work out exactly what "winemaking philosophy" means. Maybe we should check their website, find their telephone number and ring them up.

Which leads us to "gravity flow."

Gravity is the tendency to downwards motion. As in tip or spill. Flow is a bit more tricky. It actually means flow. Like there's nothing else about it. It's like any movement resembling the flow of a river, and its course of direction. As in down.

When there was a summer thunderstorm and we had flash floods in Kanmantoo, and we'd be sandbagging the house, my old man would say "the water doesn't want to go down, it wants to get level," which confounded me.

But he was, as I keep remembering, a teetotaller. Teetotallers don't like things that aren't level at all times.

They are in flat-out principal denial of the fact that ethanol, when tipped, should go down our throats. They are the enemy of those of us who believe that wine won't make any difference to us until we tip it into ourselves.

So there, good Caroline. I agree with you. Fulsomely. But only up to the point of #samesame. There's plenty of room for not the same in that turgid ramble.

It's up to folks like us to write it out all different.

We daren't afford to trust the winemaking philosophy of environmentally sustainable minimal interventionalists who make wines of place which, following gravity, might just flow right down into us.

1 comment:

desert dustrialist said...

So they've replaced all the bullshit you make up with eleven neat words. Good for them.