Posts Filed Under commentary
Meet the New Boss
Same as the Old Boss
– Pete Townshend, Won’t Get Fooled Again
I get a lot of wine samples (and no, I have not yet properly pimped out my wine storage to accommodate them all). I know that many of you (because you’ve told me) hate it when I say that, because supposedly this is some sort of wonderful problem to have. However, that position is based on two assumptions that generally are totally wrong:
- The wine samples are primarily for my enjoyment.
- The wine samples are primarily very good wine (or, alternatively, the wine samples primary purpose is to keep me intoxicated).
The fact of the matter is that neither are true (the samples are for evaluation and most of them are not ‘knock-yer-socks-off’ good), so I don’t buy the argument that I’m a dick for discussing issues I might have with keeping up with wine samples (I could buy alternative arguments for why I’m a dick, however). I’m not going to complain if a winery producing limited amounts of excellent wine sends me a sample or two, because I know that most of you (because you told me) want me to write about those wines. But, in reflection of the wine market in general, those ‘special’ wines reflect maybe 2% of the samples sent to me.
I’m telling you this because, if my sample profile is any indication, the wine market is focusing on budget/value, and targeting the general wine consumer using low price points. Common sense would suggest that, in this time of economic meltdown challenge, the focus on producing budget wine is a logical new development in the wine market.
Logical conclusion, but wrong…
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As much as social media wine wizards and millennials rail against established wine media, most of them (myself included) share with those ‘old media’ types a similar and mistake-prone approach to wine evaluation and appreciation.
And that is, the rapid-fire assessment, review, and perfunctory judgment of any given wine. We are judge, jury and executioner of the glass’ contents, often within the span of two minutes.
We see this happen all the time – in fact in some cases (like certain Twitter Taste Live events, or the “speed dating” wine blogging at the Wine Bloggers Conference), it’s encouraged and necessary. I often participate in and have grown to love those events, provided that we don’t take them too seriously.
And we shouldn’t take them seriously, at least as far as true wine appreciation is concerned. Why? Because every glass of wine, from the pedestrian to the sublime, is speaking to you, trying to tell you something about itself – you need only take the actual time to listen to it.
In the case of many wines made in the ‘Old World’ style (what my compadre Randall Grahm calls Modernist), where typicity of place and nuanced complexity are the goals, that message may be “Come back later.” New World (Postmodernist) wines usually (and probably unfairly) fare better in rapid-fire evaluation scenarios, precisely because they more often offer their treasures quickly and liberally – “Hey! Over here! I’m talkin’ to YOU!”
In a globally-connected, information-based economy like ours, we are progressively programmed with positive reinforcement to spend as little time as possible on something – in fact, we’re rewarded for doing many things at once, and the more quickly we can shove them into the same time slot, the better.
The trouble is, if you want to appreciate wine fully, you need to dump the Speed Racer + Multitasking Pro persona. Pronto…
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I have seen the future of wine criticism, wine dialog, and wine expertise.
Wanna see it? Great – go look in the mirror. Because the future wine experts look an awful lot like you. You look great, by the way – did you cut your bangs?
A little over a week ago, Slate.com ran a piece penned by Mike Steinberger in which Steinberger, among other things (like skillfully recapitulating the recent kerfluffle over code of ethics violations on the part of Robert Parker’s staff, and ending sentences with prepositions), offers a glimpse of what he sees as the future of wine writing and wine experts:
“Like other journalistic niches, wine writing is in crisis at the moment… We are moving from a monologue to a dialogue, and this reflects a fundamental truth about wine: It is a matter of taste, and taste differs from one person to the next. There’s still a need for expert opinion, but authority is going to have to be worn a lot more lightly going forward, and it isn’t going to command quite the deference that it used to.”
I know what you’re thinking: Did Joe actually use the word kerfluffle? Also, what’s the big deal about that? This post isn’t about blogging, is it?
Don’t worry, this post is not about blogging. It’s about you, and (albeit tangentially) about how Steinberger might have gotten it just a bit wrong.
You see, wine writing isn’t in a state of crisis, unless you get paid for it, in which case it’s in no more a state of crisis than any other form of paid journalism – welcome to 2009, folks. If you’re a consumer of wine information, on the other hand, then wine writing is actually in a state of liberation.
I think Steinberger is right on the money when he says that tastes are ultimately personal, and that there will still be a need for expert opinion – he’s just missing the point of where that opinion is, which is of course with YOU. That’s because YOU are the new wine expert…
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I’ve penned my first piece for Palate Press, the on-line wine magazine that is taking the global blog-o-world by storm!
Ok, maybe “taking by storm” is a bit of an exaggeration… until I showed up and the party could officially start, that is!
Ok, maybe the whole “the party can get started now” thing is a bit of an exaggeration as well.
Actually it’s a total exaggeration – Palate Press doesn’t need me, they’ve been kicking total ass since their launch earlier this month; I’m just a straggler who finally got around to writing something almost good enough to make a cut into the article rotation. (Since I’m friends with the editor and publisher, they probably let me slide. Just this once.)
Anyway, if you’re interested in my take on the idea of Pennsylvania’s godless, communist liquor control board to poison the economy of the good Commonwealth with wine kiosk machines that automatically dispense bottles of wine after doing some sort of personal scan that I think destroys part of your soul and drains the blood from innocent babies (hint: I’m not a fan of this plan), then head over to Palate Press and check it out!