There is no surprise that Do Bianchi author Jeremy Parzen, whose wine and food credentials drip with immersion and cultural understanding, recently managed to illustrate old world vs. new world wine writing styles in utterly poignant fashion. In his post about the differences in European and American wine writing genres he brings new light to the divide by offering metaphoric “good vs. evil” wine language. It’s also no surprise that the differences in writing styles Parzen defines aligns with the cultural drivers and wine styles of countries separated by more than an ocean.
As Parzen describes, it begins with the cultural imperative that wine is an integrated lifestyle component in most of western Europe and is primarily a luxury product in the US. Providing remedial understanding, it moves to the center of a debate about the void of excellent value wines with expression and feeling made in the US. Steve Heimoff recently wrote that California might be pricing itself out of the market and there was a recent popular post here at WineZag that drew some interesting comments about ignoring California wines. Those discussions centered around price and why Europeans can sell quality wine for less, but Parzen has introduced the essence of the real challenge new world wine producers face; absence of culture and depth of history to produce wines with the extra dimensional expression found in the old world.
Any way you look at it, the lands and vines farmed for wine in the US are immature by multiple generations in comparison to their old world ancestors. Old world clonal replication in new world vineyards coupled with winemakers’ visions of mimicked style needs a couple more centuries before geography, winemaking economics, and consumer habits mesh to replicate the forces at play in Europe. I have to give it to Parzen for justifying the difference in writing styles and tangentially coalescing this point of view. It’s not price, it’s culture. California wines achieve top potential at high cost, Europe can offer its base culture for less.
A recent post by Gregory del Piaz that reprocesses tired arguments about insider language by arrogant US wine writers and the nauseating “belly button” self investigations about rating scales and numbers just underscore Parzen’s points about culture within the context of writing style on the western side of the Atlantic. Wine is a living, breathing, changing beverage that expresses its personality in evolving and influential ways in different settings and context. When wine is enjoyed without expectation, and allowed to simply integrate itself into the social or dining experience, the enjoyment can be intense. Wine needs to be deemed natural, a mere lifestyle component and complement to food before wine consumers can let their guard down and writers can wax metaphysically, as Parzen suggests, not just qualitatively.
The intensity of wine experience is always amplified for me with wines from the old world. In the US wines can be delicious and remarkable. In the old world they embody history. Old lands. Craggy vineyards. Stony landscapes worked over for centuries by animals and man. The work of hands from multi generational winemaking families weaned on wine as food….the living imperative. As Parzen suggests, wines can be good or evil in that context, not just good or bad. And, who really cares about points and blind comparisons when you are comparing good and evil? Wine writers in the US are nothing more than an extension of the new world’s attempt to make the treasures of old world history a part of their own culture. Western wine writers are simply chronicling that effort, and giving scores to replicas that strive to be original. It’s not bad, just different. It will take centuries for the culture to change. We will know when authentic wines with metaphysical force have become lifestyle components in the new world because the wine writing divide between Europe and the US will suffer from collapse. And that won’t be good or bad, or even evil, just different.