Chick Vit or What Do Women Want (in their Wine)

“What do women want?”
~ S. Freud

“Sometime a Cigare is just a Cigare.”
~ R. Grahm (with apologies to S. Freud)

“I mean, to put it crudely,” he was saying, “the thing you could say (Flaubert) lacks is testicularity. Know what I mean?”
“…Lacks what?” Franny said….
…He hesitated. “Masculinity,” he said.
“I heard you the first time.”
~ J.D. Salinger, “Franny and Zooey”

“I woke up this mornin’, my baby mighty mad.
Cause the lead in my pencil, it’s done gone bad
Lead in my pencil, baby its done gone bad
And that’s the worst old feelin’ that I’ve ever had.”
~ Johnny “Geechie” Temple, “Lead Pencil Blues”

“There’s a man in the house.”
~ Harlan Miller

My friend Amy recently told me, “Randall, you’re really missing the boat.” “Of course I am,” I told her. “The nautical conveyance and I haven’t been, shall we say, intimate for quite some time.” “No, you’re missing a great business opportunity.” “And, what pray tell, Amy, might that be?” “You make chick wine,” she said. “You should be marketing your wine to women.”

The technical difficulty of figuring out precisely how one might market one’s wine to women and the discipline in doing so notwithstanding, I was intrigued by what she was saying. It felt that she was perhaps on to something and I wanted to better understand what she meant. “Amy, assuming that what you say is correct, why do you imagine my wine is appealing to women?” I asked.

“For one thing, it’s soft, doesn’t have a lot of harsh, aggressive tannin, and the alcohol isn’t over-the-top. The highly concentrated, punch-you-in-the-face “statement” wines are very difficult for a lot of women. We just can’t deal with that much alcohol, that much structure. And your wines have a story – they’re about something. The labels are funny, non-threatening and beautiful, with a lot of attention paid to detail. Women like details.”

It seemed that certainly what she was saying about “chick wines” was true on a number of levels. The first thing I thought about was the whole notion of “trophy wines” – wines that are considered desirable in virtue of their great rarity, and whether they might somehow be akin to “trophy wives.” Both species tended to be very expensive, flashy, and with a number of obvious if somewhat superficial charms. (Non-trophy winemakers and non-trophy wives might well want to scratch out the eyes/pull out blonde hair by the dark roots of their opposing numbers.) One thing seemed certain. I didn’t imagine that women would likely buy a particular wine to impress other women; they might buy it because they liked the label or more likely because they were intrigued by the label and having tried the bottle once, rather liked the wine. There was certainly a lot more of a question of status, establishment of pecking order and demonstration of competence involved in a man’s decision to purchase one particular wine over another. It seemed to me that wine – whether it be its tannic structure or its usefulness as a fungible asset and investment vehicle, was for men, something that needed to be managed and mastered.

I have sometimes jocularly remarked about Le Cigare Volant, our flagship wine, that it differs considerably from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the southern French wine on which it is modeled, in that, being produced in Santa Cruz, where men are more in touch with their feelings, with their feminine side, it is decidedly kinder and gentler than its somewhat rustic, more broad-shouldered Gallic counterpart. You don’t have to go out and slay a large beast, drag it back to your lair and roast it on an open hearth to make an appropriate pairing with the wine.1 And while Cigare differs from Châteauneuf, it is also, broadly speaking, quite a bit different from many if not most of its New World confrères. Our wines tend to be higher in acidity, lower in alcohol and tannin than those of many “serious” New World wineries.2 While the proposition of more elegant, presumably food-friendlier wines is intellectually quite interesting, I think that it is also a bit confusing to a lot of wine writers and tasters. One way to think of our wines is that they are a bridge between New World and Old World. I suppose the question might be: Is the bridge leading anywhere or is it just a bridge out over the abyss?

