Author Archives: Stuart

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Big Virginia Story, including Trump Winery (owned by the family of President Trump)

Me with Trump wines!

My big story about the wines of Virginia on the East Seaboard of the USA was just published on JamesSuckling.com and ought to cause a stir for a variety of reasons. It is not only the first in-depth report on the wine industry of the state where Thomas Jefferson famously failed to found a wine industry (this process actually began with the arrival of the first colonists from Britain in 1607) by a non-American journalist I’m aware of, it also the first to place the Trump estate winery – the biggest in Virginia – within a wide-ranging state-wide context.

Yes, that’s the winery owned by the family of President Donald Trump, and unlike many of his pronouncements my Virginia story is composed of fully-formed statements that are free of alternative facts. My training as a wine journalist, part of which was under James Suckling when he worked for Wine Spectator magazine, taught me that facts are facts, and quotes are quotes. The policy of JamesSuckling.com is that wine ratings should never be influenced by politics and there was therefore no discussion that the Trump wines would be included in my report and they would be treated exactly the same as all the other couple of hundred wines I encountered during a week of blind tastings and visits to leading producers.

I was very pleased that although there wasn’t time to visit Trump winery I got the chance to taste Trump wines on four different occasions and I also got  to talk at some length with the winemaker, Jonathan Wheeler. He’s very serious about what he’s doing at Trump winery and from this encounter I’m convinced that he has the talent and experience necessary for his considerable winemaking responsibilities. During that discussion he told me that sales at Trump winery are rocking (the same is true of many of the other leading wineries in Virginia), not least, “because of all the publicity.” That was certainly interesting to learn, particularly in view of the controversy about whether the businesses owned by the Trump family are benefiting from the fact that he’s the President of the USA, but in no way influenced but in no way did it influence how I rated and described the Trump wines.

Of course, you are all now wondering whether the Trump wines are amongst the highest-scoring in my report, or if they bombed out. I’m sure that how many of you feel about the results of our tastings will be colored by your opinion of the 45th President of the United States of America, and that’s your privilege. Although I cannot reveal all the results of my week discovering the exciting new developments in the Virginia wine industry, I can tell you that several Trump wines rated 90+, but one was far below that level. Will Trump’s critics fry me for praising the former, and will his followers demonize me for criticizing the latter? And how will the Trump family themselves react to the report? We will see.

The cellar at Boxwood in Middleburg

Meanwhile, I strongly recommend you to read the report and consider that a couple of Virginia wines rated 95+. Those are scores that JamesSuckling.com is very cautious about giving and this therefore represents a milestone for the state’s wine industry. There is now not only much beauty in the landscapes of Virginia, but also in its wines (the photo above is of the barrel room at Boxwood in Middleburg, one of the new red wine stars.) Thomas Jefferson has finally been proven right!

Here is the link to the full story:

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/thomas-jefferson-proven-right-virginia-wine-comes-age/?mc_cid=0c790a51a1&mc_eid=0765a4a47d

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 9 – READ THIS BOOK! Bianca Bosker’s CORK DORK is the Best and Most Innovative Wine Book of the 21st Century!

Cork Dork

Maybe this is the first time that the category’s existence been openly declared, but I have no doubt that something worthy of the name New Wine Journalism is out there and that it came into existence shortly after the last turn of the century. Anyone who thinks that these are yet more Alternative Facts should buy and read Bianca Bosker’s brilliant new book Cork Dork, for it is irrefutable proof that this is not bullshit.

Let me give you a brief introduction to the intoxicating nitty-gritty of the New Wine Journalism. It is never directly concerned with which wine of a particular type and/or vintage is the best and it never uses numerical or other ratings of the conventional kind, e.g. five star system. Instead, just as New York-based Bianca Bosker does in Cork Dork, it delves into the guts of the wine world and after the writer’s deep immersion in it she returns to what is oh so glibly referred to as the “normal world” to report on this strange and still largely unknown – to “regular folks” – other reality just around the corner.

Of course, the name I’ve given to this new category is deliberate plagiarism of the New Journalism that developed in America during the 1960s and flourished there during the 1970s. I’m claiming that this theft is fair game, because the proponents of the New Wine Journalism – let me be straight with you in case you didn’t guess, I’m one of them too – make liberal use of the tools that were developed by Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe & Co. Bianca Bosker does this with aplomb in Cork Dork, but these are far from being the only means she employs to explore widely differing aspects of obsession with wine, and how it changes those who befall this terrible infectious disease. By the way, as the story of her 18 month long deep immersion in wine unfolds she too develops all the symptoms and becomes a sufferer. That, more than anything else about Cork Dork, is truly gonzo!

