Posts Filed Under commentary
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!
This little meme-type-thingy that I generated several days ago got a bit of traction on The Book of Face, and so I thought that I’d elaborate a bit on the position behind it (friends of mine will enjoy the RDJ inclusion, since they are constantly telling me “dude, you are so RDJ as Tony Stark, except you are Tony Snark!!!”):
Seriously, people, can we just stop shoving wine scores into the faces of media types?
Here’s the deal:
I know that you’re justifiably proud of the scores that your wine received from [ insert major wine publication here ]. By all means, use them to help you sell wine: advertise them, put them on shelf talkers, teach your tasting room staff to wax philosophically in fake humility about them to your winery’s visitors.
I don’t want to know about them, for two (to me) very important reasons:
1) Putting my critic-type-guy hat on for a moment, I’d rather not know what other critic-type-people have said about your wine. I don’t want it to influence me, even if subconsciously, so I strongly feel it’s best to just not go there until I’ve had a chance to taste it (usually using a very different process than what’s employed at those publications) and have at least formulated the genesis of an opinion on my own. What you’re implying by continually mentioning the score is that if I disagree with it, then you will think that one of us is wrong (and I am pretty sure that I know which of us that will be).
2) As a knowledgeable wine consumer, I might find a score helpful, and I might not. It’s not that simple; it depends on who is giving the score, their history of such scores, etc., etc., etc. I know what I like, from a purely subjective point of view, and so I’ll just formulate my own opinion on how good your wine is for me (thankyouverymuch). By the way, I strongly suspect, given the fact that it’s easier than every before for wine consumers to become knowledgeable, that I am not the only person buying wine for personal consumption who feels this way.
So… can we be done here, please?
A friend of mine – Elaine Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews – recently sent me a note indicating that another friend of mine (David White of Terroirist) and I were mentioned in an online article over at FirstWeFeast.com that was written by yet another friend of mine, Jonathan Cristaldi.
Yeah, the wine world is kind of small like that.
Anyway, the article is titled “10 Dirty Secrets of Wine (That Nobody Wants to Talk About)” and it makes for a fascinating, funny, and at times kooky read about some revealing but less-than-glamorous aspects of the wine trade in general (my personal favorite from the list, which is funny although it sells many bartenders seriously short: “Bartenders and mixologists don’t give a shit about wine”).
The item in which we’re mentioned is “Wine critics aren’t necessarily more qualified than bloggers,” which I am quoting below so you can get up to speed quickly:
If we drew a line in the sand and asked established Wine Critics (capital C) to stand on one side, and amateur wine bloggers (lowercase b) to stand on the other, we’d immediately expose an ongoing war of credentials—one which leaves its bloodied tracks on bitter comment threads around the Internet.
Wine bloggers are correct in assuming that many notable critics have bypassed formal beverage industry education in lieu of “life experiences.” They take great pleasure in declaring that major critics are class-act bullshit artists—the likes of Robert M. Parker Jr. (a lawyer and self-taught wine guru), James Suckling (an undergraduate tennis pro with a graduate degree in journalism), and Eric Asimov (the nephew of author Isaac Asimov, with an undergrad degree in “American Civilization”).
Still, the relationship between the two camps is complicated. When the Critic unleashes a bad score or expounds on the subject of natural wines, wine bloggers will heap waves of tyrannical expletives upon them—but only behind closed doors. Put those same bloggers in front of the venerable Critic, and you’ll see them whimper in admiration and jealousy.
The Critic is well aware of this duality, and several of these esteemed scribes take great pleasure in lashing out against people they consider to be amateur fluff writers. In truth, many amateur wine bloggers are anything but amateur, having earned legit credentials from industry-lauded institutions like the Wine, Spirits & Education Trust (WSET), the Society of Wine Educators, or The Guild of Sommeliers, and many of them contribute articles to the very publications that major Critics write for — folks like Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude; David White, who founded and edits a daily wine blog called Terroirist; Elaine Chukan Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews; and many others.
Does formal education trump life experience? Do professionals owe it to their readers to earn a formal degree? Who, then, is rightfully deserving of the title “Critic”?
There are a whooooole lotta worms in the can that JC opened up there…
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