I believe that the style of our wines tells only part of the story as to why they are (if they are) putatively attractive to women. Without getting too New Agey about it, I find that our wines are somehow more “sensitive” to their surroundings,3 more mutable, subject to greater changeability, based on the climate, both meteorological and emotional.4 They are wines not immediately accessible to the imbiber at first sip – they are typically quite closed up at first approach, and demand some patience and understanding. But once they begin to emerge from their shell, they are ready to engage in a long and meandering conversation with the food. In short, they are chick wines.5

Now, here is where I think it gets interesting, at least to me. If my wines are particularly interesting to women, might the converse be true, i.e. might they on some level be not so interesting to men? Lately I have been getting a fair amount of press, partially from the new book and partially due to my rather vocal and public plans to produce a vin de terroir, a wine intended to express a sense of place, from a new vineyard site, as yet to be planted. I am, of course, very pleased to have garnered so much public attention,6 but what has me a bit vexed is that while some very astute writers are quite willing to vigorously cheer me on in the pursuit of this new vineyard in its audacious aspiration, with but a few exceptions, they seem to be rather less convinced about the brilliance and uniqueness of our current line-up (especially the reds).7 They just can’t quite “get” the wines, are not quite ready to thoroughly embrace what I am proffering as an aesthetic; I suspect that they are troubled by the fact that the wines are to them, somehow neither fish nor fowl.89 Maybe there is too great a disparity between my protestations of esteem for “somewhereness” and the nowhereness (or geographical indeterminacy) of the current line-up that just bugs them.10 Maybe it’s the hubristic grandiosity of my project – the creation of a vin de terroir – and instinctively, not wishing to become disappointed themselves, they are being a bit harsh on the wines in the hopes that I will try just that much harder to attain this worthiest ideal.11

Perhaps a less convoluted explanation is indicated. Maybe in some of my wines the standard signifiers of “quality,” if not missing, are at least perhaps a bit occluded.12 What actually is “quality” in a New World wine? I think that one would be hard pressed to insist that it is authenticity or trueness to its Platonic essence, because likely there is no such Platonic essence, especially if the wine does not come from a singular vineyard, and that vineyard is not farmed in such a way to optimally express its unique character. I believe that all of us hold some sort of template in our brains as far as what constitutes “quality” and what provokes our interest in a particular wine; likely we respond to wine in ways analogous to other sensual stimuli. Perhaps wine affects us a bit like music does, though its balance and logic does not have the same kind of temporal sequencing. With wine the elements are initially apprehended all at once in a sort of trumpet blast and then slowly, almost imperceptibly they shape-shift and unfold with time. Most people, at least us Westerners, are attuned to tonal music, with a recognizable structure and a predictable, inevitable logic; there is satisfaction and resolution when the melody returns to the tonic, a harmonic resonance of a few key elements. In wine maybe these elements are wood, fruit, tannin and minerals (though nobody really knows what this last category really means). Withal, I would suggest that these flavor elements cannot simply be present but they need to be organized in such a way that suggests that they represent something. Put another way, in a vin de terroir, the unique qualities of the site are driving the bus, in a vin d’effort, a winemaker with a strong stylistic vision is driving the bus. But somebody’s driving. And that there are some strong scenic elements on the way to observe: “Look, there’s that Russian River cherry fruit!” the helpful wine-guide/critic points out.

Critics – wine critics, movie or art critics – are always looking for some sort of explanatory hook, revelatory lens, if you will, to explain to themselves and readership what is most interesting and worthy of approbation. It can be the relatively obvious tic – the eucalyptus note found in older Heitz’ Martha’s Vineyard Cabs, the soft structure and caramel/vanilla of the early Silver Oaks, the iodine of La Mission Haut-Brion, the pencil lead of Latour, but there is something that tells us that this wine is different, and maybe, by extension, that there is A Plan of some sort. I’m not sure whether it has been my lack of imagination or maybe lack of will to make a wine that makes a strong statement. It is hard to think of “Balance!” “Elegance!” “Harmony!” as incendiary, revolutionary slogans that one shouts, or more accurately, murmurs at the ramparts.13 It seems that all too often, absent a strong organizing thema of a wine, (pre-understood by the taster/critic), it is tactile imminence/presence on the palate that is the default measure of quality. Meandering, elegant wines that change and evolve, and whose qualities take time to emerge, maybe are not so convincing.

