21 Feb 2010

Brittle Future

DESPITE the name, ‘glass’ magazine’s launch happened at the gloriously creaky, wooden ark of a department store, Liberty. Like amorphous panes, the publication ‘evokes a sense of clarity and simplicity, a feeling of lightness and timelessness; a source of reflection and protection’ says Editor, Nicola Kavanagh.
I cannot test this statement (no previews are available), although issue one’s cover suggests sensitively reigned-in glamour, classically rendered in matt black and white; a discreet barcode installed as the banded fuzz auguring a TV commercial break.
In a self-deluding attempt at blending-in with clumps of skinny, furred-fashionistas, I slip more Ciroc vodka/ginger beer/lime concoctions than prudent. I might have fared better had I stuck to the vino, Zette (Domaine de Lagrezette, Cahors) supplied by Jérome Jacober of Eminent Wines.
After queuing for a loo where civilians privates are filmed ‘for protection’, I get talking ‘at’ Jacober. On hearing my gentle connection with ‘Harpers Wine & Spirit’ magazine, he offers to send samples. ‘But that’s cold,’ I slur, ‘I’d rather hear the producer’s story than simply churn-out tasting notes.’
Lights are lit in my brain.

From glass, to what's in it...
In response to master of wine, Tim Atkin having his wine column ‘slashed’ in the new-look Observer, Circle of Wine Writers’ protégé, Rebecca Gibb recently rallied a global petition to ‘Save the Wine Column’ raising over 1000 members in no time at all. I hastily joined, having been ejected (and not replaced) from similar writing roles twice over the years.
Why, I wonder, are wine columns curtailing or concluding? Is it a reflection of temperance, thrift or confusion by consumers, or temperance, thrift and confusion by magpie commissioning editors? Alternatively, dare I suggest, is it the fault of wine journalists themselves?
Rather than the traditional ‘holiday photo’ approach by gastronome critics - expelling serial restaurant reviews as three courses over three acts / regurgitating multiple shades of white-to-red, wine tasting notes - I wonder, would readers prefer to digest a profile? Replacing technical bravado with a personal patina?
What if authors are more generous with atmosphere, taking readers on a journey into the bitter, stony grounds of winter vineyards, where gnarled, dormant vines reach along wires like crucified? Or hilarious tales of a winery dautchand sinking incisors into a journo’s leg? The joie-de-vivre imparted by an impromptu cellar feast using stolen broccoli and freshly hunted game? The pain of a paysan's dedication, igniting vineyard stoves against frost at 3am, or sampling nouveau at 7am? The potential to heighten wine's pleasure with art, music, or comedy? Or a deft, damning, impassioned critique of bulk swill?
Appreciating wine is a way of escape for most of us, not an autistic summation of scores for bores. If the wine column is as fragile as glass the material, and its demise as seemingly transparent, magic through a mesh of words, not trade petition, can save it...