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1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 339

Dude, Where Are The Ratings?

Vinted on September 16, 2008 binned in about 1winedude blog, commentary, wine review
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Simple – there aren’t any.

Next question.

Ok, well maybe it’s not that simple, actually.

Astute readers have pointed out that I have yet to clearly explain my wine rating system; or, more accurately, my lack of a wine rating system. So… I will try to explain it but bear with me, because while I love wine and I love talking about wine, I really hate talking about talking-about wine.

If had a Mission Statement or Credo (it doesn’t, by the way), it might look something like this:
a) Drink Wine. b) Have Fun. c) Learn Something.

Generally speaking, I don’t review wines in my blog posts, unless reviewing a wine gives me an opportunity to also have fun and pass on some interesting wine learning along the way…

When I do review a wine, I try to be as objective as possible, but generally I don’t taste wines blind (unless that somehow can also provide an opportunity for b) and c) above). Why not? Well, when’s the last time that you tasted a wine blind? People just don’t do that at the dinner table, unless they haven’t been paying their electricity bills.

When I read about a wine, I usually want to know the answers to a few key questions: a) How does it taste? b) Are the aromas / flavors things that I like? c) Is it worth the price?

That’s it. You don’t need a rating for that. If I wanted to be inundated with numbers, and read boring lifestyle pieces from snarky old billionaires that have too much money and free time, who want to regale themselves with their stories of how they travel every year to Old World wine countries with the Duchy of Snob-a-tonia, and won’t touch a wine that isn’t rated 95 “points” or higher, blah-blah-blah… well, there’s already a magazine for that kind of stuff.

What I don’t want to see are a bunch of numbers. A number tells me nothing about whether or not I’ll like a wine and if it offers good value for money – which for me is the majority of the equation, so to speak.

Also, I don’t know anyone who “speaks” in points. I’ve never, ever said to someone at dinner “ooohhh, this wine is soooo a 94!” And I doubt that I ever will. Unless I think it’s funny at the time and I’m at dinner with one of the guys from Wine Enthusiast…

I’m wagering that since you’re here on this blog, you’re thinking somewhat along the same lines when it comes to wine ratings. Since we’ve established then that none of us like wine rating numbers, I’ve instead included in this post some graphics of George W. Bush’s Presidential approval ratings ratings (they’re going down, by the way). Enjoy!

Now for some odd reason, I seem to ruffle feathers with the established wine critic community whenever I talk about this rating stuff on my blog. Oh well! To those whom I hath offended, I say: “Hey, thanks for reading!”

Please note that I am NOT bashing wine rating scores in general here. I just don’t happen to like them so I’m not using them. I am, however, totally poking fun at the Bush Administration.

Hope this clears up my stance on the conspicuous lack of wine ratings here at Dude central. I look forward to not rating many more wines for you in the future!


Your Next Wine Mag (Only Serious Geeks May Apply)

Vinted on September 15, 2008 binned in wine publications

WARNING: This is a post for serious wine geeks only.

I’m not joking around. Here’s a test: If the concept of whether or not small doses of Brettanomyces should be considered a wine flaw or not doesn’t excite you, then you might want to skip out on this post.

Because I’m about to extol the virtues of a relatively new wine magazine that takes this stuff – wine – very seriously, because I am totally digging this mag. right now.

The background: A few weeks ago, I published a short article on wine mag. recommendations. Phil Vogels, Business Manager for the magazine Sommelier Journal, contacted me after he read that post, because he thought I might be interested in what SJ had to offer. After a bit of e-mail conversation, Phil sent me a few issues to glance through – no strings attached, of course… I wouldn’t want to offend any long-standing wine industry types (cough… steveheimoff… cough… tomwark… COUGH!) by violating any of ye olde silent and unwritten sacred oaths of journalistic integrity, for sooth I forswear, etc., etc., etc.

I asked Phil about SJ magazine’s backstory. “Our background is interesting. Our company has published a monthly Orthodontic journal for 40 years now, the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics, which was begun by an orthodontist with a journalism background.”

Uh… orthodontics? What?!!?? Braces don’t exactly strike me as interesting… NOT off to a good start….

