Thankfully there is precious little random wine talk in the main stream media – although get ready for some flag waving fun at the movies later this summer – to really rile my inner curmudgeon.
Cutting to the chase, the radio bit was extolling the virtues of simple summer entertaining. Innocent you say? Hmmm. Like most of these pieces a grain of salt is necessary but usually not offensive. Easy enough to let go the assumption that most New Yorkers have manicured lawns with croquet courses out back and certainly easy to ignore the triple layered confection being extolled – I am sure it is simple for those handy in the kitchen – but impossible to let go the suggestion for summer wine.
The major affront was the presentation and not the wine. The wine was rosé by the way, I know, bold to recommend what I think has become a summer standard in the US with sales rising steadily every year and most major producers, even those outside the typical production zones in the south of France and the Mediterranean, ramping up production using a wider variety of grapes and in a wider variety of styles than ever before. Rosé has long since shaken the misperception that the category is monolithic and composed entirely of thick sweet confections suitable for kids. We used to carry a particular rosé at Vino made from nebbiolo that was impossible to keep in stock from April through September. That's rosé made from one of Italy's premier grapes made famous by Barolo often in short supply. Either a sign of the apocalypse or an indication of the acceptance of rosé by a wide swath of the imbibing public who can walk into an all Italian-wine store and walk out with a northern Italian “pinky” from atypical grapes.
What really had me yelling was the contention that the recommendation would be an affront to self styled wine connoisseurs who would surely look down their collective snouts at such a simple wine. I am aware that there exists a cabal of wine snobs – probably hold up in a wood paneled room somewhere in Yorkshire – that is quick to label wines with less than first growth pedigree as plonk. However, my experience is much different from the cultivation of airs this imagined connoisseur affects to establish superiority (an attitude present in many fields by the way, and the adjective for them is the same across the board) and much more akin to the individuals' voracious search for the new and the interesting. I suggest that people both expert and novice have embraced an attitude that looks not constantly for the affirmation of pedigree and label but seeks balance in choice with a healthy respect for a wine or beer or cocktail's place in the setting. To suggest that a category of wine is put upon by a large number of expert's is to miss the evolution of connoisseurship and simply an excuse to spread misinformation to bolster one's own bona fides – a form of snobbery. This makes my job more difficult and ignores the rise of this class of drinkers I like to call Omnibibers.
Anyway, this wine connoisseur and omnibiber is going to have a bottle of Lambrusco with a bowl of broccoli raabe and pasta tonight, I hope no one is looking.
Robert Scibelli is a lecturer and administrator at New York's premier wine school, International Wine Center.