I am left to conclude that in the New World we are still frontiersmen, that we must hew our way, leave an indelible trace, if we are to be taken at all seriously. Perhaps at the end of the day, in virtually every arena, including wine criticism, there is something like an implicit contest of wills, at least between men. Male wine critics and perhaps testosterone-infused female ones, are always gauging the power, the will of the winemaker, trying to divine the measure of his (or her) intention, and how well that intention has been met in the final product. I have spoken my piece in rather measured and modulated tones; perhaps it will be necessary to come down an octave or two.

  1. Though just for the record, the umami-intensive character of our red wines (owing in no small part to our diligence in encouraging yeast autolysis of the wine’s lees) make them very well suited to pairing with roasted meats. []
  2. Part of the problem here lies with the whole notion of “seriousness.” In the Old World, one’s real estate – that stunning terraced vineyard, originally planted 2000 years ago by the Romans does quite a bit to establish the legitimacy of one’s credentials. In the New World, credibility is a bit more difficult to vouch for, and for reasons too numerous to enumerate, concentration or density of a wine has become the proxy for “seriousness” or “quality.” []
  3. There may be any number of reasons for this, from the somewhat straightforward and slightly banal – a less filtered wine, with more colloidal mass (fine particulates) will possibly be more variable under differing barometric pressures – to the more esoteric, i.e. considerations of the wine’s “life-force,” or ability to tolerate oxidative challenge, which in chemical terms may be a function of the particular minerals present in the wine, as well as the complex interactivity of its entire set of oxygen sensitive elements. Presumably the more complex the chemistry, the more unpredictably the wine will behave, the more “sensitive” it might be to its surroundings. []
  4. There is no question at all that the experience of a wine, whether pleasurable or not, is partially based on the qualities inherent in the wine itself, but equally is a function of the physiological, emotional and psychological state of the taster himself. The character of some wines (like some people) is more or less immediately evident, but in most instances, really requires a lot of unpacking. Critics don’t write about the enormous amount of subjectivity (and variability) that is brought to the tasting experience because this would undermine their basic stock in trade, which is dependability and replicability. []
  5. It occurs to me that another word that would well describe the style of our red wines is “Burgundian” or even “Pinot Noir-like.” The difference of course is that no one expects Burgundy to be a massive wine that will make its point in a stentorian fashion and there is (generally) a rather different set of expectations when one tastes the wine. This actually brings up the interesting dichotomy between Bordeaux and Burgundy. Bordeaux could well be considered “Apollonian” and Burgundy “Dionysian,” that is to say that Bordeaux appeals to the head, and Burgundy to the entire sensorium. Burgundy is truly the most feminine wine, one that seduces with its wiles, draws one in, until all resistance is futile. []
  6. My primary character disorder is an insatiable need for infinite public approbation. []
  7. Maybe I am overthinking this a bit, but I have the idea that one can never quite experience a wine (or anything else for that matter) without a set of assumptions and preconceptions about that wine, without implicit (and often unconscious) standards of quality, signifiers of merit or defect. Certainly wine writers have quite a bit to learn from phenomenologists as far as learning how to look into the enormous set of factor already brought bring to the tasting experience before a wine touches lips. Matt Kramer and Eric Asimov have both recently written about their experience of “orange wines”; their work in looking at their own set of prejudices and prejudgments in considering these wines might make them more open-minded in considering wines from a more normative range. []
  8. There is nothing but anxiety of influence when it comes to winemaking and by extension to wine criticism. A producer of Syrah in the New World has the unenviable choice of either rebelling against the elegance (critics might say wimpiness) of Old World Syrah and thus producing the bold monstrosity of SAE 40-weight motor oil Shiraz, or alternatively, producing a derivative “French-style” Syrah, which will likely be excoriated by the influential wine press and shunned by real wine mavens, who would likely prefer the Chave “Offerus,” which sells at about the same price. []
  9. A New World producer who produces a “lighter” Syrah, at least has the Platonic template of Côte-Rôtie, which helps to create a range of defined normative expectations for Syrah. A New World southern Rhône blend, which is loosely modeled on the powerful wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape does not immediately create the same universe of expected possibilities, a sort of imaginative pre-tasting, if you will. []
  10. I recently had the experience at a winemaker dinner of sitting next to a woman, whom I presumed (and of course, I am merely presuming) was a transsexual. (She was well over 6 feet, stocky, with a rather booming baritone voice.) Apart from my desire to not say something inappropriate, I just found myself uncomfortable with her “ambiguity,” which of course was a function of my own need to have the world neatly sorted out. []
  11. Having just written this, I realize that it is patently false, and maybe just an indication of narcissism in the extreme – no one out there really does (or should) care that much. []
  12. The issue is made even murkier (somewhat literally) by our use of screwcaps, which creates a slightly different redox milieu for the wine – the same old cast of vinous characters – fruity esters, tannins, organic acids and the like – but ever so slightly altered as to be not quite recognizable, a bit like the voice-altering technology employed in witness protection programs. When the wine becomes completely saturated with oxygen, a more normative or expected tasting palette re-emerges. []
  13. I’m not precisely sure what ramparts are – just certain that, like lees, they are only found plurally. []

