For someone who often overthinks, writes too long and usually has one more comment to wedge in before sign-off, I’ll try today to be brief. I’m saying goodbye, and drawn-out goodbyes are maudlin. This is the last regular column I will write for this newspaper so, in a sense, good-bye. But not completely. (And come to think of it, I don’t think you should count on me being brief.)

I don’t want this to end. I have loved writing here about wine (and will continue to write wherever and whenever I can). My exit is bittersweet, and my reasons have nothing to do with lack of joy in doing the work. Mostly, the consistency of a weekly obligation has grown grinding and has come to impinge on work and family obligations. The man who sits on two stools never feels entirely comfortable. You get it, I’m sure.

I’m grateful to this newspaper for granting me the space, and to my gracious, insightful editors, whom most of you don’t know to credit. I’m especially grateful to everyone at the Portland Press Herald who essentially let me write on whatever topic I wished, in whichever way I wanted. (One of the advantages to writing about a subject that’s mystifying to most people but less so to yourself is you get a freer rein. Engrave it on my columnist-headstone: “He Knew Maybe a Bit More than I Did.”)

Funny story: My favorite piece I ever wrote for this paper is the single one that never got printed, because my editor thought (rightly) that it was totally unpublishable and inappropriate. It was a 1,000-word single-sentence reverie on one of the most vibratory, magical wineries in the world, Château Musar of Lebanon. The wines make my heart stop, and I wrote the piece before it started again.

It was my favorite to write, though not my favorite to read and I’m sure you’d agree. But it mattered a great deal to me personally. I think that what matters a great deal to me personally has often provided both the worst and best of what this column offers. Too much subjective half-understanding, perhaps. But also maybe an expression of how to live with wine, which could act as a beacon for wine experience that no amount of fact-based journalism and tasting notes can provide.

How to live with wine is to feel it, to burrow yourself into it and let it burrow into you. To collaborate with it rather than demand of it, to resist the urge to demean it as a commodity. I’ve said that before, in various ways. I’ve said a lot of things before in various ways, and that’s another reason this feels like a good time to quit.

I don’t know how many more ways to say essentially the same small set of things I say each week:

 Wines are expression of place and time, not grape or brand.

 Seek out small-scale wineries.

 Demand that the person selling you a wine knows the details of what went into making it.

 Follow good importers.

 Low alcohol levels are best.

 Pay attention to texture over taste.

 Indigenous yeasts matter.

 Soil is the single most important factor.

 Drink riesling, chenin blanc, cabernet franc, Chablis, Beaujolais.

A few other things from time to time. If you read this column regularly, you knew my shtick.

I will always value most highly a subjectivity born of true feeling. I will always subscribe to a sort of Observer Effect of wine: It has no importance without me. I cannot escape myself. My intention in this space was not (entirely) to inflict my particularity on you, but rather to goad you into presenting your own subjectivity; to challenge you to arrive at a wine in full presence. I never felt quite right offering a Buyers’ Guide, though it’s perfectly reasonable for the majority of readers to want one above anything else.

Feelings drive us whether we know it or not. I don’t know if I was “right” about anything I put in this space, but I tried to pack it as full as I could of wines that moved me. It’s the survival of the emotional aspect of wine that gives me most concern. The buyer’s-guide mode, pragmatic advice, is crucial for leading all of us through such an infinitely complex subject. But that mode is too dominant.

Even if the false objectivity of the point-score approach to wine reviewing is on its way out (and it is), what has dethroned it is a facile, feelings-free subjectivity. The enthusiasm arms-race and ego-driven look-ma world of social media, both general (Instagram/Twitter) and vinous (Delectable/Vivino), threatens a reductivity as fierce as 1998-era Robert Parker.

Despite that trend, excellent, probing, deeply felt wine writing abounds, though like excellent, probing, deeply felt wine, it is half-hidden – or more precisely, half-smothered by the louder, more obvious sort of approach. There are many exceptional blogs and websites, a couple of great podcasts, a few terrific printed journals. In that context, it is especially admirable that a daily newspaper such as this one feels it worthwhile to publish writing on wine. Not many daily newspapers do that anymore. Culture mags such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, with more money, more pull, more exposure and more opportunity, have dropped the ball almost completely.

Which is an enormous shame given that wine’s most profound, lasting significance is to true culture rather than consumer culture. True culture grew up with wine. Wine is both parent to and child of true culture. A column I wanted to write but never got around to was a profile of the London molecular-gastronomy cocktail bar that has recently introduced a line of “wines” that are produced chemically, without grapes. They just did the research and punched in the flavors. How does such a phenomenon alter our notion of what wine is? How does it help us confront who we are? Is it a subversion of wine’s eternal truths, or a Hugely Meta statement on how easily we can trick ourselves? The postmodern toothpaste is out of the authenticity-seeking tube. Will it get the purple stains off my teeth?

The list of columns I wanted to write here but ran out of time for is long. I wanted to write about lagrein, and brettanomyces, and Mallorca. I should have written a lot more about Greece. I wanted to write about granite and schist, for heaven’s sake! It’s in a sense exciting (not to mention, for many readers, probably a relief) that whoever picks up this mantle will not write these, but will generate an entirely new list.

The list of columns I never wanted to write is equally long. I should have written those first. New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Super Tuscans. The best central California red blends. Viognier. Pinotage. The wines of Maine. My failure to pursue topics that personally bored (or repulsed) me, or challenged my cherished principles, is the dark side of leading from the heart. That is, maybe I didn’t make my obligation to my readers enough of a priority.

We did OK, though, you and me. And I doubt we’re through. I’ll find ways to keep haranguing you, as long as you don’t spend a lot of energy trying to hide. Just don’t avoid unfamiliar wines. Don’t be afraid of a little sweetness. Don’t drink cabernet sauvignon. Don’t be a stranger. And drink with your heart.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.