Part of the body of knowledge of wine, are the laws governing wine production. Old world wine laws are much more complex and stringent than in the new world. For example in most European countries, laws dictate the classification system, per hectare yields, and what grapes can be grown in what regions. The new world countries of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina, Chile and the USA do not have these constraints. There are laws governing what can go on the label based on what’s in the bottle. But grape growers in the new world are free to grow whatever varieties they want to grow in whatever region they choose, and at their own designated yield. Old world wines are produced from centuries of experience. New world wines are the product of creative experimentation.
Last night I went to a minor league baseball game. The game itself was great fun to watch, but more entertaining than the players on the field were the people in the stands. People at baseball games are verbose and somewhat emotional about the game. The gentleman sitting behind me offered live color commentary that was peppered with colorful language. A family a few rows down was celebrating a birthday with a cake. After the birthday woman blew out the candles, she sliced the cake and offered up pieces to anyone who wanted one. “How ’bout you? You want some cake,” she asked as she passed paper plates up the rows. On the screen flashed the words, ‘Sharon, will you marry me?’ The crowd went wild, clapping and hooting. The evening was a cacophony of conversations and activity, not unlike a city neighborhood on a warm summer night.
In the book Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, the author describes a city neighborhood as, ‘different kinds of people were on the street for different reasons at different times of the day. The end result was a constant churn of ideas as strangers learned from one another.’ Jonah Lehrer goes on to compare the creative dynamics of a city to those of a large corporation. ‘cities almost never die, while companies are extremely ephemeral. ‘ His explanation for this is that, ‘Instead of imitating the freewheeling city, these businesses minimize the very interactions that lead to new ideas. They erect walls and establish hierarchies.’
I would never suggest that the strict hierarchy of old world wine making will be its doom. What I am saying is because of the strict regulations, enjoying a glass of old world wine like Bordeaux is a whole different experience than having a glass of a Koonunga Hills Cabernet/Shiraz blend, just as enjoying a symphony at the theater is a whole different experience than going to a minor league baseball game. The differences aren’t just in the product of show, but also in the roles and rules by which the audience plays.
Edit Note: In the 3 days since I’ve written this blog entry, the book, Imagine has been pulled from the bookstore shelves, and removed from the electronic storefronts by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin. Apparently, Mr. Lehrer misquoted Bob Dylan. I suppose to a Dylan fan that’s a big deal. It’s not a good thing. Had the author fudged the science, then, yes, the books should be pulled. But under the circumstances, I think Jonah Lehrer got a raw deal. Houghton Mifflin is over-reacting. I hope they see the error of their ways and bring the book back. It really is wonderfully written.