16 Responses to “Chick Vit or What Do Women Want (in their Wine)”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by RandallGrahm: New post on #beendoonsolong website, “Chick Vit or What Do Women Want (In Their Wine) http://bit.ly/6SLAMx

  2. Tasha says:

    As a member of the female sex and a big fan of the Doon wines, I guess I’m qualified to comment, tho I don’t think I’d have the hubris to say that my comments applied to all of my sex. I’ve loved the Doon wines not for their softness (sorry, softness isn’t something I generally look for, being a fan of punk rock and kentucky whiskey) or their labels (beautiful as they are). What I enjoy is the creativity and inventiveness. Traditional structured wines are great, but I’m a lover of the new, and a big believer in nothing ventured nothing gained; and one thing that has been true of the Doon wines is that there’s rarely one that is like another – they all have something different to say, even if they don’t scream it in a traditionally structured way. (I do agree about one thing –that I rarely buy wine to impress others, unless by impress you mean get them to say “Wow, thats really good!”)

    • Randall Grahm says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, and sorry to be unconscionably late in responding. Yeah, the BDV wines are or at least have been maybe more than a little eclectic, and this has been perhaps both a blessing and a curse. Maybe some customers are looking for more consistency in style, or even some of the more traditional signposts of “quality.” But it is very important to me that we continue to experiment and really try to find something that gives us some unique results. Of course the winemaking end of things is ultimately the most trivial aspect of the process – you really have to begin in the vineyard. If it wasn’t raining so hard, that’s where I would be this a.m.

  3. “Chick wine” is a somewhat disparaging term, and some (cue certain howling feminists) might reject the notion’s legitimacy. But I do think aesthetic experience is gendered, that women and men have different physiological responses to signals entering their sensoria, and that culture (values, ideas about who we are, the “normativity engine”) drives us to interpret these differently. The character we ascribe to a wine is based on who we are, and who we are is partly based on our gender, which is a mashup of our biological constitution and our cultural inheritance. Hence, chick wine, despite the flipness of the term, is a legitimate idea, worth pursuing.

    Now, an interesting challenges is to clarify to what extent such femininity is extrinsic—in the eye (mouth) of the imbiber—and to what extent it’s inherent in the wine itself. Some wines present outward qualities that make them attractive to women, that make women able to identify with them; they’re softer, more integrated, more food-friendly, tell stories, have clever labels, play well with others, etc. These wines have a kind of extrinsic femininity, and this is more or less the definition of chick wine your friend Amy uses. The wine is “feminine.”

    But you clearly also believe that a wine can have a persona, have its own inherent qualities—a life force, an approach toward a Platonic ideal, “somebody driving.” Perhaps your wine is strongly feminine, or perhaps it’s somewhat betwixt: a strong feminine core—lower alcohol and tannin, higher acid, sensitive to the environment—with some masculine attributes—umami, deep strength. But let’s say that a wine might have intrinsic femininity; the wine is therefore somewhat “female.”

    This feminine/female distinction is subtle, and these two vectors aren’t exclusive. A “female wine,” one with feminine life force, would most likely present as feminine, a chick wine. But the opposite isn’t necessarily true. A twelve dollar bottle of mass-market Merlot with a fuzzy critter label might present as feminine, but might not have anything like a feminine core, might not, in fact, connect with the imbiber on any deep level at all.

