Posts Filed Under commentary
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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Ok, geeks; REMAIN CALM.
That’s the message we need to repeat to our geeky wine selves after reading the article “Science has spoken: Big wine doesn’t mean more flavour” by Beppi Crosariol in The Globe and Mail.
In case you missed it, the scoop is that a rather cleverly executed experiment involving 26 “relatively inexperienced wine consumers” who tasted wine and had their noggins MRI scanned revealed that those tasters had a bit more brain activity happening when the wines that they tasted were lighter-bodied and lower in alcohol.
To the tape:
“Contrary to prevailing wine-industry wisdom that most consumers prefer brawn to finesse, the scanner revealed startling images. There was greater activity in the taste-processing regions while the subjects drank the lighter wines. The implication: Lower alcohol encourages stronger attention to aroma and flavour nuances.”
Is this finding interesting? Hell yes.
Is it definitive enough that we can draw any serious conclusions from it? HELL NO!
Also, even if we did draw conclusions from this study, I am not sure those conclusions are where are focus should actually be trained…
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Recently, at the wine industry über-event VinItaly, a group of PR-savvy wine folk gave a presentation titled “30 Lessons in Wine Communication for Italian Brands.”
One of the slides in that presentation was modeled (with my permission) on a tuff-luv style wine PR post I wrote back in June of 2014. With some modifications, primarily to eliminate the use of the phrase “douchebag” in my original piece.
Anyway, the presentation is lengthy, but excellent, and probably ought to be required study material for anyone trying to sell wine in the modern world marketplace. You can safely ignore the “Italian Brands” portion of the title; this wisdom is applicable to any wine region that wants to make a dent in the U.S. marketplace (or just about any other large, well-established, and tech-heavy wine demographic).
Here’s the description of the VinItaly session:
“Reka Haros, Rebecca Hopkins, Cathy Huyghe, Robert Joseph and Damien Wilson offer insight during a Vinitaly session, into the most effective ways to sell Italian wines, especially, but not only, in the US market. The 30 lessons cover packaging, website design, advertising, PR and social media.”
And here’s the lesson material. School is officially in session, beeeeaaaaatches!