Hey, wanna talk about ethics in wine media?
Chances are, if you’re in wine media, the answer is “Yes! Please!”
If you’re not in wine media, I’m willing to bet the answer is “Huh? Who gives a sh*t?!??” I suspect that the population breakdown looks something like this:
So, when I title this “Last Word…,” I don’t mean it’s the final statement to end all navel-gazing debates when it comes to the ethics of covering the wine world. I just mean that it’s the last time I’m going to touch the topic.
I do have a vested interest in all of this ethics-debating, mind you. I was myself the target of an ethical stone or two thrown last year, and there’s been some damn fine writing lately on what constitutes ethical behavior in the world of wine coverage. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I do write about wine. Sometimes. When I’m not drinking it, I mean.
I’ve long been an advocate of moving the wine writing ethics discussions off of wine blogs and onto other forums. Of course, in order to make that argument, I need to dredge up the topic here on my own wine blog. The irony…
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By the time this post is published, I’ll be kicking off the wine touring portion of my German press junket trip, sponsored by the German Wine Institute and the European Union. If you happen to be a taxpayer in an EU-participating country, I’d like to take this opportunity to think you for letting your government spend your hard-earned Euros to send me back to the beautiful wine regions of Germany. It’s a bit of a publicity full-court press on the part of the Destination Riesling program, as this trip coincides with Riesling Week 2009, which will see restaurants in major U.S. markets featuring Riesling wines from Germany, Alsace, and Austria.
I’m pretty sure I know how the Destination Riesling program (those are the folks organizing all this flurry of Riesling activity) got my name, but I’m currently completely clueless as to why they selected me as one of the journalists included on this junket. If it looks like a journalist, acts like a journalist, and smells like a journalist, but it isn’t trained as a journalist and doesn’t make its living as a journalist, is it actually a journalist?
Given the hoopla in the wine world regarding the topic of press freebies in general, I’m looking forward the discussions and debates that my mere presence on this trip might generate (hey, as a blogger, I’m an easy target!). I’m also excited to see what, if any, coverage comes out of this jaunt for the virtual pages of 1WineDude.com. It’s very likely that if I do write about the press junket aspects, I will be changing the names of the other attendees (a rare occurrence of prudence on my part!)…
Since posting here may be a bit sporadic in the short-term, I’m lining up some pre-written material for the early part of the week. Given the junket, it seemed logical to cover German wine in some way today to kick-off the week, and when I think of German wine, one word comes to mind quickly.
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You really like my limousine
You like the way the wheels roll.
You like my seven inch leather heels
and coming to all of the shows.
Do you love me?
– KISS, Do You Love Me (from Destroyer, 1976)
The American Association of Wine Economists has released another working paper, which often is great fodder for wine-related discussion, unless of course you want to talk about the wine itself. And it might piss some women wine lovers off…
This particular working paper, No. 25, is titled “WHEN DOES THE PRICE AFFECT THE TASTE? RESULTS FROM A WINE EXPERIMENT” and details an experiment performed on approximately 130 people (average age: 29) to measure how knowledge of a price of a bottle of wine impacts people’s perception of that wine (good or bad). The experiment gave three different scenarios to the subjects:
- Taste then Rate the wine with no price info. given (control).
- Give the Price, taste, then rate the wines.
- Taste the wine, give the price, then rate the wine.
There were some interesting findings from this little study, including a reinforcement of the subjective nature of tasting wine:
“Objective measures of wine quality are not easily defined, and consumer tastes with regard to wine are highly heterogeneous…”
as well as what seems like the AAWE’s obligatory dig at professional wine tasters and judges (they love to do this, I think):
“Tasters are only marginally better than a random guess at distinguishing vintage years from non-vintage years from the same vineyard, or reserve bottlings from regular bottlings from the same vineyard and year, despite very large differences in price.”
and an underscoring of a not-so-revolutionary finding that seems to have been proven for nearly any kind of marketed consumer good:
“…extrinsic information provided prior to first-hand experience with the good in question has a significant effect of how the good is experienced, whereas extrinsic information provided after the experience does not.”
WARNING: Some women may want to stop reading at this point.
The most interesting finding was the gender bias that the AAWE claims resulted during the study.
“…an expensive wine gets considerably higher ratings when tasters are informed about the high price before tasting, relative to tasting “blind” – but only from female tasters. By contrast, women that taste the wine before being told the price do not assign significantly higher ratings, suggesting that once they form a first-hand opinion the attribute information has little effect.”
It seems that some women at least think that they prefer expensive wine, even if the wine they’re given is not really expensive. In other words, Chicks dig pricey wine (even if it’s not really pricey)!
The finding is interesting but I’m guessing it would hardly prove a revelation to any guy who has ever lied to a date about the price of wine and dinner.
Now, I know what some of you guys are probably thinking.
“Egads! Does she really love me, or just my expensive wine?!??”
Take heart, guys – the wine doesn’t have to really be expensive, she just needs to think that it’s expensive!
But seriously, before any wineries out there up their prices, put a picture of a shirtless hot guy on the label, and contact their marketing department to start running commercials during Desperate Housewives – you all need to know a few things about this AAWE study.
As far as I’m concerned, the study isn’t scientifically reliable, and supports no real conclusions, until such time as it’s repeated (possibly with larger & larger subject groups). Otherwise, it’s just guessing based on a very small sample size.
So – guys with deep pockets and deep cellars, don’t dump your better halves just yet. Because chances are they are really just that – your better halves!
(images: hollywood-elsewhere, wine-economics.org)