    Now it gets interesting. A wine with an intrinsic core becomes a character in the drama, and the dialogue between wine and consumer suddenly gets much more complex. Identification with or “relating to” the wine isn’t always the goal. A woman might sometimes crave an inherently powerful, structured, dynamic wine, while a man might be drawn to gentle nuance. And the dialogue itself can get kind of gender-bent. The sexiest wines I’ve ever had weren’t masculine at all, they were feminine: lithe, elusive, coy, slowly yielding, flowering, subsiding, then… haunting.

    The press does seem to value a more masculine style, and don’t place high value on “chick wine,” so if you make chick wine, you’ll be dismissed as unserious. Maybe you should go straight to those who are more predisposed by virtue of their gender, and though there’s no guarantee women will like feminine wine, the women’s direct-to-consumer market might hold some promise. But I think it’s not the full solution, because it feels like an over-simplistic answer to a complex and nuanced problem, and means you have forfeited some degree of your wine’s rightful claim to broader relevancy and appeal.

    A frontiersman’s contest of wills, where you shout about your wine’s tender attributes, feels ironic and a little silly, like caving to machismo. But I think it’s actually likely to have some success over time, since accepting and adopting the terms of the dominant discourse means greater likelihood of actually getting heard.

    I guess I don’t—or refuse to—think of your your wine is chick wine, even though it sometimes dresses that way, and even though (some of) it has a female center. Your wines—and those of other likemindeds—are far more complex than that simple gloss. They offer us intense and vivid experiences we can’t get any other way, and overall I’d love to see us moving toward a more nuanced interpretation of these experiences, to an appreciation of what you call “meandering elegance” (love that).

    I value what you and others are already doing to educate consumers and the press, and to elevate the discourse so that wines of subtlety become more highly regarded. I think it’s maybe starting to have some effect, though likely not fast enough to have an effect on the immediate bottom line. Not everyone will get it, but some will, and in the end I doubt gender is the predominant factor in “getting it.” I think it has more to do with one’s comfort with ambiguity, acceptance of incertitude, and receptivity to astonishment and wonder. If you can find people like that, they will love the wine.

    • Meg, my dear. Apologies for the potential offensiveness of the term “chick vit,” but I was of course spoofing on “chick lit,” and I absolutely cannot let a good pun go, which is of course my own OCD cross to bear.

      It is interesting that you would characterize “umami” or savoriness as a more or less masculine characteristic of wine. i think that I might identify it as a more feminine characteristic – found in a wine that tries to integrate, blend or engage in a dialogue with food, rather than seek to dominate it. Women do seem to be a bit more clever than men in trying to find potential opportunities to link with the world.

      I take your point on the distinction between feminine and female in a wine and would like to suggest that in some instances (though not always) this distinction arises from the dichotomy between vins d’effort and vins de terroir. A wine of effort is a stylized wine and therefore its qualities might be thought of as being perhaps more extrinsic than the deeper qualities found in a vin de terroir. I would suggest that in fact all vins de terroir, even the ones we think of as being the most “masculine” – think Paulliac with its firm astringent tannins or Cornas with its hard mineral edge – have a deeply feminine quality to them, a seductive, ever-changing, revealing/hiding aspect that draws us to them – haunting is the word that you use.

      A propos of nothing, if you are ever given the opportunity to try a Musigny, esp. from de Vogüé, you should seize upon it. It is truly the most feminine and mysterious wine that has ever been fashioned. And of course beneath the “soft,” beguiling, wildly fragrant surface aspect lies a core of strength that descends right to the center of the earth.

      I am in agreement that the vocabulary of gender might not be the most productive in truly conveying a wine’s essence. But I think it is incredibly useful to think of the wine tasting experience as a dialogue, and we bring all of ourselves to this dialogue – our sexuality, our history, our understandings and misunderstandings about the world. Maybe it’s time to dust off the Martin Buber text from the Philosophy survey class that we haven’t thought about in ages.

