Are There Tacky Wines?

tackly buildingThe word “tacky” refers to something cheap or tawdry. It’s usually an insult. But almost everyone has something “tacky” in their life that they adore.

If you don’t like the word “tacky,” the arts intelligentsia, thanks to Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay on the concept, has adopted “camp” to refer to an aesthetic sensibility that admires an object because of the bad taste it exhibits. The illicit is, after all, alluring because it’s not authorized by the establishment so we can help ourselves to being “edgy” by thumbing our nose at the elite’s idea of good taste, even if we’re part of the elite.

Every cultural form seems to have it’s tacky, kitschy, cringe-worthy camp: the B-52’s and Meat Loaf in music, Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in food, Tango and Cash in film (buddy cop movies are always a candidate), or Jersey Shores on TV.

And someone thought that lovely castle pictured above was worth designing and building.

What about wine? Do wine lovers drink wine that’s so bad it’s good. I don’t think so. Most of us drink less expensive wine because sometimes the occasion calls for it. A porch pounder on hot summer nights is exactly what the situation calls for. A pizza or rustic stew isn’t really going to be enhanced by a $100 Cabernet. Some foods work better with ordinary table wine.

We drink cheap wine because it’s cheap, not because we get perverse pleasure from poking fun at elite tastes. Maybe those natural wine lovers who love their VA and mousiness are part of the so-bad-its-good crowd. But I get the impression they find those wines to be interesting and different rather than bad. Part of the aesthetic sensibility of camp is that the appreciation is knowing, aware of the defects that are then elevated to virtues.

If somms started extolling the virtues of Wild Irish Rose or Boone’s Farm we would have our example. But I’m not aware of such a trend.

I really can’t think of a wine we think is good because it’s bad. Maybe wine lovers are just too serious or lack the irony gene.

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