Our Editor has been the Managing Editor for many years of JCO, and started to get more and more into wine starting around ten years ago. In 2006 he took one of the intensive courses at the CIA in Napa, and while he was there, he realized that there are lot of people in the business who are very serious about their education. So he asked around and also realized that there was not a publication in this niche.”

Also not good. I didn’t have high hopes. Anyway, I’ve since devoured several issues of Sommelier Journal and as far as I’m concerned, I was way wrong on my initial assessment – SJ kicks the crap out many of the established, stodgy, dinasour wine mags. with snarky and negative senior editorial staff (cough… winespectator… cough… jamessuckling… COUGH!).

If it sounds like I have an agenda, it’s because I do. Personally, I think that subscribing to mags. like Wine Spectator, and then following their wine ratings religiously, for most wine lovers is a total waste of time and money. In fact, in my personal experience, giving too much weight to wine ratings and accepting the view that wine is a snobbish pursuit will set your wine learning back years. Wine was not meant to be rated to the point it is now – it’s approachable and is meant to be enjoyed.

Which is why I dig SJ – they actually write about wine. They assume a high level of wine knowledge, but in their accessible writing tone they absolutely do not care HOW you got that knowledge. Make no mistake, this is a trade mag. BUT… I think serious wine geeks who are NOT in the wine trade would also dig SJ. Why? Because the topics they cover simply ROCK – take for example, their series on wine faults. I love that kind of stuff, because I’m a total wine geek.

The best part is their view on ratings. This is how Phil put it: “We do not do ratings, as our research showed that they were not of interest to our core audience. However, I think many serious consumers also aren’t as interested in ratings, the in-depth tasting notes we provide give a good sense of the wine without attaching a numerical value to it. We take this seriously enough to deliberately obfuscate the one place in the magazine where wines are scored, the tasting panel, where our Snapshot graph is designed to give the group consensus on the wines without giving you numerical rankings. So we don’t do a large section in the back of the issue every month where we give a rundown of wines we have tasted, all of the notes are integrated into the articles, except for the Editorial Board Hot Picks which appear in the Notebook section each month.”

Amen, brother!

Are the reviews perfect? Of course not – especially when they get into “round table” tasting notes mode, where the uber-palated MWs wax philosophic about the wines they’re sipping. For me, if I’m not there participating, this puts me quickly into sleep mode (at some point, reading about wine tasting feels like learning how to french kiss by studying a diagram). I will give them recovery points for the tasting summaries of the wines, however, since these quickly capture the salient points without being dull. You won’t find any winery advertising in the mag (not yet anyway), and it hope it stays that way because it suggests a high credibility level in their reviews.

I also dig the creds. for their editorial board (imagine that… a wine mag. with actual Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine on the editorial staff… why other mags. don’t do more of this I will never understand…), except for that slacker Alder Yarrow, who doesn’t have any official creds – apart from founding wine blogging in the first place! (Just kidding, Alder… who loves ya, babe!).

A major advantage of our magazine is that it is heavily freelance based, which allows to use a variety of different writers,” adds Phil. “Our perspective is also a little different than the other wine magazines in what we try to communicate about the wines we cover. Since we are a trade magazine for the restaurant industry we take a more food oriented approach, frequently trying to communicate what the wine will be like with food and what foods it can pair with in our notes.”

With their board, you’d expect the focus to be squarely on wine, and you’d be right. “
Our in-house editorial team is composed of journalists who know how to write and how to edit. This background gives us the flexibility to bring in the perspectives of non-professional writers who still have important things to contribute without sacrificing the quality of the publication. Unlike Wine Spectator, we don’t do lifestyle stories, so no travelogues, cooking advice, resort guides or car advertisements… no gimmicks, no content designed to widen our advertising base, just wine and industry knowledge and opinions,” says Phil.

Amen, squared!

Speaking of Wine Spectator, I asked Phil if he thought that, given their recent restaurant awards scandal, SJ was poised to kick WS in the jimmy, give it a wedge, and steal its lunch money & markey share (OK, maybe I didn’t use those exact words).

We know that the restaurant awards program is designed to further the appreciation of wine in restaurants across the country, a goal with which we are happy to see someone attempting to achieve. Anything Wine Spectator can do to make their program the best it can be can only be beneficial to the restaurant wine community as a whole and we wish them continued success as they tweak their program in the future.

I’ll take that as a “Yes“!


September Wine Events!

