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A Millennial’s Open Letter To The Wine Industry: I Would Love Your Wine, If I Could Afford It (Guest Post)

Vinted on November 13, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, guest posts

[ Editor’s note: following is a guest post from the 1WD intern: the young, unpaid Shelby Vittek. While Shelby may be young, she’s got better creds than a lot of would-be wine media folks out there: she’s been writing about wine for the millennial set for the better part of a year, is already working on her first book (a guide to wine for college students), and has been published in the Washington Post’s travel section.  Her current writing gig is for the newly re-launched TableMatters.com. To give Shelby a break from having to catalog the small ocean of samples in my basement, we’re going to let her flex her writing muscles with guest posts centering on how young wine buyers view the wine world. We often talk about the Millennial wine buying generation here on 1WD, but this is a chance for you to get the scoop on Millennial wine habits directly from the source. You can follow Shelby on twitter at @BigBoldReds. Let us know what you think (but keep things civil, you opinionated b*stards!). Enjoy! ]

My usual cutoff price for a bottle of wine is ten dollars.

Yes, you read that correctly: $10 or less.

My problem isn’t that I don’t enjoy drinking higher-end wines, ones that are older or more intriguing – it’s just that frankly, I can’t afford them.

I’m part of the younger generation of wine-curious Millennials – the ones who have entered into the world of legal wine-buying and consumption age in the past few years. We are supposedly the generation of wine drinkers believed to be the almighty saviors of the wine industry. But finding an interesting, relatively delicious bottle of wine that doesn’t give me anxiety when I think about making rent at the end of the month is a never-ending challenge.

While I don’t anticipate these wines will blow me away the same way an older Barolo or an aged Riesling does, I want to be able to take pleasure in a glass alone after work (or rather, hours of organizing the mass amounts of wine samples in Joe’s basement). I want to share a bottle with friends without being embarrassed or horrified by the quality of my selection. (I have been deemed the know-it-all-wine-friend, after all.) And when I go home to visit my mother, I want to bring a bottle with me that impresses both her and her more sophisticated palate, without my budget-savvy ways being given away.

You may be shaking your head, or rolling your eyes at how frugal I am with my wine purchases. Maybe you think I’m crazy for expecting a ten-dollar bill to be traded for a beautifully perfumed wine that also delivers rich flavors. But I assure you, I am not insane, and I am definitely not alone. Many other younger Millennials are in the same boat as I am…

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Fine Wine Reviews Can Never Be Crowd-Sourced! Oh, Wait, They Already Have Been… For Years!

Vinted on October 10, 2012 binned in best of, commentary

About every other week, some friend or 1WD reader emails or tweets me a link to Matt Kramer’s “Drinking Out Loud” blog on WineSpectator.com. And about every other week, I have the same reaction after reading it: Kramer writes well, but his conclusions sometimes leave holes large enough that you could drive a steel tank full of Yellowtail through them.

Usually I simply shrug and ignore those conclusions, but Kramer’s piece (titled “Dubious Wine Achievements of Our Time: How smart wine people became boneheads”) published last week struck enough of a nerve that, Shatner style,  I just… couldn’t… let… GO!

It wasn’t Kramer’s near-total dismissal of both Bordeaux (maybe he should have called it “Bored-oh?”) as a region (points with which I largely agree, by the way) and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (points with which I largely disagree) that set me into a fit of head-scratching bewilderment, but his assertion that fine wine recommendations cannot successfully be crowd-sourced.

That latter conclusion flies so forcefully smack-dab into the face of reality that I can only categorize it as head-in-the-sand posturing. Sounds harsh, I suppose, but I see no reason to let something slide when it’s so far off the mark from reality.

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

First, by looking at what Kramer actually wrote, and then at the (potentially invalid) assumptions upon which those statements were based. C’mon, it probably beasts actually working over the next few minutes, doesn’t it?…

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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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