One of things that makes Bianca Bosker’s book such a racy read and an impressive piece of journalism is the way her texts morph with each change of viewpoint, for example from her review of the science of olfaction (Chapter Four, The Brains) to how dinners are treated by the somms in top NYC restaurants (Chapter Five, The Magic Kingdom), then on to the hedonism of wealthy wine collectors (Chapter Six, The Orgy). As she flips with agility from one side of the wine world to another her writing style effortlessly changes to fit her new subject. As a result almost every chapter in the book can be read as a self-contained work with its own logic. In spite of that, each of them has one or more stunning surprise for you, like  the story of the scent of her grandmother in The Brains or that of “normal somm” Annie Truhlar of Virginia Beach, VA in The Trial (Chapter Ten). I didn’t see the end coming either. The things that holds the wild and fascinating human cocktail of Cork Dork together are Bianca Bosker’s sociological / anthropological approach to analyzing each individual and sub-culture she encounters, and the way she does so both with compassion for her subjects and an eagle eye for the absurdities of their lives.#

All this makes Cork Dork much funnier, more compelling and richer than any other work of New Wine Journalism I know (including my own Rock Stars of Wine America e-books). How, then, can I adequately describe it in a short review like this? The best I can do for you is to say that Cork Dork is the journalistic equivalent of a great 10 course tasting menu in one of the NYC restaurants Bianca Bosker investigated. Even if you have even only a little curiosity about wine her book will pull you along then suck you in, as it did to me.

Cork Dork is published in paperback by Penguin Books, New York and costs $17.

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 7 – Farewell Roy Metzdorf!

Roy Metzdorf

Farewells always ripped me up, but sickness not inner struggles is the only reason that this photographic record of the farewell for Roy Metzdorf (pictured above) of the Weinstein wine bar in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin took two weeks to post. Thanks to Andreas Baldauf for these photographs that so beautifully capture the mixed emotions of that evening. My selection reflects what I saw, and no doubt others would make a different selection with good reason. How could I write anything that could add to what these images say? No idea, so I’ve decided to present them without captions or commentary of any kind. If you are pictured here, but don’t want to appear in this way, then let me know and I will replace the relevant photograph(s). Roy would not want to be idealized here or anywhere else, nor would he want us to be sad (though I’m sure he would entirely understand our grief). I hope the following succeed in reflecting this spirit and something of Roy’s practical and inspirational generosity. Last words: NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017
_g8b1203-2Weinstein,March 29th 2017Weinstein, March 29th 2017Weinstein. March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein, March 29th 2017_g8b1266-2Weinstein, March 29th 2017

Weinstein. March 29th 2017

Namu Amida ButsuWeinstein, March 29th 2017Riesling Global

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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 3 – Dear Roy, Everyone is Invited to the Bottle Party in Your Memory in Weinstein/Berlin on Wednesday Evening, and We Hope You Will Join Us in Spirit

Portrait of Roy Metzdorf by Andreas Baldauf

Dear Roy,

Sorry it’s been so long since I was last in touch and now it’s too late for you to read this in the normal way, because on March 4th you died of heart failure. I therefore don’t expect that you know I was in New York City on March 8th when I received an email our good friend Max Krull telling me the sad news. Like many of your other friends I was plunged into a pit of grief, but a few days later I pulled myself out of it, because I knew you wanted me to do that. I feel very glad that we had a couple of great evenings together in Berlin in February, because neither you nor anybody else guessed what was coming. Of course, I regret not having been able to say goodbye, but the way you lived your life without the slightest hesitation and the minimum of compromise made it clear to me that one day it would suddenly all be over. I just didn’t expect it to happen anything like that soon.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28th I’m taking the train from Eppstein close to Frankfurt back to Berlin for your funeral the following day, Wednesday, March 29th. That will be a rather private and somber event, but from 6pm that evening there’s a bottle party in Weinstein, the wine bar that you ran from the fall of 1993 until your death to celebrate your life. (For those who have forgotten where it is, the address is Lychener Strasse 33, 10437 Berlin and the nearest subway is Eberswalder Strasse on the U2 line). I’m writing this not only to invite anyone and everyone reading this to attend, but also to ask if you can join us in your remarkable spirit, which lives on. I know that because I can sense a small piece of it in me. Everyone needs to bring at least one bottle of wine, if possible something  special, i.e. last bottle of a favorite wine or simply a rare and/or expensive bottle according to your principal of GSKR, Geld spielt keine Rolle, or who cares about the price!