      I am not sure about the future of wine criticism or wine writing, but I think that it is always useful to think about the tools that expand our experience and consciousness, that make us more complete human beings. I sincerely believe that wine (like sexuality) can be something like a holy sacrament that brings us to a more rarified, ecstatic realm of experience. I’m going out now in the driving rain – maybe the universe is telling me that I need to take a cold shower.

  4. Jen (@swdmw) says:

    I must respectfully disagree with your friend Amy regarding marketing wine to women. For one thing, the current generation has overwhelmingly been reared in gender equal homes so the notion of something being specifically “for” the male or female seem odd. For another thing, hasn’t this already been done recently and flopped? I’m trying to remember, but I think it was Beringer or another large white zin conglomerate. I’ll look it up and get back to you. (Too bad we can’t add footnotes to comments, btw:-)

    • Agreed that it would be a singularly bad idea to spend a lot of money marketing wine to a particular gender. (For one thing we don’t have a lot of money to market to anyone of any gender.) But I think that it is always interesting to have some sense of who your customers or potential customers might be. But, agreed, whenever there is even the remotest whiff of pandering, it is a big turn-off.

  5. Katie says:

    This harkens back to an article I wrote in Mutineer Magazine about target marketing, though obviously that’s not the bottom line of this post. The sad truth about marketing targeting women, gays, etc. is that as insulting as it may be to many, there are plenty of others who actually like and are drawn to a cute little black dress on their wine bottle label for instance.

    Marketing aspect aside, I’m not sure the dichotomy that exists in what men drink and what women drink is quite so clear cut—there’s a gaping split on the men as far as I’m concerned. While I will give you that most women are not drinking the high-octane wines that line our store shelves, men are not exclusively flocking to them either. There are two camps of men wine drinkers from what experience has shown me: those that chase the steroid-like trophy wines and those that could give a shit about muscle and instead prefer the soft curvature and subtlety of a wine that doesn’t knock you on your ass. Hell, those men even pick up a glass of (gasp) white wine in public once in a while.

    Either way, to purposely direct your wine to a certain consumer group is certainly, as Meg said, to forfeit “some degree of your wine’s rightful claim to broader relevancy and appeal.” Why point a laser when you can cast a flood lamp?

  6. Ken Payton says:

    Per footnote 13. A ‘rampart’ is any wall that keeps an enemy out. It is usually plural because no real defense is possible if the enemy may just do an end around. The Maginot Line is a good example. There is, of course, the Great Wall of China but it, too, was routinely breached (owning largely to the madness of the project and the determination of China’s enemies). So it is that defensive structures are closed, sealed all around. Like a castle, or an ego. Now, the idea of a rampart is easily transposable to other cultural registers. Take fashion. Obviously gendered, women’s clothing is often a play of gaps and openings, while men’s fashion is all about total concealment. The former plays hide and seek with a real body, however ‘cut up’, and the latter masks a body behind a uniform image (pun intended). Women’s fashion promises more. Men’s fashion performs the absence of carnal mystery. One hints that the ramparts may be breached, the other pulls up the gate.

    So the first thing I would ask about whether wines might be gendered is how do you arrest the slippage? I mean, how do you stop ‘gendering’ from impregnating the entirety of wine culture? From the flowery label, to the aggressive tannins, from the barrel filled with juice, to a stuck fermentation, from a cork forcefully inserted, to a prophylactic screw-cap, does the gendered imagination ever tire? Perhaps it doesn’t, perhaps it won’t. It certainly hasn’t.

    What do women want (their wine in)? A clean glass. Blind tastings, anyone?

    • The question, Ken, is why would you want to arrest the “slippage.” If you are a pantheist and devotée of the magnificent Norman O. Brown – I was fortunate enough to know him a bit – you would know that sexuality/life-force/divine madness imbues all things. This force cannot be constrained; when repressed, it erupts somewhere else unexpectedly. The best one might help to do is hang on for the extraordinary ride, as it were. This is mete and good.

