Many people believe that critique should serve a simple practical purpose – i.e. recommend something. In this view a critic is almost a non-paid (hopefully) advertiser who adds their bit to a product’s popularity or, the other way around, damages a brand by discouraging a customer from purchase. I remember when someone said to me ages ago, in another country and referring not to a wine, but to a film I was about to review: “Why don’t you just cut the crap and tell us if the movie is worth watching?”
This consumerist attitude is familiar to any journalist. Being a consumer too, sometimes I recognise it in myself, so I know from experience that following someone’s recommendations is easy simply because it liberates you from making your own decisions about what’s good and bad, and being responsible for your judgement later.
But personally I don’t like the concept of applied art of criticism not only because life is not a massive Argos catalogue where goods must be labelled and classified, and I don’t want anyone to do it for me. It’s mainly because I don’t even think “bad” things should be avoided.
Surely everyone wants the best for themselves, but life filled with the best stuff only would be dead boring. Experiencing worse and bad things forms a system of co-ordinates in which we place all our comparisons. So there’s use in having bad food, knowing bad lovers and driving bad cars. There’s value in bad wines, too – especially if you can get away with not paying for them. This one definitely deserves to be tasted and benchmarked against worst-in-class Italian reds.
2011 Il Papavero Papaverone comes from the big Italian family of Il Papavero wines – the producer makes reliable everyday wines in all styles, whites, reds and sparkling. Papaverone is positioned as a premium product in the range. Its name refers to Amarone – the most prestigious version of Valpolicella, that inspired the winemaker Scipione Giuliani to create this wine made using Amarone technique but from red Sicilian varieties. An official press-release states that Maestro Scipi “has really outdone himself here”. I wouldn’t argue with that – Papaverone is a remarkable wine, though not for its pleasantry.
The first thing you notice about the wine before it even touches your lips is alcohol. Amarone is supposed to be quite strong but the alcohol level shouldn’t prevent it from being integrated into the wine. Here you smell this 15% ABV straight away and the second you taste the wine you feel how harsh an alcoholic component is. Though everything, not only alcohol, is all over the place here – flabby confected fruit, coarse tannins, sour acidity. What is really salient about this wine is how disjointed it is. Every ingredient – quite boring on its own merit – exists separately, making the whole smaller than the sum of its parts. We tasted Papaverone with someone who, trying to be diplomatic, said: “Maybe it improves if you give it a couple of years”.
I don’t believe it – the gap between every component is too wide to be crossed merely with the help of years. Time is not a magic wand, especially for bad things. Ugly sisters don’t become Cinderellas with time, they just turn into ugly old sisters. Given the price of Papaverone, I doubt though that anyone will buy a case of it to lay down – unless it’d be a bit masochistic reminder of how Amarone shouldn’t taste.
The wine is available to buy from Laithwaite’s from £11.99 a bottle.