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Wine Studies, Sex, and the Art of Anticipation

Vinted on September 8, 2008 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

Or maybe that should be the Science of Anticipation…

Back in January (yes, I am just now getting around to this – hey, I’ve got a newborn at the house; what’s your excuse?), findings were published from a study that measured participant’s brain reactions to tasting wine. The trick: it was the same wine, but they were told that the wine was either cheap, or relatively expensive. Guess what – participants enjoyed the wine more when they were told it had a higher price.

With all the duping going on in the wine industry the past few weeks (including an embarrassing gaff for Wine Spectator, and the claim that wine bloggers – Dude included! – were duped by winery marketers), I thought it would be fun to revisit this little ditty, and cast a different light on it in lieu of recent events.

According to one article on the study findings:
“Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating nonintrinsic attributes of goods.”

[ My translation: instead of telling you that the wine is "an everyday guzzler" or "as close to sublime perfection as humans are likely to reach," they just upped or lowered the price. ]

This struck me as totally odd (in terms of this being contrary to economic assumptions). I mean, aren’t we talking about something that marketing types, hucksters, clever business folk, and seductresses have known for maybe hundreds of years? Not only does a higher price give you the cache factor of shelling out for “the best,” setting a higher price does something else just as important:

It gives your brain the opportunity to indulge in anticipation of experiencing “the best.” Which is, I’d argue, an essential element in making a “good” experience – a meal, a movie, a date, a wine, and (especially!) sex – “great.”…


What studies like this one don’t mean is that you can’t tell the difference between wine that is pure plonk and wine that is superb. Almost anyone can do that, provided that they are willing to do a little bit of learning beforehand.

The studies don’t mean that all wines are created equal. In a lot of ways, the current wine market does set prices fairly, and you tend (with some exceptions, of course) to get what you pay for.

The studies also don’t mean that you need fancy-schmancy wine certifications, or advanced study under your belt, to appreciate wine. For that, you only need an open mind, patience, and the willingness to learn. Incidentally, these are the same things that you need to better appreciate a good meal, a movie, a date, and (especially!) sex.

I’m not sure what enlightenment we’re hoping to reach with all of this wine duping afoot, but I can tell you this: You know what they say about sex? ” When it’s good, it’s great. And when it’s bad, well, it’s still pretty good!”

The same applies to wine (and other great experience-givers) because, fundamentally, wine gives us pleasure, connect us together, and provide us the opportunity to open our minds a bit further than they were a few minutes before.

And if we indulge in a bit of anticipation to heighten the experience? From what I can tell, the most harm it might cause us is to think that the experience is a bit better than someone else thought it was.

That’s a trade-off I’d take any day of the week.

Cheers!

(images: .geocities.com/SoHo/Nook, danielpadilla.com)


Ethics and Wine Blogging (or "Ouch! I’ve Got a Neck Cramp From All This Navel-Gazing!")

Vinted on August 29, 2008 binned in commentary, wine industry events

Oooooooooooooohhhhh boy.

Seems I can’t go a week these days without getting embroiled in one wine blogging controversy or another.

Let’s see… how do I recap this so it’s not mind-numbingly boring for people who came here thinking they might be reading about wine?

See, apparently, that’s not what wine bloggers like to do anymore (I know… I didn’t get the memo, either!). Instead, they talk about themselves… which will be cool to do during the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma, but isn’t so cool to do on wine blogs themselves.

Where readers come to, well, read about wine stuff.

And not to read about wine blogger navel gazing stuff.

But… in this case I will need to talk a bit about wine blogging because it actually involves YOU – the readers of wine blogs (I know this is difficult now… but someday, I think you’ll forgive me, and our relationship will grow stronger… and we’ll finally take that get-away-from-it-all trip to Vancouver tat we’ve been planning… just the two of us…).

Whoops. Sorry, got distracted.

Let’s recap: Regular 1WD dot com readers will recall that I was part of an innovative blogging experiment, headed up by Jeff over at GoodGrape.com, to be among a select group of bloggers to taste the innagural release of Rockaway Vineyard, a new allocated California Cab.

Apparently, a bunch of other wine bloggers didn’t like that.

Tom Wark (fermentation.typepad.com) and Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast (www.steveheimoff.com) in particular both questioned the ethics of the experiment participants for agreeing to write about Rockaway as a condition of taking part in the experiment (and receiving an advanced sample of the wine). Tim over at Winecast.net has a great summary of the whole thing, which you can check out here.

The funny thing is, no one who’s written about the ethics of the experiment has yet to validate their assumptions with either Rockaway or the participants.

Whoops…


I tried to clear things up on Tom’s blog in his comments, but let’s just say it ain’t easy convincing a group of green cheese lovers that the moon is made of rock. Even when you’ve got a sample stone in your hand.

