Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fine Line Between Geekdom and Pleasure

Fair warning: This article is more philosophical posit rather than useful guidance.

Last weekend, while neck deep in a wine-infused binge in New York City, we made our way to The Tangled Vine.  It's a cool little joint on the Upper West Side, very friendly and cozy.  It was recently rated as  'Best New Local' by Time Out New York Magazine for it's "...Sam Malone stewarding a world-class wine list..." vibe.  But there are thousands of places like it in Manhattan - cool and hip, with decent food and a wine list stocked with wines you've never heard of.

This is nirvana for a wine geek - tremendous opportunities for discovery by the glass - and a staff who loves to talk about them.  You got the entire national allocation for that boutique Txakoli?  Wow!  Pinot from Aosta?  Cool!  Cult white Rioja?  Excellent!  (Didn't even know there was such a thing.)  But when the bartender moves on to the next customer and you're left alone to contemplate your selection, is what's in the glass as great as the pomp that surrounds it?

Hey, having access to dozens of obscure wines is very cool, okay.  However, often what's so cool about them has more to do with their obscurity than drinking pleasure.  Don't you sometimes just want a good glass of wine?

Wait a second.  Sometimes?  As more bars and restaurants everywhere invest in vinous intellectual horsepower - a positive trend - is it coming at the expense of the basic notion of degustazioneHere's where geekdom interferes with pleasure - an unfortunate trend. 

Sure, new discoveries breathe energy into our lives.  But having a solid, universally appealing wine to enjoy with conversation trumps all the story-telling and hand waving an urban hipster sommelier-cum-bartender can muster.  So, to all the hard working industry peeps out there pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into creating unique wine lists:  Please.  Don't forget that at the end of the supply chain is a customer into whose mouth your selection goes.  It'd be nice if it actually tastes good.

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