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Slinging Wine

I just finished reading Wine & Philosophy, a gem of a book edited by Fritz Alloff, featuring essays by a number of notable wine writers and experts like Matt Kramer, Jamie Goode, George Taber and others.

I received this as a review copy from the editor, Fritz.  He and I don’t know each other and I would generally defer any comment whatsoever if I didn’t think it was meritorious.  That said, if you’re interested in the contemplative side of wine, the brainy aspect that comes out philosophically in the midst of your third glass, the socially lubricated part of the wine experience that makes the grape such an interesting subject, than Wine & Philosophy is the book for you.

Amidst skillfully cultivated, cross-referenced and footnoted essays covering a range of topics from the culture of wine, wine criticism, wine and metaphysical notions and wine and politics, is a highly readable book that creates conversational fodder for a month of Sundays, or a year of late night weekly tastings, whichever is greater.

I’m no simpleton, though, by my own estimation I am pretty normal, so, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the more interesting aspects of the book to me was an anecdote within an essay called “Who Cares If You Like It, This is a Good Wine Regardless,” by George Gale.

Gale is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and tells a story of “slinging” in the mid-70’s in Kansas City.

Now, if you’re anything like me and wish wistfully that you had been a part of a generation that seems, in minds eye, much cooler or romantic than your own (the Beat Generation in the 50s for me) than you’ll understand that Gales’ description of wine, Kansas City and mid-70’s is very, very cool.

He says in part:

In the mid-1970s, my home of Kansas City, Missouri was one of the hottest new wine centers in the North America:  the market was opening up, wild growth in sales and consumption was observed, and an enormous buzz around wine and everything connected with wine swept the city.  At the center of this excitement was a core of a dozen or so young wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, and one winegrower-winemaker who was also the wine columnist for the Kansas City Star.  Needless to say, with such energy and passion available, the group soon developed a competitive sport focused on wine:  slinging.  Just as in its namesake –gunslinging- the new sport involved challenge and duel, but with bottles of wine as the weapons rather than guns.  The sport worked like this.

Your doorbell would ring, and there would be two or three of the group, with or more bottles of wine hidden away in brown paper bags.  Consider yourself slung” someone would say, and the group would barge into the room.  Wine glasses were fetched, and the slingee would then be faced by “The Three Questions”: what is the grape, appellation, and vintage?  After a suitable amount of tasting and sloshing around in the mouth, the slingee would have to stand and deliver, making a stab at answering the question.

Gale’s story continues and he makes a larger point about empirical analysis in a subjective subject, but to me, the point he really, really made is about shared community.  And, in our own little epicenter within the context of wine bloggers, we can do an increasingly better job of working together to “sling” given this great communication vehicle called the Internet.  And, because, frankly, others will look back at this period of time and those involved with their own little bit of envy.

Wine & Philosophy invites a lot of questions and provides a lot of answers for those looking for deductions.  Pick it up online at amazon.com—it will be money well spent for any discriminating wine lover. 



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Comments

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