For those of you who still care (sorry, I’m trying to make it as “non-boring” as possible), I actually have a Code of Ethics that’s been posted on my site for well over a year. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t violated by me taking part in this experiment. Sure, I agreed to write an article, but I agreed that with my editor (Jeff at Good Grape), not with a winery. And I didn’t see anything wrong in an editor stipulating receipt of an article as grounds for participation.

I mean…. DUUUUUUH…. wouldn’t a journalist get fired for consistently not producing articles for an editor by a deadline? If not, then I’ve changed my mind, and I really do want to be a journalist! Sounds like a sweet gig!

Instead of talking about ethics, maybe wine bloggers should be talking about Journalism 101 and Reading Comprehension? Or (egads!), wine?

Anyway – now you’ve got the background, and you’ve got my take, and you’ve got my Code of Ethics. And that is important, to me at least – I’m writing this blog because it’s fun, but mostly because I genuinely love sharing wine knowledge with you. I’m certainly not writing it for other wine bloggers (though they’re more than welcome to participate).

I trust that you’re smart people, and all-grown-up adults (at least, I hope so considering you’re reading a blog about an alcoholic beverage…), and therefore I trust that you can make up your own minds about my ethics.

Which reminds me…

THANK YOU to those who have contacted me with your words of encouragement and support. It’s literally kept me from hanging up my bloggin’ spurs these past couple of weeks. And for that, you have my (possibly non-journalistic and unethical) gratitude, always!

Cheers!
(image: calgarysun.com)

Don’t Feed the Trolls Part Deux: Tales from the Snake-Pit

Vinted on August 25, 2008 binned in commentary

Remember earlier today, when I said it was “Non-Post Week” here at 1WineDude.com?

Ok, so I lied.

Well, I didn’t intend to lie, it just, kind of… you know… happened.

I’m interrupting (already!) our previously scheduled ‘Non-Post’ week non-event to share with you a link to my buds over at Wine Biz Radio, who were kind enough to have me on today’s episode of their radio show / podcast, where I discuss my thoughts on the recent Wine Spectator chaos, as well as my recent experience “interacting” in their on-line forum (a.k.a, “the snake-pit“).

Check it out here: http://winebizradio.com/articles/winebizradio-20080825/ .

Ok. Back to not posting. I promise this time!

Cheers!
(image: thage.com.au)

Don’t Feed the Trolls: How NOT to Respond to Public Criticism

Vinted on August 23, 2008 binned in commentary

By now, many of you will already have heard about the controversy surrounding Wine Spectator’s restaurant awards that unfolded into the mainstream media this week.

This topic is getting about as visible a media treatment as the wine world ever gets, so I won’t rehash the complete story here. To get us all up to speed and on the same page, the sequence of events goes something like this (in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No – is not time; lemme sum up!”):

Regardless of which side of this issue you stand, if you’re like me you’re probably scratching your head as to why WS chose an on-line forum post as the, well, forum to use for publishing their defense of the Restaurant Awards process. Especially considering that this event is all over the news right now.

The problem with this approach is that the WS forum is full of “trolls,” and has become a hotbed of negativity.

I can vouch for this personally…


In my attempts to open a discource with the editors of WS (to better understand why their initial response did not include any details regarding if/how the Awards process would be examined to ensure it maintains credibility), I had to go to the WS forums. After all, that’s where the WS editors posted their response in the first place.

I (and other wine bloggers) have been greeted there with a negativity unbecoming of a long-running institution such as WS. While the editors, for the most part, have been civil in their responses, some of the forum members have been downright nasty. I’ve had to endure blogging being dismissed as “lazy journalism,” and having my SWE and CSW credentials called fakes. Little (if any) moderation seems to be taking place in the forum at the moment, and new forum members are told to “STFU” and “go away.” Even senior WS editor James Suckling seemed to get into negative mode when addressing particularly vehement criticism on the forum.

Of course, not all of the forum members are acting in a negative way, but enough are being malicious to prevent an appropriate discourse with the WS editors. When I asked the forum members why new posters were greeted with that level of negativity, I was told it’s the equivalent of “initiation.”

Hazing is more like it.

Here’s my simple plea to the editors of WS:

If you’re going to allow your on-line forums to be the equivalent of a shark tank, then please put your response to Goldstein’s criticism into the hands of a PR director, where it belongs. Otherwise, those of us looking for constructive, open discourse on the topic of WS’ restaurant awards have nowhere to turn.

As long as your on-line forum remains the primary vehicle for your response to the Goldstein event, you will be promoting the impression that you are not taking the matter seriously.

It’s not events like this that make or break your credibility; it’s your response to events like this that make it or break it.

Cheers!

(image: salagir.com)

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