I practically spit out my Poulsard when I heard about James Laube's Wine Spectator missive regarding sommeliers, "Dim Somms." (I do love a groan-inducing pun; this one not coming from Laube but rather Helen Turley of Marcassin fame.) So what is a "Dim Somm"? It's a sommelier who is so swayed by his or her love of low-alcohol, obscure French wines that anything with a blood-pumping level of 14 percent alcohol or higher is greeted with a sneer. Crazed by their IPOB (that would be In Pursuit of Balance, founded by Raj Parr and Jasmine Hirsch) dogma, these sommeliers not only preach #IPOB on Twitter but also overrule diners tableside who seek the warming glow of a 16 percent alcohol Cabernet. The evidence that Laube brings forth regarding rude, rogue "Dim Somms" who want to turn Sonoma into Savigny, Napa into Nuits, Carneros into Chablis? Well I went to my nearest magazine stand and bought an issue of Wine Spectator to find out. Here's Laube marshaling evidence of anti-California bias among sommeliers:
"This bias was on full display in a story a friend told me of an episode he witnessed recently at a top Napa restaurant in which the sommelier allegedly told dining guests they should drink French wines because they were superior to their New World cousins."
So this assertion is based on a story. That a friend told you. Of an episode. That he witnessed. Allegedly.
No one wants to hear about sommeliers forcing their own agenda on guests or making them feel uncomfortable for liking what they like. But anecdotal tales don't get me to rally behind the ripeness brigade.
I'm also puzzled by Laube's pejorative sentiments regarding "tart, green wines". I never realized tart had such negative connotations. I'm pro-tart. Bring on the wines that are "sharp in character, spirit, or expression". I also enjoy the kind of tart that's "an open pastry case containing a filling". I even love The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
And damn, Kermit (the Frog, not Lynch) was so right. It's not easy being green. I rather delight in green flavors in my wine, especially when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Additionally, I like Vinho Verde. And salsa verde. I do, however, hate the Green Bay Packers. (Cue "Bear Down, Chicago Bears".)
Laube's been a focal point for critics of (what they deem to be) over-ripe wines. (Steve Heimoff titled his post about Laube v. IPOB "The Empire Strikes Back".) No one can tolerate a truckload of criticism focused on themselves, along with the people and wines they admire, forever. So it's good to see Laube stand up for what he believes in regarding the highly subjective matter of taste.
I think about Laube's perspective in these terms: His tart is my lively, his green is my herbal. Oh, geez. Kind of sounds like the start of some painfully awkward love poem....
My point is, you don't have to agree with a critic to be able to learn something from them. Now back to my Trousseau Gris.