Posts Filed Under commentary
Sigh… Here we go. Again.
It seems the 100 point wine rating scale debate – and its subsequent delineation of ivory-tower criticism vs. crowd-sourced wine recommendations – has once again reared its ugly head, though since it’s a zombie topic that’s never quite dead, it doesn’t have to raise its moaning, rotting head very far to push itself back into the wine geek consciousness.
We begin with an article by my friend Jonathan Cristaldi, itself a reprise and update of a piece that was first penned and published in 2013, in which Jonathan discusses the relevance of the 100 point wine rating scale his future view of wine recommendations:
The future of wine ratings is a future of recommendations, not points or scores, from socially active wine enthusiasts and industry professionals who cultivate their own following and hold court over a sphere of influence. Experience and education imbues the passionate wine enthusiast with the kind of knowledge and confidence to entertain and communicate what is complex about wine, what is fun about wine–socially active oenophiles who post photos of labels and talk about wine in the vernacular will emerge as the collective voice for wine drinkers of the future. More and more people will learn of wine’s complexities through social engagement. Friends and confidants (trade and non-trade) will replace the lone critic and his bully pulpit. Wine drinkers will realize the power and worth of a discerning palate because of the value their friends place on such expectations.
This spurred a rebuttal by another friend of mine, Steve Heimoff, formerly of Wine Enthusiast, via his blog:
Proof? There is none. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” the old nursery rhyme tells us. Merely wishing that individual critics will fade away, in favor of crowd-sourced opinions spread via social media, is the biggest wish-fantasy around. When Cristaldi tells us that “Friends and confidants will replace the lone wine critic,” he has absolutely no proof; no evidence supports it, except anecdotally; and even if the Baby Boomer critics, like Parker, are retiring or dying off, there is no reason to think that their places will not be taken by Millennials who just might be the future Parkers and Tanzers and Gallonis and Laubes and Wongs and, yes, Heimoffs.
Ok, folks, I cannot resist chiming in on this, so here goes…
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Almost four (holy crap!) years ago, I wrote on these virtual pages a response (ok, rebuttal) to a claim by the thought-provoking PR maven Tom Wark that we were in a “golden age” of wine writing.
Fast-forward to last week, and we have Tom taking umbrage with a satirical piece by Ron Washam, a.k.a. The Hosemaster of Wine, in which wine writer Karen MacNeil delivers a keynote address to the Wine Bloggers Conference in which she offers the helpful advice that most wine bloggers ought to hang it up: “Your prose is like box wine—a collapsing plastic sack of crap.” Steve Heimoff, formerly of Wine Enthusiast, also got in on the discussion, essentially wondering aloud if wine writing is doomed.
With me so far?
Tom’s rebuttal essentially restates his position from 2011; that we are in a golden age of wine writing, particularly online: “The list of very good writers who are or have started as wine bloggers is long and undeniable.”
At first blush (see what I did there?), it would seem that we have moved not one iota in the nearly four years since we first aired this friendly debate across our respective corners of the Global Interwebs. And while that may actually be the case, I am not here to offer a rebuttal to Tom’s rebuttal (despite the fact that, while I love the wine blogging community, I largely agree with Ron’s position and would extend it to include the vast majority of wine writing found in print).
No, I am here to tell you that asking (or debating) if we are in a golden age of wine writing is effectively asking the wrong question…
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I am aware that it’s been a long, oh, I don’t know, five whole minutes since I last talked about a Fix.com article, but the fine folks over at that website have seen fit to publish yet another of my modest attempts at edu-taining the wine soaked masses yearning to be… well… edu-tained.
And so, because I’ve nothing more pressing to do (this nanosecond, anyway), I point you to my Fix.com take on wine prices (why they are what they are, and roughly what to expect with each increasing price band), titled Behind the Tag: The Scoop on Wine Prices. Once again, Fix.com’s images make my words look good.
In the attempts penned to answer the question “why does a wine cost what it costs?” I’ve yet to find any version that cannot be boiled down to the following answer: “because that’s what they think you’ll pay!” Of course, that’s not long enough for a standard article, but the devil’s in those pesky details. And the details are particularly, interestingly, peskily devilish. Like a black hole, a wine’s price incorporates a whole lot of data that isn’t necessarily visible (at least, not at first).
Also interesting, I think, is that the subjectivity of a wine’s upper price point (after normal economies of scale are taken into account) is the entire reason why wine critics have any power whatsoever (think about it…). We often talk about the diffusion of wine criticism, and the dwindling power of traditional wine coverage, but rarely do we make the mental leap to connect that decrease in critics’ power to the increase in wine quality at all price points (itself most probably a result of the earlier efforts of critics calling wines on the carpet… but now we’re well into black-hole-event-horizon-crazy recursive-ness, Interstellar style, so let’s just shut up about it now). Better quality products naturally require less direct critical assessment of their quality, after all.
Anyway… the full Fix.com infographic take on wine prices is embedded below after the jump. Enjoy!
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