I’ve got a theory. My theory is: all the stuff wine people do to make wine more accessible to non-wine drinkers paradoxically makes wine seem more complicated. I mean, if it weren’t complicated, you wouldn’t have to simplify it, right?
Maybe all the advice columns, the helpful taste descriptions, the food-and-wine pairing formulae and admonitions to not worry make people worry even more. Every time we show the confused masses how to, we’re reminding them that there’s also a how not to, that there is a more-or-less 50-50 chance that they’re going to screw it up and who needs that kind of pressure?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation on the theme that the United States needs to develop a wine culture. Implicit in that heartfelt wish is that the pattern of wine consumption we have now, a pattern that has put wine on the shelves of every retail outlet that can legally sell wine, doesn’t constitute “culture.” That is, the wines people like and actually drink don’t matter, because they are not the wines that experts would have them drink. We bemoan the massive consumption of white Zinfandel and critter wines, conveniently forgetting that the plonk that forms the basis of French wine culture — the model we’d most like Americans to emulate — is so awful that it’s more economically advantageous to use it as tractor fuel than it is to sell it on the world market.
Maybe American wine culture would be just fine if those of us who fancy ourselves expert would shut up and let people drink whatever they like. Stop trying to enlighten the bastards and let them discover for themselves. If someone wants to down a $6 Pinot Noir on ice with their McFish sandwich, who are we to say they’re wrong?