Of course, I still feel your loss. There will be no more wonderful evenings in Weinstein, which you ran with a flair that almost nobody else in the German wine and gastronomic scene could. There will be no more amazing conversations with you from which I learned how, in spite of all the differences in temperament, background, language, upbringing, education and sexual preferences between us, we had so much in common. There will be no more mind-expanding adventures with you in wine regions near and far during which your curiosity helped open my eyes to things that went far beyond the details of winegrowing and winemaking. And from now on I will only be able to see the look in your eye that said, “all walls can and will fall!” in photos like the one above.  It was taken in Weinstein on April 19th last year by Andreas Baldauf and more photographs from that evening can be seen at:

Stuart Pigott im Weinstein Berlin

Enough of the sad stuff though, and on to the positive things which I know you want me to concentrate upon. I’ve been a storyteller since my teens, and all those years of storytelling taught me that every story has a backstory. Now that you’re gone the part of your life I was able to share has become an essential part of the backstory of the rest of my life. I’m only just beginning to discover what that really means, but I feel sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Exzellent serviert! or excellently served was another of your principals, and although your life was tragically cut short until that moment you excellently served yourself to all of us.

Thank you for the unforgettable service of wine, food, inspiration and love!

RIP, much love and all the best,

Stuart

 

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New York Diary: Day 6 – RIP Roy Metzdorf of the Weinstein Wine Bar in Berlin

Roy Metzdorf

I have to tell you about a friend of mine who just died that was one of the most wonderful people I ever knew. Nobody I’ve encountered was more generous, open and supportive than Roy Metzdorf. From the fall of 1993 until his sudden death yesterday he ran the Weinstein wine bar in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin, Germany where I took the above photograph on February 20th, 2013. Roy did so much for me there’s no way I can list even the most important things in a couple of paragraphs, never mind explain what that all really means. Roy was a total original and, in no particular order, a remarkable Berliner, East German, Riesling guy, explorer of the big wide world of wine and food, and a thinker who continually stunned me with his penetrating observations. I’m glad that I was able to give some things back to Roy, for example, by introducing him to America beginning in Califronia in 2003. After his first couple of weeks there he only half-jokingly declared that he would become an illegal Mexican immigrant in order to say! I would need to tell a lot more stories like this for those of you who didn’t know Roy to grasp what he was really like. It’s only a metaphor and probably a very bad one, but it feels as if the most beautiful vase in the world has just been smashed. RIP Roy! NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

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New York Wine Diary: Day 2 – Is Michel Rolland of Bordeaux the Darth Vader of Wine?

Bildergebnis für darth vader photos free

What is that spooky sound that reminds me of someone breathing through a helmet? Part 3 of my series on red Bordeaux – BDX: Falling in Love Again? –  was just published on GrapeCollective.com and in it I wrote that Michel Rolland is the Darth Vader of wine. Maybe you’ll find it hard to believe, but when I wrote those words I was not attacking the famous consulting winemaker, rather I was trying to adequately describe the way a large section of the wine scene sees him. Undoubtedly the most common perception of Rolland in contemporary New York Wine City (NYWC) is that he is the most dangerous prophet of the Dark Side of the Force in BDX, and a mover and shaker of oenological evil in the dozen other countries Planet Wine where he exerts an influence upon winemaking. But the truth is that’s not at all what he is!

Rolland is an oenological consultant and blender who has an approach to that field of endeavor as distinctive as your, my or his handwriting. The week I spent in January tasting hundreds of 2014 red BDXs with James Suckling proved conclusively to me that Rolland is not responsible for the currently dominant style of red BDX (see JamesSuckling.com for more about the new style), rather he plays a role of varying importance in the making of a small proportion of these wines. My gut tells me that the same applies in all the other countries on Planet Wine where Rolland works. The fact is that if you don’t like Darth Vader wines then there are plenty of alternatives and it is easy to find them. And if you join the Rebels, then you don’t need to worry because this time the Empire will not strike back!

