Tuesday, January 15, 2013

no Champagne this holidays, so we look elsewhere...

2007 Domaine De Clos De L'Epinay Tête De Cuvée Brut | AC Vouvray
2010 Naveran Dama Extra Brut | DO Cava

There is no such thing as criticism anymore. It used to be a respectable profession, the critic. So how come there's a distinct sense that not only are the proper critics becoming increasingly irrelevant, but that criticism is just another synonym for cheap insults and snark? There's been a bit of a ruffle in culinary circles regarding Pete Wells' piece on Guy Fieri's new restaurant in Times Square. Entertaining to read, and yes, I'm not defending Fieri's bad taste, but is this what criticism has become? 

Maybe it's a sign of how low journalistic standards have dropped. If Wells really thought so poorly of the place, a single line would have sufficed - My dear readers, don't go. And if, like the old days, he had built a reputation for himself as a trusted source of restaurant reviews, his readers would listen. Times have changed, for better or worse ... consumers are bombarded with so many sources of "reviews" now, from sites like Yelp to random Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts. Any clown with a smartphone can spout off about their meals, and 99% of it is pure and utter rubbish. So are critics doing themselves any favours by writing critical pieces that are more noteworthy for their entertainment value than actually being useful? If Wells truly felt this restaurant was an embarrassment, would it not be more fitting his position as restaurant critic for the fucking New York Times to stop giving this place publicity (business is booming due to the curiosity factor now) and devote his column to something that would actually teach his readers something? I don't mean to say that's what critics are supposed to do, but dammit, that's what critics are supposed to do. They share new, unknown finds ... you learn from their knowledge and experience ... and they understand that what makes the food/wine meaningful are the stories about the people behind them. Snark and cheap sarcasm is fun and all, but beneath a professional critic. Leave that shit to the rest of us - we should all hold the field of criticism to a higher standard.

Champagne is a luxury to drink. I buy little and drink less - sadly. And it's even worse this year. At least in past years, I'd have the chance to pull the corks on a bottle or two during the holidays. So we look for substitutes, and though nothing (despite what they'd have you think) compares, these two helped to slightly dull my thirst. A sparkling wine from Vouvray and Cava - both vintage dated (!), to add some excitement. The Vouvray was a softer style, with that slight herbal character I always seem to find in chenin blanc. Rich and immediately toasty, lending to a slightly more impressive first few glasses, but over the entire evening, it becomes tiring to drink. Begins falling apart - the dosage just a bit too much sugar, just not integrated. And so yes, the true test of a wine's character is yet again time and patience (and oxygen). The Cava blew me away. Starting off subtle and understated, but building in depth and complexity as the night went on. The beginnings of a round autolytic character, with beautiful balance and elegance on the palate. Delicious.

We have to hold the supposed professionals to a higher standard than ever. It's easy to weed out the incoherent, ignorant ramblings of the social media louse. But even after separating the wheat from the chaff, how come what remains is still so ... lousy? We need proper wine and food critics more than ever, to offer balanced, insightful views, and teach us something new. A few names I trust? So many, but take a look at Peter Liem | Eric Asimov | Mike Steinberger | Talia Baiocchi 


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