Posts Filed Under commentary

Brave New World (or “Do We Really Need Wine Experts Anymore?”)

Vinted on June 28, 2010 binned in commentary

Just over one month ago, I was quoted in an (excellent and well-written) article by Spencer Bailey of the Columbia Journalism Review, titled “Everyone’s the Wine Expert: Wine critics and bloggers, professional and amateur, are mixed up in a social media web.”

At the time, the CJR article was (rightfully) the subject of interesting and thought-provoking analysis by some very intelligent stewards of the wine world, most notably Tom Wark and Steve Heimoff.

I found myself quoted slightly out of context in the article, and somehow placed on opposite but connected poles of viewpoints with wine writer and educator Karen MacNeil, as if we were some sort of quantum-entangled pair of electrons in a physics experiment.  I’ll mention right now that I am not equating myself with Karen MacNeil in terms of wine writing – not even close; I’m simply pointing out the juxtaposition of our attributed viewpoints in the CJR article.

The article quotes Karen in raising an important viewpoint about wine writing; a concern discussed in detail at the Professional Wine Writers Symposium earlier this year, and one that I’ve pondered on many occasions myself:

“Maybe what blogging will do is undermine the whole idea that this is a subject that is rich and deep and requires some substantive thought and substantive knowledge,” says Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and one in a small stable of writers that wine critic Robert Parker has recruited to contribute to his Web site, “If everybody’s an expert,” she says, “nobody’s an expert.

This was followed immediately by the opposing viewpoint, which was attributed to me despite the fact that it’s not an entirely literal record of my take on the issue:

Do we really need expert critics anymore? Many bloggers don’t think so, arguing that credentials are merely one part of what makes a great wine writer. How you say something—not simply who says it, they argue—is what’s most important. “Readers today have got to feel like the experts connect with them in some way,” says Joe Roberts, who runs the blog “It’s not just, ‘Oh, this person’s got great credentials because they work for Wine Enthusiast.’”

So, over a month later, why am disturbing the tomb and (sort-of) resurrecting the discussion?  It’s the question “Do we really need expert critics anymore?” – the CRJ article proposes it, but then moves off of that topic rather quickly.  Which is a shame, because that’s where the real meat in this pie lies…

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Calling the Brett Police on the Loire

Vinted on June 24, 2010 binned in commentary

Earlier this week, I shared a brief twitter exchange with Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth, kicked off by a tweet about a Chinon tasting that I noticed on James’ twitter feed:

“That was a tough flight – I’m more tolerant than most, but someone needs to send the brett police to Chinon…”

Essentially, James and I briefly discussed the fact that Chinon (in France’s Loire Valley) would be making some lovely Cabernet Franc-based wines, if only the fruit in those wines wasn’t buried under the smell of barnyard.

Yes, I’m talking about brett.  Again.

I can’t help it, I don’t want my wine to smell like poop, okay?  There, I admit it!

And with the samples coming my way lately from Chinon and nearby Bourgueil, poop is exactly what I’m finding.  Here are a couple of examples that found their way onto the wine “mini-review” feed:

  • 07 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon: With that much brett masking the red fruit, a more suitable name might be "Domaine Barnyard Baudry" $18 C- #
  • 06 Domaine Guion Cuvee Prestige (Bourgueil): Brambly red fruit & spice peeking out their heads from under a pound or so of fertilizer $14 C- #

James’ tweet really got me thinking that a) it’s NOT just me, and b) my samples might actually be indicative of the general quality of those regions’ wines.

Sorry to those who really dig Chinon, but I don’t subscribe to the belief that the concept of terroir extends to poop-aroma-inducing yeasts (and possibly dirty winemaking equipment).  When the day comes that winemakers deliberately cultivate the wild yeasts that induce those off-odors, and it can be proven scientifically, then I’ll stop calling it a flaw and instead refer to it as a poor winemaking decision.

But until then, it’s a flaw.





It’s Time For the PLCB to Die (or “There is NO Cabernet Franc”)

Vinted on June 17, 2010 binned in commentary, PLCB

It’s been a while since I railed against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Not that they haven’t deserved a good railing in the interim, I’ve just been busy with other topics, and the PLCB has been busy raiding PA bars at great taxpayer expense and with no justifiable reason, so they’ve been dealing with plenty of bad press anyway.

But this week, something got published that I had to rail against.  Because, quite honestly, the news is an embarrassment for Pennsylvania taxpayers whose hard-earned cash is going to help fund a government that is supposed to be controlling wine sales in the state, but instead is taking a puke all over customer service and adding almost no value to the average PA consumer.

This news comes by way of Lew Bryson’s excellent blog Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished (hey, at least you know where he stands), recapitulating a Scranton Times-Tribune blog article by David Falchek.  In said blog post, Falchek describes a friend’s encounter at a PLCB wine & spirits store in which a PLCB employee denied the existence of Cabernet Franc.

Not the existence of a particular bottling or brand of Cabernet Franc. The employee denied the existence of Cabernet Franc itself.

Yes, I am totally serious, and No, I have not been drinking…

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