Fear of Wine: Oenophobia = Xenophobia

In this week's New York Times dining section, wine writer Eric Asimov -- the Solomon of wine writing, as I like to call him -- asks: "Should a Wine List Educate or Merely Flatter You? [and] How Adventurous Should a Wine List Be?"

His op-ed came in response to a flurry of blog posts that followed a New York Post article by food critic Steve Cuozzo:

In a recent column headlined "Sour Grapes," Mr. Cuozzo railed against restaurants with wine lists that he described as "100 percent inscrutable." He mentioned a couple of Greek restaurants with lists that were almost all Greek. (Surprise: he doesn't care for Greek wines.)

He reserved particular scorn for the entirely French list at Reynard in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where, he wrote, he didn't recognize a single bottle among almost 200 choices.

Answering his own rhetorical question, Eric concludes: "The enemy isn't obscure wines or challenging lists. It's fear of wine."

It's hard to believe, but it's really come to this: Even as our nation's interest and passion for wine continue to expand, there is a growing number among us -- including some of the nation's top food and wine writers -- who fears wine.

"Demanding mainstream wines at a restaurant with a new wave Brooklyn ambience is like expressing shock that the waitress is tattooed," writes Eric.

Should a Greek restaurant in Yorkville offer Bordeaux and Napa sauvignon blanc? On one condition, in my opinion: if the wine director believed that these wines expressed the ethos of the restaurant, not because they were recognizable to the mainstream customer. I have no problem with an entirely Greek list at a Greek restaurant, as long as somebody can answer questions intelligently.

Steve Cuozzo of the Post is as old and crusty as they come. And I'm not surprised by his parochial attitude. But getting pissed because a Greek restaurant in Manhattan carries only Greek wines? That's not oenophobia. It's xenophobia.

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