Beyond this, the wines from the producers Rolland consults for are not nearly as uniform as his critics suppose. Château Léoville Poyferré in St. Julien/Médoc is an excellent example of a BDX producer for whom MR consults, but who’s wine does not have the opulent, over-ripe and one-sidedly oaky character the Rebels say all Darth Vader wines have. Unquestionably Rolland exerts some influence upon the wines of this BDX Second Growth, but he is not the decisive factor that shapes them. What he has done is to help the owning Cuvelier family create a style that is completely distinct from those of the other two other Léoville chateaux in St. Julien (Léoville Barton & Léoville las Cases). To my mind this stylistic diversity is one of the strengths of Bordeaux alongside the fact that many Médoc châteaux like these are producing large volumes of very good wine. It is the latter that makes global distribution possible. Read the full story for more about all this.

The one way in I see a negative effect emanating from Rolland is that the Darth Vader profile he has acquired in certain circles has aggrivated the image problems that the region as a whole now has. Today in the West red BDX is widely perceived to be an expensive wine that doesn’t fit into the modern world with its faddy eclectic dining and its fickle social media coolness. However, I fear that if Rolland hadn’t been there, then someone else would have been demonized in much the same way by the same people. Before he became so famous Émile Peynaud – widely regarded as the inventor of modern consulting winemaking – was often accused of having modernized away the true character of red BDX. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s he was the Darth Vader of wine.

The question my story concludes with is a big one that has been too little asked and it  concerns the future of red BDX here in NYWC, America and the West as a whole. I hope that many of you will take the trouble to read the story and the two preceding stories in this series to find out more about all this. Quo vadis Bordeaux?

https://grapecollective.com/articles/bdx-falling-in-love-again-part-3-new-bordeaux-money-secrets-and-michel-rolland

Please note that I selected the image of Darth Vader above that was presented to me as being copyright free. If this is not correct please let me know and I will remove it.

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New York Wine Diary: Day 1 – New York / New York (FLX)

Fog over Seneca LakeI just made it to New York City (NYC), but of course the photo above isn’t of NYC, or even what I call New York Wine City (NYWC). Instead it shows a particularly spectacular part of what I sometimes call the “other New York”, that is the Finger Lakes (FLX) where many of the most exciting white wines being produced in North America are grown. I’m talking about the new (generally) dry Rieslings of the beautiful FLX region. They are the work of a new generation of winemakers obsessed by this grape (often also Cabernet Franc and sometimes Gewürztraminer too). They are the subject of my major report on the FLX just published on JamesSuckling.com. In fact, I was just about to get on the plane from Frankfurt to NYC when I realized it had appeared. Here is the link to it:

https://www.jamessuckling.com/wine-tasting-reports/new-yorks-finger-lakes-riesling-revolution/?mc_cid=a00824d156&mc_eid=0765a4a47d

I first visited the FLX back in fall 2004 when things didn’t look so good unless you visited one of the handful of genuinely quality orientated producers. I’ve been giving the region my concentrated attention since the summer of 2013, because about then it was like a turbocharger was connected to the region and change suddenly accelerated. I’ve never seen anything quite like that happen before and I humbly recommend you to taste a few of the best new FLX dry Rieslings if you don’t already know these wines. Expect to hear some winemaker names you never heard before, and remember where you read them first!

Steve Matthiasson

NYWC, by which I mean the city’s wine scene, is always full of surprises and just hours after I stepped off the plane yesterday I met Steve Matthiasson (pictured above) at Flatiron Wines on Broadway. Steve has the reputation of being an Anti-Napa winemaker in Napa Valley, however, after tasting his wines I would say that he has a radically alternative vision of what the wines of California’s and America’s most famous winemaking region could taste like. Therefore I’m only up for the “Anti-Napa” label if it’s used in the same way as the “Anti-Folk” label that refers to a wide range of music that is rooted in folk, but twists folk in an unexpected direction that hits a nerve regular folk almost never does.

Part of me us most impressed by Steve’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which he rightly describes as, “being inspired by the Napa Valley Cabernets of the period 1985 – 1995,” something that I can very well identify with having experienced the wines of that period close up in Napa. There’s a gentleness and gracefulness to this wine in spite of its (restrained) ripeness and power, and the aromas (ranging from pencil shavings to redcurrant to plum) are more delicate than the majority of contemporary wines from Napa Valley. I honestly think that the region needs more wines of this kind if it is going to win over a wider audience.

