Vino & Veritas: Champagne!

BY JOSH SOLOMON

At a recent dinner with some friends, I found myself droning on about the wine I had ordered for the table — the grapes, the region, of what I was reminded by its tastes and smells. One friend finally stopped me by simply asking, “Who cares?” He elaborated: “I like most wine I drink, so why bother to learn all those other details? Why not just drink and not think about it?”

That question is fair enough. If you were to slip an honesty pill into their glasses, and then ask a bunch of people who know something about wine why it’s worth knowing something about it, you might get some answers like the following: I feel like I might need to know that kind of “stuff” to be part of the society I intend to inhabit; when I go on a date/business dinner/insert-your-important-outing, I want to be able to read a wine list; I’m pretentious, and it makes me appear sophisticated (beware, particularly, these people, as they often know less than they want you to think they know and when they don’t know something, are usually unwilling to ask for assistance).

My answer was a bit different. It’s kind of like baseball. Almost anyone can go to Fenway Park and have a good time. Whether it’s the two-outs-two-strikes-bases-loaded situations in a close game, long home runs that disappear beyond the range of the lights, gorging oneself on peanuts and hotdogs, or some combination of such things, everyone can find something that will make them say, paraphrasing my friend, “I like most games I attend.” But there’s the potential for much more. When you have more knowledge about the game, you will, without question, get more out of it. It’s one thing to know that three strikes is an out, that four balls is a walk, and that the team with the most runs at the end of the game wins. It’s something else to know some history of the sport and the team you follow, why the manager might bring in a lefty for one batter, and a team’s standing in a pennant race. The more “stuff” you know, the more you enjoy watching the game.

While I was playing to my audience at the time, you could insert just about anything in the place of baseball to illustrate the point. It might be the trees you see on a hike, the history of a country you visit, or even the background of the Justice whose opinion you study. Wine is the same way.

I could serve a glass of most wines to someone who doesn’t know anything about wine, and he would probably enjoy it (particularly if it’s a young, buttery Chardonnay). But joy comes in degrees. If I served the same glass to someone who was familiar with the region, could evaluate the wine within its vintage, and had developed the ability to discern a variety of smells and tastes, that person would be bound to enjoy it far more than would the first. It is then that wine becomes fun.

If fun seems a little strong, give it a try. I think you’ll find, even with just a little bit of knowledge, that wine really is fun. And even if I’m wrong, it will at least come in handy on the date/business dinner/insert-your-important-outing.

And speaking of fun…. At the end of each column, I will try to offer my thoughts on some wines I tried out for you. Usually, they will tie in with the column’s theme. This week, alas, I forgot to get some wine before Sunday, when this wonderful state refuses to let me buy any. Since my column was due on Monday, and since there really was no theme here, you get one of the bottles I happened to have on hand (consider it a preview of my future piece on Champagne):

Perrier Jou

Letters: Gun debates, Nesson, and divesting in Israel

BY

Target shooting club founder urges more gun debates

In a RECORD story last year, Daniel Swanson said he would like to have “a public discussion with the HLS Target Shooting Club.” I would like to have a public discussion with Daniel. That’s what the club is all about. In our first year, we’ve only had one speaker — John Lott, discussing his paper on multiple-victimpublic shootings — but more speakers and debates is always better. We are in full agreement. Daniel wants to discuss accidental shootings — sounds great. I look forward to having that debate, and would enjoy co-sponsoring firearms-related events with interested organizations of any political stripe (especially if they have a bigger budget than we do).But I part company with Daniel when he suggests that “publicly advancing the beliefs” that guns can be used as a “force for good,” as I did in a recent Economist article, is at odds with making a “balanced and constructive contribution” to the gun debate. One can advance the gun debate without everything having to be a debate.

Neither Daniel, nor I, nor the Target Shooting Club, need be neutral, apolitical observers. We’re lawyers. We work within an adversarial system.

Nor does advancing the debate require that we all embrace cost-benefit analysis and compromise. In fact, I suspect that Daniel himself isn’t a compromiser. He starts out calling for “balanced and constructive contribution[s]” to the gun debate and “balancing benefits against risks” — but then calls it “incontrovertible” that child shootings are“unacceptable” and that we should “ensure that those shootings cease.” This is not cost-benefit language — benefits of gun ownership are now noticeably absent. Nor do I demand that language of him. The best debate involves details and listening to the other side, but it also involves passionate commitments and principled positions, which I hope we both have. My rule of thumb: Argue what you believe, whether it’s moderate or hard-line.

Another rule of thumb: Have fun whenever possible, whether it’s “counter-cultural rebellion” or screening movies featuring “regular people using guns as a force for good.” Please attend our debates, but also come to our screening of Red Dawn. And, regardless of your views on gun control, come shooting with us. All are welcome.

— Sasha Volokh, 3L

Alum laments this semester’s lack of Nesson

I was distressed to read in the Washington Post that students at the Law School were to be denied the benefits of Professor Charles Nesson’s pedagogy for this semester. The reports did not make clear why that was so. My experience was that Professor Nesson’s courses were among the most stimulating and thought provoking, and therefore most valuable. I remember well his Constitutional Litigation Workshop seminar, which combined sound academics and real world practice considerations. I have carried what I learned there with me since, as a litigator and law teacher. I hope this hiatus is temporary.

— Mark Kreitman ‘75

Harvard should not divest its Israel investments

I was a member of Harvard’s Investment Advisory Committee and helped to draft Harvard’s policy on investments in South Africa. As you may recall, Harvard did not follow the path of other universities by divesting from South Africa. Instead, we decided to invest in companies that promoted equality of the races in South Africa, and I think that history has vindicated the approach that Harvard adopted.I recently received word that 39 Harvard professors have signed a petition for Harvard to divest from Israel. As with South Africa, I believe that boycotting investments would hurt the situation more than help it. I also believe that it would send the wrong message to the world about Harvard’s stance on terrorism.

Israelis believe that they are fighting for their survival and that their only tentative ally is the U.S. If the U.S. or U.S. companies withdraw their support from Israel, this will only increase Israel’s sense of isolation and desperation. The end result will be that Israelis will have less reason to hope for a peaceful settlement and more reason to turn to military solutions.

As for terrorism, Israel has lost more people on a proportional basis through terrorist bombings than the U.S. lost on 9/11. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took the commendable position that terrorism was unacceptable under any circumstances and that anyone who supported terrorism was a terrorist. If Harvard now boycotts Israel for its response to terrorist attacks, it will be rewarding terrorists at the expense of their victims.
I, like many Americans and like many Jews, have mixed feelings about Ariel Sharon’s approach in the Middle East. However, I leave for work every morning without any fear that myself or loved ones will fall victim to a suicide bomber during the course of the day. If a neighbor of the U.S. were regularly sending suicide bombers into our country, I have no doubt that U.S. citizens would demand military action until they felt safe to walk the streets. Is it unfair for Israeli families to demand the same?

I, for one, do not know the best course of action to resolve the death spiral that we are experiencing in the Middle East. However, I do know that boycotting investments is the wrong choice for both pragmatic and ethical reasons. During difficult times in South Africa, Harvard demonstrated leadership by adopting a pragmatic and ethical investment strategy. Harvard once again has the opportunity to take a leadership position by not boycotting Israel. Please stand firm against terrorism and denounce the boycott of investments in Israel.

— Ethan Cohen, M.B.A. ‘91