  7. Ken Payton says:

    Hi, Randall. Yes, I knew NOB. I attended an infuriating Heidegger class with his tweedy self at the helm. I was also one of the more interesting hecklers at his James Joyce Wake, an all night reading. Were you there? I even wandered the campus woods with him, though not in search of magic mushrooms. (We were not that close!) Norman’s great talent as a teacher was to hook the student into Norman’s own personal passion play. Skilled at transference games, he muddled many a student’s head; he well understood the eros of teaching generally. In many instances, he effectively crippled their ability to think independently. They always needed the master.

    And this hints at what I’m getting at with the phrase ‘arresting the slippage’. It is well know that psychoanalysis proposes that desire is structured as a ‘lack’. When the baby boy is finally severed from his originary continuity with the mother’s body by the father’s phallus, two things happen simultaneously. One, the boy spends the rest of his days trying to reunite with mama (which is primordially his ‘proper’ body), and two, as a freshly formed ‘self’ he must mediate or translate this desire (for what he cannot not possess) through the agency of the father, which is, in Lacan’s magnificent rereading of Freud, language itself, rooted, as you might guess, in the father’s possession, his ownership, of the only phallus that matters. So the baby boy must learn to ask for what he cannot have with a language he does not ‘own’. Language is a haunting, alienating agency, not the road to a cure. And this, btw, is why analysis is said to be interminable. Speech does not fill the hole in a troubled soul. It is the hole itself. All of this is to say that desire, in the psychoanalytic schema, is born of a lack. However much we speak, however much we wander the world, however many our loves, all of our efforts, all of our ‘desires’ are driven but this structured lack, by this lifelong search for the primordial missing part of our body that language, the father’s phallus, itself creates. Every subject/object of our desire is but more slippage. Life is an endless series of ideational substitutions for what cannot exist, the search for a place that is ‘nowhere’.

    And the situation with the baby girl is an even more grim and fatalistic scenario. Indeed, the shadow of Freud haunting your essay does not really get at his truly monstrous intellectual rigor. It is not for nothing that generations of women have fought hard to out-think both he and his most brilliant student, Lacan, to find a pleasure that is not phallocentric. And to that point, frankly, NOB’s notion of ‘polymorphous perversity’ was mere diddling with the massive Freudian prick. We both know that it was just a line to pick up girls. The promise of sexual equality by us cool dudes was a ruse, a mask, yet another trick of seduction. And NOB knew that game well.

    So, no. I am not a pantheist. I am most certainly not a NOB devotée. That ‘sexuality/life-force/divine madness’ can be seen as conceptually isomorphic would funny to me were it not so historically tragic, certainly if read through the prism of Freud and Lacan. NOB’s last talks and work, pagan in the main, spoke of the need for the world to be cleansed by fire. You will be hard pressed to find a more perfect illustration of the return of the repressed. Mother Earth, I am coming home.

    Been Doon So Long is a very fine book, by the way.

  8. [...] What Do Women Want. I’ve been having a bit of a Women’s Studies moment lately (the bonehead naming of the iPad must have set me off) and I enjoyed this piece from Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon on marketing wine to women — and what might make his wines particularly interesting to the fairer sex. Not sure I buy all of it, but there’s some interesting stuff here for sure. [...]

  9. Tremendous insight! This is an old style colloquey smack down…I am not in the category of a highly sophisticated wine drinker, but I do appreciate your quest toward a deeper understanding of the process and current landscape: the discussion of tricking up wines vs. working with natures gifts, the everpresent battle between the authentic and the conjured notions of brand magicians. Cheers to you, you old bastard up on the hill…

  10. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

    • Thanks so much for your post and for your kind words. There were some interesting ideas in the post, to be sure, but maybe it just ranged a bit too far afield. At some point, it might be interesting to rework it and perhaps make it a bit more focused. Please continue to read the blog; I promise to be a lot more regular in my posting.

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BATAAN DEATH MARCH

BATAAN DEATH MARCH - Book Tour

Wine Tasting
April 8th, 2014
5-7pm
Monopole Wines
MonopoleWines.com

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@RANDALLGRAHM

MINISTRY OF TRUTH

SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE

 

2009 Le Cigare Volant RéserveElective Affinities

"Brilliant matchings of wine & literature"

CIGARE of the FUTURE | pg 253
with 2009 Le Cigare Volant ~
Réserve

More info on the Wines of
Bonny Doon Vineyard