Greenies ruined everything else — now they’re after my favorite drink!
- Last Updated: 11:34 AM, August 13, 2012
- Posted: 10:59 PM, August 11, 2012
When did taking pleasure in fine wine become an ideological transgression?
Its time seems to have come in an America where earth-huggers now seek to de-legitimize all kinds of previously unchallenged everyday activities, like driving an automobile, eating meat and using lightbulbs that actually cast light.
A few weeks ago, I grumped about restaurant wine lists I found “100% inscrutable” — especially all-Greek ones and the eco-friendly lineup at new Reynard in Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel. My rant had no underlying political agenda. I wanted only to point out how dumb it is to make wine choosing an ordeal.
There was a little outrage over my Greek gripe. But ticking off eco-wine maniacs was another story.
I wrote that Reynard’s all-French list — 100% comprised of offbeat bottles by small producers, many of them so-called ”natural” wines — were unknown to 100% of customers. Did a list lacking even a few familiar reference points make sense at a casual Brooklyn eatery with an all-American menu?
That gentle insight set off a coast-to-coast hissy fit that hasn’t let up. The Times’ Eric Asimov accurately wrote that my rant “landed like a fat bug in a glass of fine Irouleguy blanc.”
But the uproar wasn’t really over whether wine lists can be too esoteric for the average customer — which can also be a nuisance at lots of restaurants that have no natural vintages. It was that I’d inadvertently aroused the slumbering dragon of politically tainted, anti-mainstream wine wonkery.
As Wall Street Journal columnist Lettie Teague has written, to a growing number of zealots, “natural wine is not just what you drink with dinner, it’s a crusade . . . against ‘industrial wine,’ a reclamation of the honest and handmade.”
Among other departures, “natural” wines are typically made “without intervention” and unfiltered. The strategy is supposed to preserve hitherto overlooked qualities that natural proponents claim have been lost through modern methods.
The “natural” crowd also promotes the baloney that sulfites — a naturally occurring substance normally added to wine to stabilize and preserve it — are toxic, a claim befitting the hucksters behind “purified” tap water being peddled for $2.50 a pop at a shop downtown.
Making wine the “natural” way usually yields a clunky product — at their worst, as rough-edged as the eerie, grape-based beverage my paternal grandfather and uncles once made in their Brooklyn back yards and cellars.
Often they’re inherently unstable. As Reynard sommelier Lee Campbell gleefully told an interviewer, they can change character not only from year to year, but day to day — “that yeast is really showing its ass today,” she laughed. At prices up to $100, some of us prefer an orderly and predictable ass.