Saturday, December 12, 2009

Things I Learned This Year: Pt. 4, Sturgeon Was A Hopeless Optimist

In addition to being one of the early grandmasters of speculative fiction (sci fi, to you regular citizens), Theodore Sturgeon is famous in the wine world for coining "Sturgeon's Law", which postulates that 90% of everything is crap.

Problem is Sturgeon was right but his numbers were way off. Both ways.

Allow me to explain.

If you're of the demographic known as the "casual wine drinker", your chances are better. Significantly better, in fact.
"Hi, I have no taste perception! Do you have a bland, featureless white wine on your list? A Pinot Grigio would be swell!"

If you're happy with most wines, and tend to think of wine as a 'pleasant beverage'; if you're content with ordering 'a chardonnay or pinot' off a list in a restaurant; or if your fall back wine when you're out and about is the ever-reliable Pinot, my friend, are in luck! It's never been better for casual wine drinkers. Right now there is more decent wine out there---good, reliable, consistent, sound, and tasty, along with pretty good value---than ever before in h
istory. There's also less spoiled, tainted, and downright poorly made wine than ever before.

So if your standard ranges from "okay" to "pretty good", you are golden, bubbie! Enjoy. Rather than a ten percent chance of getting something good, you could go as high as a positive 98%. And those are good odds, any way you look at it.

If, on the other hand, you live at the other end of that spectrum; if you occasionally induce sleep, boredom, or frustration in your friends with your incessant talk about wines; if you believe everyone wants to know about every fascinating detail of the latest obscure varietal from the most godforsaken place; if you assume that acidity and pH correlatives are or should be a given---then, my friend, you are in trouble. Your Sturgeon's Law just accelerated from 90% crap to around 98%, or the opposite of the casual wine drinker.

Sorry, your taste is just too good, and your expectations simply too high. That's what you get for being a discerning creme de la creme person.

A sad but necessary concommitant to the aforementioned "it's a great time for casual wine drinkers" is "it's getting harder and harder to break out of the mundane" in the wine world. There's more "okay" wine out there, yes. But that means it is getting noticeably more difficult to find the "really good stuff", the distinctive and declaratively excellent wines that tend to redefine your joy of wine and force you to pay attention.

Mind you, this isn't something you can't correct...or at least improve your odds. It's nothing that a huge discretionary bank account, countless hours of diligent investigation, more hours hanging around in internet chat rooms, and even potentially following false prophets and self-appointed godheads couldn't deal with.

Unless, that is, you have made the mistake of getting trapped by Burgundy. Then, it's hopeless.
This is Burgundy. It is to be avoided at all costs. If you've already made this mistake, welcome to years and years of frustration and emptied bank accounts in search of a bottle just like that bottle you had...ohh, a hundred bottles ago. Trust me on this. You'll only drive up prices further anyway, and I'm already at my limit.

But wait! There are some simple strategies that can lessen your anxiety and improve your chances. But we'll outline those in the next installment...

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