Vinted on September 13, 2008 binned in pennsylvania, wine industry events, wine tasting

It’s that time of month again… time to hip you Philly-area peeps onto some excellent wine-related events coming up this month!

First up are two wine & food pairing events in West Chester, PA. I will be trying to get my butt to these events – hope to see YOU there!


Tuesday, September 16
at Doc Magrogan’s in West Chester, PA
from 6-8pm, $35

  • Tuna Thai Chili Glaze with Seaweed Salad and Wasabi Sauce with Banyan Gewurztraminer
  • Smoked Salmon Quesadilla with Goats Cheese with Piko Sauvignon Blanc
  • Blackened Seafood Cannelloni with Tomato Salsa with Evohe Garnacha
  • Roast Pork with Port Wine Sauce and Toast with Hobo Cabernet Sauvignon

Space is limited, reserve now! Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House (West Chester PA), Ph: 610 429 4046,

more below…


Thursday, September 25
at Blush in Bryn Mawr, PA
from 6-8pm, $45

The food menu is being created but the following wines will be poured:

  • Banyan Gewurztraminer
  • Optima Chardonnay
  • Evohe Garnacha
  • Folk Machine – The Long Drive (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Valdigue, Madera Syrah)

Plus, Blush is offering: 10% off any purchase graciously extended to any guest wishing to dine with us or relax at the bar after the event. Space is limited, reserve now! Blush, 24 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, Phone: 610-527-7700,


Also happening this month: the next twitter taste live event, at 7PM on September 18th (click through for my take on the TTL events)! I will be joining the hosts,, LIVE (along with some other east coast wine bloggers) at Wine 2.0 in NYC for the event. Head on over to the recently new-&-improved for the skinny. Check it!


Old and In The Way?: The Future of Wine Criticism

Vinted on September 12, 2008 binned in commentary

I just got through a ridiculously well-written article by Mike Steinberger, titled “Every one a critic: the future of wine writing” and available for download at (or in print in Issue 19 2008 of World of Fine Wine magazine). The man just has mad writing skills!

In the article, Steinberger discusses the factors that made Robert Parker such a force in the fine wine market, and how his retirement (Parker is now in his 60s) will leave a void in the world of wine criticism.

Steinberger offers the Internet voices of wine criticism as a potential for filling that void, since it is unlikely that anyone after Parker will have the clout, work ethic, and financial independence to take Parker’s place (especially considering the outrageous prices that top-scoring First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy can fetch nowadays – upwards of $1000 USD per bottle in some cases), and the Internet provides very low barriers to entry.

What was interesting for me was what Steinberger didn’t touch on in his excellent article…

For starters, history has shown us that when you have a virtual dictator / enlightened despot (depending on your viewpoint) wielding such individual control and influence, as is the case with Parker, they hand-pick their successor in order to ensure the orderly hand-over of power, and to keep their vision alive. The followers, well, they follow. Think Putin in Russia, for example. So isn’t it still possible that Parker may groom someone from within his own ranks at the Wine Advocate to take his place on the throne of Bordeaux wine critique?

I think we’d find that many Bordeaux, Rhone, and California wineries, and the Wine Advocate faithful, all of whom sometimes follow Parker’s scores with almost religious fervor, would line up behind that pick with relatively little resistance.

The other thing that Steinberger didn’t explore was the age range of the core Wine Advocate / Parker / Wine Spectator audience. I’d imagine (though I’ve no means to confirm this), that this group is aging right along with Parker. This isn’t a dig on aging wine aficionados or critics (despite my arguably provocative post title); it’s just an acknowledgment that there is currently a baby boomer generation driving the wine market, and that generation does things differently than the next one will when it comes to buying wine.

From Steinbergers article: “Certainly, the leading [wine] publications look to be in fairly ruddy health. Wine Spectator is a thriving franchise, and there is no reason to think this will change anytime soon.”

Is this really true…? I wonder if the generation that comprises the Wine Spectator faithful isn’t already being replaced in the marketplace by a new generation that expects to get their information from a broad range of expertise, validated by real-world experiences and real-time recommendations, and expects to get that information instantly via global social connections made over the Internet.

Call me crazy, but I don’t see Wine Spectator, even with their on-line presence, fitting that bill…

One thing’s for sure: Things are gonna get interesting from here!


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