Newspeak

What do the following two statements have in common?

“I don’t consider MOx (micro-oxygenation) and RO (reverse osmosis) to be technologies, because I’ve worked with them long enough to understand their power and limitations for what I’m trying to do.”

“But I’m leery of anything with a power cord. Electricity gives us the power to do very foolish things.”

They were issued by the same person in the same interview. Whew!

Those answers were contained in a Wines and Vines Magazine interview with Clark Smith—see link below.

The answers are astonishing, especially since Mr. Smith used to own a company that sold technology services to winemakers. I’m sure the MOx and RO equipment he recommended came with an umbilical chord that dangled from each machine and that ended with three prongs.

Mr. Smith owns a winery and makes wine—I wonder if he closes his eyes and stands back when he plugs his equipment in.

Here’s more:

“I de-alc (reduce the alcohol) my own wines if they need it.”

Two paragraphs later:

“My Faux Chablis has needed de-alc five years out of six, because we seldom have the rain they get in France to dilute sugar to a good balance.”

Surely, that Faux Chablis needs the de-alc, but I wonder if, perhaps, the grapes for that wine should be grown somewhere else, maybe in Chablis, where they get the rain that dilutes the wine to what we all like to drink—good balance.

It seems to me that what Smith is saying is that in the vineyard his grapes become so overripe that their astronomical sugars take them to astronomical—and out of balance—alcohol levels and so, he electronically and technologically reduces the alcohol so that the wine is balanced and drinkable. I mean, really.

The interview opened with Smith’s explanation why winemakers don’t tell the public that they de-alcoholize their wines (and still manage to produce 15 and 16 percenters in the end) and use other technologies with electric chords.

He admits that,

“…More than ever, consumers have become inspired to love wine as the “one pure thing” unaltered by 20th century fiddling. The lack of straight talk from winemakers has spawned a whole generation of Internet piranhas who make a living devouring ill-prepared winemakers, the poor saps.”

It sounds to me like Smith wants winemakers to shout about the technology even though consumers are wary of it.

Why would he want them to do that?

Because he’s probably the guy who sold the poor saps on the technology.

A deeper reading of the interview shows clearly that Smith wants things both ways. On second thought, his answers are often spectacularly disingenuous. But maybe I’m just too picky. I like hucksters at least to make some sense.

On the subject of hucksters, it seems appellationamerica.com is going to change its model once again—this time, it’s implementing a subscription fee to readers.

The site is dedicated to what its name implies—American appellations. The problem is that the operation has essentially been a kind of marketing arm for wineries within appellations, charging them to take part in the site. I don’t know how you can trust reviews and evaluations when the information is heavily marketing and promotion oriented. We’ll just have to see what shakes out from this subscription thing.

More important, the idea behind appellationamerica.com is to celebrate regional appellations as unique. I understand fully that different growing regions offer different growing conditions. Unfortunately, that’s about all the American appellation system tells consumers.

Under the system, you can grow any grapes that you want within any appellation, like the ones that Clark Smith uses to make his “Faux Chablis.” Plus, you can do to the wine anything that you want—technologically—like reduce the alcohol or perform ‘faux aging” through micro-oxygenation.

So where’s the regional uniqueness in an appellation?

Maybe I’ll subscribe to appellationamerica.com so that I can ask that question directly to one of its major contributors: Clark Smith.

Now ain’t that interesting?

The interview

appellationamerica

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
July 2009. All rights reserved.

5 Responses to “Newspeak”

  1. Mitch says:

    Thomas,

    I’m probably repeating myself, but this article reminds me of I.F. Stone. 😉 in fine form too.
    “Why would he want them to do that?

    Because he’s probably the guy who sold the poor saps on the technology.

    A deeper reading of the interview shows clearly that Smith wants things both ways. On second thought, his answers are often spectacularly disingenuous. But maybe I’m just too picky. I like hucksters at least to make some sense.”

    And don’t forget to add smoke as yet another element of terroir !

    “How smoke affects wine

    Smoke does strange things to wine, not all of which are understood. Two compounds are of particular concern: guaiacol and 4-methyl guaiacol, markers for the presence of smoke. Ironically, these compounds also appear during the toasting process of oak and can help provide smoky scents, which is why they are also used in perfumes.

    Smoke is not inherently an unpleasant flavor. The very purpose of toasting barrels, sometimes to excess, is to capture it. Not just in wine – look no further than barbecue (or liquid smoke).”

    Wines’ smoky taste a memento of year of fires
    Jon Bonné
    SFGate, Sunday, July 5, 2009

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/03/FDKN18FM94.DTL&type=food

  2. Thomas says:

    Mitch,

    Would that be I.F. Stone’s famous opening statement to his students:

    “The first thing to remember is that governments lie.”

    Everyone is selling something in America today–makes it hard to know “who’s zoomin’ who.”

    Incidentally, there’s a new biography out about Stone.

  3. Faux Chablis, indeed! how ridiculous to plant grapes in a place/microclimate that’s obviously unsuited to them and then have to exercise technology on the wine to remedy the problem that will never go away.

  4. Thomas says:

    Yeah, but Fredric, he named the wine accurately…