Monday, February 18, 2008

Freud and Wine Critics

Sigmund Freud concluded that in the drama of man's mind, the main players were the Id: The root of our impulses; the Ego: Negotiatiator with the id and pleaser of the superego; and the Superego: Keeper of the straight and narrow.

Each of these characters has its own idea of the final outcome. Their struggles are fueled by powerful motives, and each one is out for itself.

The id contains all of our most basic animal and primitive impulses. It is driven by a force Freud called the libido, the collective energy of life's instincts and it demands satisfaction. The id pushes you through life and without it we'd die, or at the very least, we'd be really boring.

The ego's main function is to mediate between the id's demands and reality.

While the ego negotiates with the id, the superego expects your ego to be strong and effective, it is your conscience.

Enter the ego of wine critic, E. Robert Parker. In the Atlantic Monthly article, The Million-Dollar Nose, William Langewiesche wrote:

"As wines rise and fall on the basis of Parker's judgments, and as producers respond to his presence, the industry worldwide is moving in an unexpected direction, toward denser, darker, and more dramatic wines. It would be simplistic to believe that the movement is entirely due to Parker: he may just be its most effective agent."

"That is one of the ironies of Parker's role. He regrets the skittishness of the market. He opposes speculation of any kind. But inevitably he fuels it." Experienced readers of his publication, The Wine Advocate, can calibrate their palates against his and many readers probably just look at his wine scores. For those in the business, maintaining the "elite" wine image is important for commercial reasons. With a bit of tape and a copy machine, retailers can alter his scores and tasting notes for their promotional literature.

He is quoted as saying, "I don't like manipulation, compromise, or interventionistic winemaking - unless something goes wrong. I believe that the responsibility of the winemaker is to take that fruit and get it into the bottle as the most natural and purest expression of that vineyard, of the grape varietal or blend, and of the vintage."

I feel that as he was once an attorney for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore, he knows how to vacillate between regret and arrogance about his influence.

The Shin Buddhists believe that life is a bumpy ride, but that the universe is fundamentally good; it is our ego-driven life that causes most of the suffering but luckily our self-centeredness can be transformed into a source of wisdom and compassion.

Wine is subjective. Use all parts of your psyche to decide what you like.