After giving it a week of thought, I'm going to argue something with which, on the surface, I adamantly disagree. Last week, my digital buddy, Steve Heimoff, wrote a blog post titled, "Saying Goodbye to the Golden Age of Wine Writing." His thesis was that with the rise of the "Age of Digital Information" (i.e., wine blogs) wine writers are finding it more and more difficult to earn a living writing about wine. He claims that the world of wine writing is no longer the utopia it was when he got into this profession and made a name for himself (I'd argue he actually has made his name via his blog and not as the California Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine). David White penned a great response to Steve's assertions and claimed that things are actually getting better in the world of wine writing. I wholeheartedly agree with David, but I want to take a deeper look into Steve's post.
I started to ponder the phrase "Golden Age." Golden Age is colloquially thought of as a time of peace and prosperity and when great tasks were accomplished. The term originated in writings by Greek philosopher Hesiod and Roman poet Ovid to describe the evolution of civilization. In both Hesiod's and Ovid's lists of Ages, the Golden Age was the first. To further investigate Steve's assertion that we are no longer in the Golden Age, I'm using Ovid's Four Ages of the Metamorphoses because both Steve and I are a fan of Ovid Napa Valley. Ovid, the winery and vineyard, sits atop Pritchard Hill and produces delicious, but expensive, red blends and varietal wines from cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and syrah. I wish I could continue to afford Ovid's Experiment wines, but with the Experiments going to $125/btl, the Syrah at $150/btl and the flagship Ovid now at $225/btl I am afraid I'm stuck with the few delicious bottles I have already accumulated in my cellar (previously discussed here and here). Completely coincidentally, today is the release day for the 2010 Ovid Proprietary Red and the Ovid Farms Jam 3-Pack of Pluot Cherry, Stone Fruit Medley, White Peach-Raspberry jams (the email popped into my inbox as I was proofing the post).
But I digress...
Ovid, the old, dead dude, described the Golden Age as a time when Man was at peace and without the knowledge of navigation and agriculture. And happy mortals, unconcern'd for more,
Confin'd their wishes to their native shore (1:126-127).
Man was comfortable without exploring the vast unknown world around, content with what nature provided and did not bicker. Now, that doesn't sound like the world of wine writing that currently exists. Countless writers enjoy exploring the vast world of wine. When Steve started getting paid to write about wine there were no writers focusing on the wines of Argentina or Bulgaria, let alone Colorado and Virginia. Some writers are content with the status quo, but many more are trying to change the profession for the better. There might have been some bickering in Steve's Golden Age, but not like there is today. Steve and Robert Parker and known for the unsympathetic attitudes toward bloggers (ironically as Steve is one of the most popular bloggers and Parker once said he was the original blogger..), and vice versa. No, I would argue that we are no longer in the Golden Age of Wine Writing as Ovid described it.
So where do we stand? Are we at the dawn of the next Age? Following the Golden Age was the Silver Age. In Ovid's Silver Age, seasons appear and Man learned to plow the Earth and take shelter in buildings. Man was still peaceful, but started to differentiate itself from Nature. This doesn't sound like where the current world of wine writing resides.
Subsequently, in the Bronze Age, Man was prone to war, but not yet impiety. Finally, in the Iron Age, Man separated itself into bounded nations, battled amongst itself and impious. Loyalty was nowhere to be found, The son-in-law pursues the father's life (1:187). Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, James Suckling, Pancho Campo, Antonio Galloni and who could forget the devilish bloggers. The 100-pt system might be the most revolutionary and impious development for the wine world. Yes, it sounds like we are in the Iron Age of Wine Writing. Or maybe at the beginning of the Giants' War; Nor were the Gods themselves more safe above (1:193).
But that is not to say we are in the worst Age for wine writing. As a reader, would you be content to have a few exalted writers only write about Burgundy and Bordeaux? Would you rather writers not work to come up with new ideas and explore new wines? Sure, we could do without some of the impiety and bickering. I still side with David White in the idea that we are in the most exciting time for wine writing. Consumers have the best access to some of the most interesting stories about wine ever. The Age of Digital Information has made this (impiety and bickering included) possible. Without it we'd all still be happy mortals, unconcern'd for more (1:126).
So today is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the
age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of
belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of Light,
it is the season of Darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the
winter of despair, we have everything before us, we have nothing
before us, we are all going direct to vinous Heaven, we were all going
direct the other way. Some of our noisiest authorities insist on its being
received like when they began, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of
comparison only are we lucky to live in the current Age of Wine Writing. Maybe Steve Heimoff was right, but he was also dead wrong.