“She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm it had the same significance for her as the elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others”– Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
I haven’t written much in the last several weeks, as the frenetic pace of suburban, summer family life has taken me away from my allotted writing days. I realized that there will be all too few summers to enjoy with my young children. So, making memories now is more important than pontificating about this or that in hopes of selling some wine.
I imagine 20 years from now as Joanne and I and the children look back through the pictures, posts and videos chronicling our sun-drenched respite from academia and adulting, we will no doubt remember this little island of memory, this summer of 2017, as the summer of the fidget spinner.
Yes, that perplexing pop-culture totem of youthful lollygagging and defiance. Like other pop-culture tokens of the past, the fidget spinner will become this generation’s kitschy symbolic flag, billowing in the biased breeze of nostalgia until it’s ultimately usurped by the next generation’s kitschy flag.
I’m certainly not the first person to notice how this all works. I was inspired by reading Joel Best’s article on CNN.com titled, The Fidget Spinner Fad: Adults Don’t Get It and That’s the Point. In the article, Best notes:
“Toy fads are important because they represent something novel, different. An important part of childhood is gradually separating yourself from your family and becoming your own person. We can see this when middle-school children announce a taste for music that diverges from what their parents enjoy; it’s a way of declaring, “I’m my own person.”
Interestingly, these generational shifts manifested in fads, are not exclusive to children’s toys. Throughout history, each proceeding generation has set out to “declare” and establish their own identy in all matters of taste. Simply pick up a highshcool year book from the mid-1980s. Just look at the fashion if not the hair.
The music of the same time period also illustrates the obvious pursuit of each generation to secure their cultural significance in the artistic fabric of their time, no matter how kitsch or “cheesy.” Whether enjoyable or not, what matters is that it’s different from what came before.
Fads in food and wine signifying generational splits are also just as pronounced. Those who used to champion low-carb are now ardent vegans, while shouts for fat-free are drowned out by cries for gluten-free. White table clothes are replaced by repurposed hardware tables, while by beards and tats have replaced jackets and ties.
Like food, wine has also seen generational divergences in tastes, as consumers, producers and young taste makers swirl and sip to find their own generational vinous fidget spinner. In the case of wine, the high-alcohol, high-extraction, heavily oaked wines in vogue in the early-to-mid-2000s, are now eschewed by the current wine intelligentsia who favor a more restrained wine making style.
Unfortunately, sometime in the late 1990s, a young generation of consumers, producers and taste makers started to differentiate themselves. And with a Wine Spectator under one arm and a Wine Advocate under the other, they set off to declare their own generation’s wine drinking identity, just like the wine drinking generation before.
However, taste never stays static, and today’s young wine consumers, wine producers and taste makers essentially revolted against the wine ideologies of the early oughts. Armed with Alice’s Feiring’s “The Guide to Dirty Wine” in one hand and a bottle of something from the Loire in the other, this new wine drinking generation found their fidget spinner in the cult of “natural wine.” And though the philosophies between these two wine drinking generations couldn’t be more divergent the spin is the same: “Adults don’t get it, and that’s the point.” That “old guy” drinking 100-Point 1855 Classification Bordeaux just isn’t cool enough to understand the volatile acidity (VA) in the “hipster’s” Catalonian red.
In reality, the “old guy” and the “hipster” are the same person, each looking to differentiate themselves and their generation through taste manifested in a fad. And it’s these individual generations and their fads which start to resemble marketable demographics.
I certainly buy wine in profiles that I know will satisfy both the “old guy” and the “hipster,” yet it is between this generational gap that we build the core of Swigg’s wine offering. Somewhere between the points and the natural wine propaganda, there is “real wine.” Wine outside the cage of categoric labels and generational bias. Wines that don’t try to be anything else but what they are and should be. Wines that make no deliberate attempt to “differentiate” from the past, but instead reinforce it and in doing so reinforce their own originality.
Luckily there are a number of small importers and distributors that both share and shape our philosophy, and are able to provide Swigg with wines that transcend the trends of the day. One such importer is the iconic Neil Rosenthal, a man who “understands that wine is an agricultural product and that in its best and purest form wine must reflect a specific sense of place.”
Mr. Rosenthal loves acid and authenticity, two things we embrace at Swigg. He also could care very little about the fashionability of his portfolio. In his book, Reflections of A Wine Merchant, Rosenthal notes, “Ultimately, my portfolio of growers and their wines reflects my search for wines that are part of classical tradition. As a result, we may be out of the mainstream.” By ignoring the many ephemeral wine fads over the past 40 years and focusing on what is “real,” Rosenthal, his producers and their wines have endured, immune to each wine drinking generation’s need to “differentiate.”
After a long absence in the Delaware market, the wines imported by Neil Rosenthal are finally available. Swigg now stocks a number of French and Italian wines from the portfolio, and I would encourage you to explore what I feel are some of the most authentic and “real” expressions of terroir driven wines anywhere.
It’s rather difficult to pick a wine from the Rosenthal portfolio to feature given they all seem to have their own compelling personality and story, so I’ll have to settle on the wine I’m drinking now, La Torre’s 2014, Rosso di Toscano “Ampelio.”
Operated by the Anania family, La Torre is situated in La Sesta, the highest altitude area in the Brunello zone. Though most of the five plus hectares of vines on the property are primarily planted with Sangiovese Grosso, which produces their grand Brunello, the Ampelio bottling is a blend of 40% Alicante, 30% Sangiovese Grosso and 30% Ciliegiolo aged in wood for 12 months.
According to the Rosenthal website, “This cuvée was created by Luigi Anania for the first time in the 2007 vintage and is a reflection of his particular approach to, and understanding of, the historical basis for the terroir of this specific and special zone of Brunello.”
In the glass, the wine expresses alluring notes of incense smoke, cinnamon stick, leather, cedar, black cherry, earthy black berry and plum. The wine has loads of personality without the spin, and that’s what I like about it…especially at this price.
Come to Swigg and taste “real wine” beyond the spin.