More On AuthenticityLast night I was reading an article in the latest issue of Gourmet: "Mario's Excellent Adventure" by Bob Sloan. Mario Batali took a group of his chefs on a tour of the area around Bologna to get inspiration for Del Posto, his new (and embattled) restaurant in New York.
The article describes their visits to one out-of-the-way trattoria after another, and the sense of simple food well prepared with the finest local ingredients, following traditional preparation methods -- the essence of the Cesarine and Slow Food movements. They were looking for authenticity.
It was a great food-magazine read -- the kind that leaves you hungry and anxious to try some recipes -- but for me there was one paragraph that really resonated for other reasons. Describing a meal the group took in at a Michelin two-star:
...(T)here is much grumbling. Over eight courses, there are remarkable flavors, beautiful presentations; but we are disheartened by the disconnect we sense between the countryside and the food. We are dazzled, but strangely unmoved, as if we were looking at a painting that, even if well executed, was chosen solely because it matched the color of the couch.This passage exactly reflects my sense of ennui when I taste so much of what passes for wine these days. From the "price conscious" beverages masquerading as wine that are mass produced by corporate giants in America, Australia and Europe, to the expensive "international" style wines often treated as investments or trophies -- so much of what aficionados perceive wine to be about is just soulless, deconstructed ornamentation.
Accountants push for earlier and earlier release; mass-marketers must behave as though the product defines itself as well as its competition, and that the only way to sell some thing so undifferentiated from every related thing is to sell the buyer on everything other than the thing itself. The result is a parody of the real thing.
I crave authenticity, and I believe that most wine lovers do as well.
When I pour a glass I want the wine to speak to me of its home soil, and the loving hands that tended the vines, crushed the grapes and racked the barrels. I want to sip in my kitchen as I make dinner -- from real, fresh local ingredients -- for my family, I want the aromas and textures of other places to entice and soothe me and wind my day down, and I want to carry the glass to the table to complement and complete the meal.
And I want to know that my purchase is supporting the continuing existence of other producers who, like me, really care about where their food and wine come from.