This emperor wears no clothes

in Opinion by

Wine graphics is like kitties. You know, those pictures where colourful wine glasses and bottles are connected to foods, animal parts, cheeses or taste descriptors and empty wine glasses are filled with spices and fruits corresponding to their favour and taste profile. Allegedly corresponding, to be precise, the knowledge behind WineFolly’s texts have been recently questioned. Nevertheless hundreds and thousands of people share the links to these things every day. Everybody likes them, they are appealing to the human eye. Sharing pictures of them is contagious.

But, frankly, the essence of wine graphics is the opposite of what wine is. Or, at least, is for me.

Bear with me for a moment.

You meet a whole lot of WineFolly graphics on the internet and — especially — in social media. No doubt a nice person in real life, Madeline Puckette made herself a name presenting an extremely complex subject — wine — in a simplistic way that appeals to many of those of us who need a crystal clear answer for everything, chewed and served on a nice white plate. But it’s probably a good time to step up and say: “This emperor has no clothes!”. The empress, to be precise. It’s not easy to swim against the flow: with tremendous following which WineFolly has these days. How can it be bad?

While I do find these pieces of art visually pleasing, I don’t have any illusions about their practical significance. Putting in one word, nonexistent.

Just look at those graphs, the lines, the connections. Does anyone in their right mind is capable of applying them to real life? Does anyone want to deprive themselves of the joy of personal discovery and surprise which unknown wines often bring us?

One might argue there are food recipes out there and nobody can say they are useless, so why not apply the very same principle to wine? Wait! I’ve got my answer. Even using a web recipe, cooking involves so many personal details that can’t be put into any recipe that practically leaves you a lot of space to experiment within a specific cooking instruction. You can always alter it, you can use your own way of doing things, you can taste and amend it on-the-fly. Talking specifically about pre-selected wine pairings doesn’t leave you much choice, besides the choice of a specific producer (thanks God, some freedom).

It eradicates “wine discovery” and turns wine selection from bumpy safari into a guided tour with a group of pensioners.

And who loves guided tours? Do you, really?

Simplifying wine is not good. And not only for consumers with advanced wine knowledge, as one might think. Wine graphics are too loaded and saturated with connections and useless information for beginners, on the one hand, and presents wine as facts — which it’s definitely not with so much ongoing research, experiments and new discovers every day.
As the name of the article implies with a little help from Kurt Kobein, I believe wine graphics dumbs us down to the extent that we think wine world is well-structured and researched. Hundreds and thousands of wine and food combinations might work. There are hundreds varietal expressions of a single variety.

Infographics can be good — and visual! Wine aromas wheel is hard to underestimate, but anything that pushes us to making wine selection based on a certain dominating stereotype — and WineFolly graphics are a bunch of stereotypical views on wine — have to be questioned. There’s no black or white. There are only shades of grey.

I still believe WineFolly’s book is a beauty. And if you have it, let it rest in a proper place — in between The Homes of England and 100 Wines To Taste Before You Die.


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