The other part of my was more delighted by the 2015 “Tendu” red for $19.99 at Flatiron Wines, or a shade over a quarter of the bottle price for Steve’s Cabernet. This blend of the Montepulciano, Aglianico and Barbery grapes is light, crisp and juicy with a red cherry note and a hint of something earthy. “I’m trying to recreate the experience I had with Gallo Hearty Burgundy when I was at college,” Steve commented, and the jaws of some wine geeks at Flatiron Wines fell mightily! By the way, this wine and its equally light and crisp white counterpart (a blend dominated by Vermentino and French Colombard) are filled in liter bottles with crown corks. “I’m trying to get the wine ritual our and replace it with something like the beer ritual.” Amen!

This and much, much more all happened within the space of 24 hours in NYWC. Watch this space for more reports from the city too busy drinking wine to ever sleep.

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 4 – In Wine There is Freedom

Freedom!

What the hell has wine got to do with the current trend to nationalism and authoritarianism of myriad kinds that’s sweeping the West and some parts of the East too? This isn’t a rhetorical question I’m posing to introduce some of my recent thoughts about wine, it’s also a question that was asked of me in response to my two last blog postings (scroll down to read them). Of course, the implication of that question is that politics has nothing to do with wine and I have been poking my nose into matters that don’t concern me, at least matters that have no place on this blog.

To my mind that’s ridiculous, because my political stance is one of opposition not to any political party or any particular politician, but to political actions that threaten or erode constitutional freedoms. However, after the question was repeated several times it got me thinking about all of this more seriously and it wasn’t long before it struck me that the pleasure of wine contrasts dramatically with the New Politics in DC, London, Moscow, Ankara, etc. Let me explain.

What all forms of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism have in common is the conviction that there’s a rigid set of unquestionable truths – the core of the particular dogma – and these are above and beyond discussion or debate. Devotees of those dogmas often demonize those who dare to discuss and debate their core beliefs as heretics, because they dare to doubt. In the European dictatorships of the 20th century al these features were all very clear, and although the contemporary versions of them are all (so far) less extreme, they may be every bit as dangerous due to their insidious nature.

Some of you may already be familiar with the name of the prime weapon used by the “true believers”: the thought-terminating cliché. This term was developed by the psychologist Robert Jay Lifton (who’s complete works are highly recommended) in his 1956 study of totalitarianism in Maoist China, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Examples of thought-terminating clich#es are, “I’m in charge, that’s why!” is no less a thought-terminating cliché than, “it’s God’s will!” or “everything is relative!” I chose those three because the devotees of contrasting forms of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism use them.

Nothing could be further from my experience of wine than all this, because the taste of even the cheapest and least-pretentious wine is open to endless discussion and debate. The very nature of wine is that the contents of one bottle taste different to different people and there is never any question that someone might be right and all the others wrong even if sometimes claims are made that this is the case. Our differing preferences lie behind our contrasting reactions to the same wine, and they are rooted in our personal experiences, memories and habits and preferences.

This is related very closely to the fact that each of us finds a particular smell either appealing or not, and more loosely related to the way each of us finds a joke funny or not, another person sexually attractive or not, and we either wake up in a good mood or we don’t. There’s no point in discussing any of these things either, because no amount of discussion afterwards can change the way we reacted (thank you Immanual Kant for pointing that out). Apart from the freedom to draw breath this is the most basic kind of freedom and no form autocracy has been able to change any of this.

Just the other day my girlfriend and I had radically contrasting reactions to a handful of 2015 dry German Rieslings from a new producer, Materne & Schmitt in Winningen/Terrassenmosel. They are daring products are far-removed from the fruity and fresh norms most wines conform to, and that kind of wine inevitably polarizes opinion. Put simply, either you dig their kind of funk (technical term reduction) or you don’t!

On paper, I’ve got more professional experience of wine than my girlfriend does, but that is not the point, because personal preference and pleasure are not dependent upon professional experience. I was not right and she was not wrong. We simply reacted differently to the same wine and we both understand that when it comes to personal pleasure in wine there’s never any right or wrong. In wine there is freedom!

I always find it very sad when colleagues or regular folks want to learn from me which wines are right and which are wrong, rather than wanting me to help them intensify and expand their pleasure in wine. It means that person wants some kind of certainty where none is to be had. The only certainties when it comes to wine are the analytical parameters (alcohol content, degree of oxidation, etc.), but they can’t tell you if you will like a wine or not. You have to find that out practically.

