Posts Filed Under commentary
Crom’s chosen candidate!
A good number of people, both within the USA and abroad, read this blog. At times, that includes a lot of the U.S. wine biz, but also many wine lovers and wine insiders abroad. This post is dedicated to all of them.
Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, things have been pretty f*cked up since the 2016 presidential election concluded. Yes, a minority of the population of largely white voters actually replaced a wildly popular sitting president with someone who has never held public office, and has an at-best questionable truth-telling record, among many other distasteful episodes of past behavior. Given Clinton’s shaky popularity, and Trump’s, well, everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Conan the barbarian” was written in as a viable alternative on a not-insignificant number of ballots this year.
Sadly, there have been crazies emboldened by the outcome of this recent election; I myself had to Facebook-block a few people, the most abusive of which was a Navy serviceman, which is just profoundly messed up. Even sadder, wine writer Eric Asimov was harassed online, presumably because being Jewish, American, and outspoken is somehow viewed as wrong by a very demented few.
So, yeah, when wine writers – a demographic about whom almost nobody should really care passionately unless they have a glass of vino in hand – are getting harassed, then things are definitely very, very f*cked up. While I certainly understand the need for some drinking right now (two nice recommendations on that coming up soon), I don’t think that the results of the recent election should send anyone into total panic mode. Deep concern, yes; panicked terror, no.
Why not? Because America has faced worse adversity than the political divisions that currently plague us, and we’ve always come out better for those experiences; maybe not immediately, but certainly better in the long run.
The president-elect ran on a campaign slogan to make America great again. Having traveled to and/or worked with people in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the UK, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Austria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Russia, India, China, and Australia (and that’s not a complete list), I have a bit of a global perspective. And nothing against any of those wonderful places, but there is nowhere that I would rather live than the USA. America is, was, and almost certainly always will be great, not because an elected official tells us so, but because we are a nation that recognizes that we are consistently made better through increased diversity and tolerance, and I have faith that, as such a nation, we have come too far along that path for our course to be permanently diverted. Distracted and delayed, maybe, but not diverted.
At our heart, we’re a band of fighters; we don’t capitulate. Our greatness – our true greatness as a nation – lies in our goodness, and our goodness is almost always in direct proportion to our support of one another, no matter their gender/sexuality/creed/etc.
Hopefully, we can all drink to that; and I’ve got just the wines (from the sample pool) with which to start…
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By now, many of you will have heard of, read about, and/or actually watched the documentary Bitter Grapes, a film that examines harsh conditions for workers in some areas of the South African wine industry.
The Washington Post has an excellent summary of the film, its impacts on the image of South African wine worldwide, and the response by the region’s wine trade:
“Danish journalist Tom Heinemann… found that some workers were allegedly being paid less than the minimum wage, exposed to pesticides, consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol and discouraged from joining unions, among other problems.”
The WP piece also puts the film’s findings in important context: like the USA, South Africa doesn’t exactly have a great humanitarian record when it comes to how farm workers were treated in the past. In more recent history, there was the terrible “dop” system (now illegal), under which S. African workers were paid partially in wine.
I’m not here to discuss the implications of the documentary, though for sure I have opinions on those given my past visits to South Africa’s wine country.
What I want to talk about is the Wines of South Africa (WOSA, the promotional body for the region’s wine business) response to Bitter Grapes. Because their response tastes a lot like sour grapes to me…
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White wines get the review shaft (image: winecurmudgeon.com)
A little over a week ago, my friend Jeff Siegel published details by PhD Suneal Chaudhary, who analyzed over 64,000 wine scores, dating to the `70s, from “major wine magazines.” The study’s aim was to ascertain if red wines routinely receive higher point score reviews than white wines (other styles were presumably ignored).
Long-time 1WD readers know that I have become a big fan of statistically relevant data, and the data in this case (including how those data were handled) are, for sure, statistically relevant, in sample size, time duration, and applied analysis.
It’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions, but Jeff summed up the congruence of the findings with the common sense experiences of wine geeks everywhere nicely in his original post on the subject:
“We don’t pretend that these results are conclusive, given the variables involved. Red wines may be inherently better than white wines (though that seems difficult to believe). They certainly cost more to make, and that might affect the findings. The review process itself may have influenced the study. Not every critic publishes every wine he or she reviews, and those that were published may have been more favorable to reds than whites. And, third, the scoring process, flawed as it is, may have skewed the results regardless of what the critics did.
Still, given the size of the database, and size matters here, Suneal’s math shows something is going on. And that’s just not our conclusion. I asked three wine academics to review our work, and each agreed the numbers say that what is happening is more than a coincidence. That’s the point of the chart that illustrates this post – 90 percent of the 2010 red wines that we had scores for got 90 points or more.”
What to make of all of this?
Personally, I think that we wine geeks ought to be a bit more flabbergasted at the discrepancy, considering that, in general, white wines are superior to reds aromatically…
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How many of you caught the recent diatribes by both Guy Woodward (of Harpers) and Monika Elling (of Foundations Marketing Group in New York City) regarding the under-representation of women in the wine biz?
This quote from Elling summarizes the view pretty succinctly:
“I’ve been in the business some time and experienced it from several angles, and in the US specifically, where women buy over 70% of the total wine sold, the people that are gatekeepers are 99.9% men, so there in itself lies a massive disconnect… The wine industry by and large globally is stuck in another century, and despite a tremendous amount of change on the production side to bring that up to speed, the other elements show an entire sector woefully lacking is communication and marketing side.”
Now, before I go ahead and agree with this – which I will – and offer my own thoughts on what could be done to help even the playing field, I feel compelled to first point out that, to me, the articles linked above are misleading.
I say this not because we all simply like to bitch and moan about stuff in the wine biz (which we do, male and female alike).
I say this because we can’t ignore the fact that three of the most influential consumer-facing wine publications – JancisRobinson.com, The Wine Advocate, and Wine Enthusiast – are all essentially helmed by women. Think about that for a minute, because it’s important.
While women certainly are not, at the time of this writing, represented proportionally to their consumer buying influence in positions of power throughout the wine trade, one could certainly argue that the are already achieving dominance within certain sectors of the wine biz. At least, they are as measured by holding positions of power in media that have considerable influence with both consumers and professional wine purchasers.
Ok, having said that… yeah, I agree that the wine biz, by most other counts, is still a club for white dudes. Usually older ones, at that.
There is, however, one simple way in which women winemakers, women farmers, women importers, and women PR reps can start to take the power back, and thus hopefully begin to tilt the tide of representation more fairly in line with their consumer buying majority…
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