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Here’s A Lie: Wine Critics Offer Everyone The Best Wine Picks

Vinted on August 21, 2012 binned in best of, going pro, Wined Down (Playboy.com)

Two weeks ago in my Playboy.com Wined Down column, I interviewed two friends for whom I have mad respect – wine writers and educators Mark Oldman and Leslie Sbrocco – to put together a list of what we considered the top five “wine lies.” The idea was to bust up five of the most prevalent myths permeating the wine world, and offer some advice on how to avoid being ensnared by said lies.

You can read our list of those top 5 wine lies here. Leslie and Mark each contributed two wine lies to the list, but after you read their great contributions, please make sure that you click through to Page Two of that article and read the fifth wine lie, which is the one that I contributed to the piece. Namely, “Lie #5: Wine Critics Offer the Best Wine Picks.”

This isn’t an ego play (personally I think Mark’s and Leslie’s input was better than mine!) – I just generally want to discuss that one in more detail than is afforded to me in the interests of keeping the Playboy.com column to a reasonable length. I won’t re-frame the entire argument here, but want to build a bit on what I wrote in that column; because the further down the rabbit hole that I travel when it comes to wine reviews, the more clearly I realize that blindly following the ratings is a lie, a lie that’s been perpetuated in media and at retail for as long as I’ve been an avid wine consumer. Wine critics do not, in fact, offer you the best wine picks with their reviews… at least, not at first

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What’s Next, Le Bastard Surpoids? (Consumers Might Pay More For Difficult-To-Pronounce Wines, So NPR Thinks You’re A D-Bag)

Vinted on July 31, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

First, let me say that I normally love NPR. In fact, I consider not having an opportunity to listen to NPR news during the morning commute as the thing that I miss the most about having a traditional 9-to-5 job. But when NPR runs a story titled “Fancy Names Can Fool Wine Geeks Into Paying More For A Bottle,” I cringe.

NPR’s story quotes Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters Winery’s talented winemaker (for more on Tracy and his wines, check out the coverage of my 2009 trip to LI wine country), but only as a setup for introducing “difficult for Americans to pronounce” grape varieties like Blaufrankisch, and en route to covering the results of a marketing study performed earlier this year by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher at Brock University in Ontario. As reported by NPR:

"Participants not only reported liking the taste of the wine better if it was associated with a difficult to pronounce winery name. But they also reported about a $2 increase in willingness to pay," Mantonakis says.

What’s more, apparently the more that test subjects knew about wine (or at least told Mantonakis they knew about it), “the more easily they got duped into thinking difficult wine names equaled pricier wines.” In other words, we expect Fat Bastard to be inexpensive, but not Le Bastard Surpoids.

I love NPR, but I hate this kind of reporting. I hate it because while there might indeed be meat on the bones in Mantonakis’s study for marketers to explore, the media angle instead is to jump on the all-wine-pros-are-douchebags bandwagon, and throw on non-pro wine geeks as well.

So you know what? Screw NPR for doing that. Screw them, because we wine geeks are not the problem; if a few of us thought fancy names equated to higher prices, than so what? Shouldn’t we be excited that the wines were actually less expensive than we thought? We need more people being excited about wine and getting all hot-and-bothered over those fancy names, not less. The media implication in NPR’s coverage that those wines are somehow bad or cheap and therefore shouldn’t be on the radar of wine geeks is itself insulting to the producers, regions, and wines involved (let alone to the people). And I won’t even get started on the “what constitutes ‘wine geek’ from this study?” arguments.

If you think I’m over-reacting, I invite you to watch coverage of Mantonakis’ experiment and then listen to the NPR coverage that followed, both embedded below after the jump, and then tell me if you think I got it wrong. In the meantime, I’ll go back to my temporary NPR boycott…

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The Most-Viewed Photo Of All Time? It’s From Wine Country…

Vinted on July 24, 2012 binned in best of, wine books, wine news

If you’ve ever used a Microsoft Windows computer PC (which I’m guessing is a group that includes 99.999% of the people reading this, even the Mactards), chances are very good that you’ve seen this image.

It’s called Bliss and was taken by Napa “are we sick of hearing about this place yet” Valley resident and former National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear, while he was taking a break during a drive through Napa Sonoma (corrected here as well as below, thanks to James Marshall Berry for pointing out the misinformation!) while on an assignment. O’Rear sold the image to Microsoft over ten years ago, and it has been one of the default background images for Microsoft Windows ever since (specifically, for Windows XP… yes, Mac-lovers, it was visible right before XP crashed into the Blue Screen Of Death… I admit that I’m just jealous of your computer’s stability and chic cool aesthetics, okay?).

Due to its default background-image status, according to the blog Morts Photography this photo is very likely now the single most viewed image of all time, having been seen by well over a billion people worldwide…

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1WineDude TV Episode 48: Tough Luv For Wine Bloggers

Vinted on June 20, 2012 binned in 1WineDude TV, best of

This one’s about wine blogging, people – for those who don’t care, I’m sorry. For those who do care… I know this only applies to probably a tiny, tiny percentage of the wine blogging world (because most of you watching this are among the awesome), but I felt strongly that it needed to be said. I also hope that this tough love is taken in the spirit in which it was intended; that is, putting the community of wine blogging as a whole above ourselves personally, with the sincere wish that we all continue to strive to be awesome in our own unique ways!

Cheers!

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