It is the hunger for certainty and absolutes and the yearning for a radical break from the continually shifting nature of experience that stoke the fires of nationalism, authoritarianism and fanaticism of all kinds. Give me wine any day. It is the opposite of them!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

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Eppstein Wine Diary, Day 1: The Fast Approaching Danger and My Big Decision Part 2

I love America

In case there’s any doubt, I wrote the following lines as a friend of America and a strong believer in the principals enshrined in the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Today (Sunday, January 29th) I have added an extra paragraph, the third before last, in order to complete the analysis of our current situation.

 Don’t worry about me, I’m doing just fine. That is as long as I don’t think about the dramatic developments of the last few days in Washington D.C. The latest massive shock came in a story the New York Times published Thursday (January 26th, 2017) entitled ‘Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media should, ‘Keep it’s Mouth Shut’’. Reading it convinced me events are already lurching towards a climax the shape and hue of which nobody can yet discern, but which will undoubtedly be fearful and loathsome.

The title of that New York Times story referred to something the former head of the right-wing Breitbart News website said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. He stated that because the media were surprised by the result of the recent presidential election they “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Silence would be self-censorship, a particularly insidious form of censorship since it is invisible to the reader/viewer/listener. For example the censorship of communist East Germany functioned almost entirely by this method.

To this Bannon added “The Media has zero integrity, zero intelligence and no hard work,” which is tarring thousands of reporters and editors who’s work is extremely diverse, with the same brush. Then he went much further, insisting that, “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party.” My theme may only be wine, but since American wine and wine in America are some of my major subjects I too am pushed into that role.

The fact that Bannon peppered his comments with expletives and ironically referred to himself as “Darth Vader” does nothing to cloud the real reason his attacks on the media and pushing us collectively into the role of the enemy. His anger is stimulated when we report something – absolutely anything at all! – that doesn’t align with President Trump’s vision of America, the world and himself.

In this parallel universe Trump is the sole source of these “alternative facts” as the president’s advisor Kellyanne Conway famously called them last Sunday on NBC television’s Meet the Press. I congratulate the show’s anchor Chuck Todd for correctly and courageously identified them as falsehoods. Bannon regards these as the only “facts” that deserve reporting by the media. Period.

At first glance the last week in Washington D.C. might look like a series of ghastly ad-libs by Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip spin doctors, including the statements of his spokesman Sean Spicer, but there’s nothing haphazard about them at all. They were all made in pursuit of the new administration’s prime goal: the wholesale replacement of the true facts with Trump’s vision of “American carnage” and himself as the messiah come to pull the crippled nation out of the mire and make it great again.

There’s nothing new with the basic idea of circumventing reality like this. Hitler & Goebbels, Stalin & Beria were 20th century masters of this art, combining it with genocidal goals so far missing from Trump’s white supremacist ideology. In modern America this goes back at least to when President George W. Bush and how his administration sought to radically reshape reality in theatres of action like Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s worth looking back to October 2004 when Karl Rove, Bannon’s predecessor in the role of chief ideologue to the president, said to Ron Suskind of the New York Times that he belonged to, “what we call the reality-based community,” that is Suskind was part of that group of people, “who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality…That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Trump’s vision of American Empire is clearly different to Rove’s, but the family resemblance is clear. “Alternative facts” is simply another way of saying “create our own reality,” meaning substitute a self-serving fantasy for the reality any sane and halfway rational person can easily discern. President Trump doesn’t have a running war with the media, as he’s repeatedly asserted, rather he has a running war with reality.

For President Trump reality is lies and his fantasies are the truth. He’s convinced that they trump (verb) all the cards of every suit that reality could ever play. This is what makes the current situation so dangerous, because regardless of what anybody wants or imagines reality always holds a tall stack of trump cards that it can play at any moment.

For the new administration the media’s “crime” has been to doggedly stick with demonstrably true facts in the face of attacks and intimidation. However, we will soon see that they are only the first group to land in Trump’s firing line for being reality-based. Soon this will extend to other many groups, who will also be demonized as, “amongst the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

I accept this insult, because it clearly places me on the right side of this fundamental divide. Regardless who is posing the question which side I’m on my answer will be the same, “I’m with reality!” From Day Zero that’s been the program of this blog and is the guiding principal of all my work. I’m grateful to have employers like James.Suckling.com and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who see things the same way.

ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA

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Bordeaux Wine Diary: Day 1 – The Fast Approaching Danger and My Big Decision Part 1

Peace

Although it feels strange to be posting this from Bordeaux this is perhaps not so inappropriate, since Marine Le Pen of the Front National is a candidate in the French Presidential election later this year. I should point out that I’m here to taste the 2014 vintage in bottle for JamesSuckling.com. Watch out for these reports!

For the first time in the 10 year history of this blog I feel forced to take a clear and unambiguous political position, and I must do so urgently because the situation is developing so fast. One reason for this is the rapidly approaching Inauguration of the new President of the United States, and the other is the decision I’ve just taken to submit an application for German citizenship. This was promoted not only by the Brexit decision, but also also due to subsequent developments in my homeland, the UK. Although I didn’t comment on this directly at the time, the fact that as a long-term ex-pat I was barred from participating in the UK Brexit vote was a major infringement of my civil rights.

I’ve been criticized a number of times for taking political positions on this blog although its main subject is wine, and I always answered these accusations in the same way: by pointing out that I never supported a particular political party in any posting nor am I/was I ever a member of a political party. My only political commitment is my membership of the Peace Pledge, an organization that has campaigned for and end to all war and its replacement with non-violent conflict resolution. The pursuit of peace is not specific to the members of any political party, social group or nationality, but is above them all.

The difference between then and now is that previously when I published political comments I was defending particular civil rights, most notably freedom of speech, and/or the free press, and/or the right to privacy in one’s own home that are theoretically guaranteed by the constitutions of many the Western nations. This time I’m writing in defense of all civil rights, because they are now threatened as we seem headed approach a terrible climax to the events that began unfolding during 2016.

The problem is not really the program of any political party, although some of them contain proposals that strike me as highly dangerous, rather a new style of politician, or perhaps I should call them the new-old type of leader. A dangerous beast we thought we’d finally vanquished during the 20th century – the totally unscrupulous and narcissistic demagogue – has recently returned. There are different grades (soft, medium and hard) of every types of political leader, and the worst of the new-old style leaders seem to have a paranoid streak, a psychopathic lack of empathy for anyone beyond their immediate circle, and an obsession with revenge reminiscent of the most evil demagogues of the 20th century. Every intelligent person should know that each of them murdered many millions of people, along with oppressing a very much larger number of millions.

Spooky

Of course, one of the new type of political I’m thinking of is Donald Trump, the President Elect of the United States. I sometimes called him Trump Elect, because clearly he doesn’t just want to be President. The way that he repeatedly insists all the normal rules don’t apply to him makes it clear how he wants is to become a leader unencumbered by the constitutional checks and balances that the Founding fathers so carefully built into the constitution to prevent the rise of autocratic leaders. However, he’s simply the most obvious of the new-old style leaders. Almost every Western country and some other countries too have these kind of autocrats or have would-be autocrats impatiently waiting to grab power for themselves at the first opportunity. Worse still, these leaders are supporting and enabling each other in many ways. Although some of them seem laughable oafs at times, others clearly have great intelligence and nerves of steel. Vladimir Putin of Russia clearly falls into this category.

In spite of the many obvious differences amongst them it is what they all share that forces me to write. They are all ruthless manipulators of the media who don’t give a damn about independent reporting, or even pour scorn upon it, and none of them really care one jot for the civil rights of ordinary citizens. They have introduced political spin of a new-old kind, one that doesn’t just twist the truth, rather replaces it at will with a fully-formed pseudo-truth (that will be revised as they deem necessary). This works because of the retrurn of old-fashioned nationalism and the demonization of entire groups of millions of people (as if any such group could ever be homogenous!) that comes with it. All of this shocks and dismays me; makes me fear where it will all end.

I’ve made a decision for Germany, because it will remain part of the EU as long as the EU continues to exist, but also because Germany has been much less effected by these developments than most other Western nations. It feels like some kind of safe haven, and although this may later turn out to be illusion, I am following that feeling for now. Whatever happens around the world during 2017 and beyond, my commitment to civil rights for the whole population of each of the Western countries remains unwavering. Regardless of the many compromises made in these matters, those rights remain the foundations of free and open societies and of a Western world largely without war.

Those things are the basis for reading. Also, without them the kind of writing that has filled this blog for a decade, regardless of whether the subject was wine or freedom of the press, wouldn’t be possible. So, they are also the basis of writing.

Riesling Global

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