The Production of the New: Wine Culture and Variation

by Dwight Furrow Wine writers often observe that wine lovers today live in a world of unprecedented quality. What they usually mean by such claims is that advances in wine science and technology have made it possible to mass produce clean, consistent, flavorful wines at reasonable prices without the shoddy production practices and sharp bottle…

Homogeneity and Difference in the Wine World

by Dwight Furrow The wine world thrives on variation. Wine grapes are notoriously sensitive to differences in climate, weather and soil. If care is taken to plant grapes in the right locations and preserve those differences, each region, each vintage, and indeed each vineyard can produce differences that wine lovers crave. If the thousands of…

The Borrowed and the New: American Wine and French Tradition

by Dwight Furrow The wine world is an interesting amalgam of stability and variation. As I noted last month, agency in the wine community is dispersed with many independent actors having some influence on wine quality. This dispersed community is held together by conventions and traditions that foster the reproduction of wine styles and maintain…

Wine Worlds and Distributed Agency

by Dwight Furrow Discussions of the factors that go into wine production tend to circulate around two poles. In recent years, the focus has been on grapes and their growing conditions—weather, climate, and soil—as the main inputs to wine quality. The reigning ideology of artisanal wine production has winemakers copping to only a modest role…

What Is the Purpose of Wine Criticism?

by Dwight Furrow Although wine writing takes diverse forms, wine evaluation is a persistent theme of much wine writing. When particular wines, wineries or vintages are under discussion, at some point the writer will typically turn to assessing wine quality. The major publications devoted to wine include tasting notes that not only describe a wine…

How Wine Expresses Vitality

by Dwight Furrow Although frequently lampooned as over-the-top, there is a history of describing wines as if they expressed personality traits or emotions, despite the fact that wine is not a psychological agent and could not literally have these characteristics—wines are described as aggressive, sensual, fierce, languorous, angry, dignified, brooding, joyful, bombastic, tense or calm,…

Should Wine Criticism Strive for Objectivity?

by Dwight Furrow If by “objectivity” we mean “wholly lacking personal biases”, in wine tasting, this idea can be ruled out. There are too many individual differences among wine tasters, regardless of how much expertise they have acquired, to aspire to this kind of objectivity. But traditional aesthetics has employed a related concept which does…

Wine, Eros and Madness

by Dwight Furrow Unlike ice cream, orange juice, and most other things that taste good, wine is peculiar in that it is an object of devotion. Many people abandon lucrative, stable careers for the uncertainties and struggles of winemaking; others spend a lifetime of hard intellectual labor to understand its intricacies; still others circle the…

Vinous Vitality

by Dwight Furrow Contemporary discussions of wine quality tend to oscillate unhelpfully between subjectivism and objectivism. One side argues that wine quality is thoroughly subjective because individual differences among tasters preclude agreement on the nature or quality of what is being tasted. The other side points to objective, scientific analyses of chemical components detected through…