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Wine Criticism | 1 Wine Dude

Articles Tagged wine criticism

Think Wine Criticism Is B.S.? Then You Need To Reject All Forms Of Criticism

Vinted on October 21, 2014 binned in commentary

Every once in a while, when I tell people what I do for a living, I get a sort of snickering question along the lines of “does it bother you that part of what you do is total bullsh*t?”

These folks are usually referring to the studies, quoted by lazy media outlets ad nauseum, that purportedly debunked wine tasting as bull honkey when “expert” wine folk were given white wines with red food coloring and tricked into thinking that they were tasting red wines.

But what those snickering folks fail to realize is that wine criticism and professional wine tasting are no different than every other form of experiential criticism – movie reviewing, restaurant critiquing, you name it – in that they are the attempts of fallible humans to garner expertise and disperse helpful opinions to the best of their abilities while trying to overcome the ingrained perception wiring that helped us evolutionarily, but hinder us when it comes to consistent, robot-like precision.

To wit: my friend Alder Yarrow recently blogged about a study featured in the New Yorker, in which participants were tricked into thinking that fake tongues were their own, taste perceptions and all. Yes, seriously. Read it, the results and implications are fascinating.

I doubt we’ll see much lazy media attention on this study, however, because it would logically require those same lazy media to start asking people like Alder and me what wines pair best with crow sandwich…

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Did We Just Win A Battle In “The War Over Wine?”

Vinted on October 15, 2013 binned in about 1winedude blog, commentary, wine news

This is the kind of thing that probably gives major wine critics apoplexy.

James Conaway, the talented writer and author of the excellent novel-with-a-wine-soaked-plot Nose, recently penned an article for Worth titled The War Over Wine. It’s cogent, well-conceived, deftly written and fiercely opinionated. In other words, it’s the kind of writing that fills borderline-hacks like me with a burning jealous rage hot enough to turn our faces the shade of a slightly aged Moulin-a-Vent.

Now, normally I don’t pat attention to Worth, mostly because I do not need reading material to fill my time below deck while my yacht is piloted to my own private dessert (whoops!) desert island. Just perusing the Worth.com website is like stumbling upon the remains of some lost civilization that used the same words we do to communicate, but put them in sequences that no longer have any meaning for us. It’s how Shakespeare appears to the high school student, or how Wine & Spirits appears to mortal wine drinkers, or how Umberto Eco appears to everyone who can read.

Seriously, topics can be found there such as Mutual Fund Strategies in the Aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, the ever-popular Where Is the Best Opportunity in the High-End Luxury Space?, and my personal favorite, 10 Questions for Your Chief Innovation Officer (‘cuz I only had eight questions for mine, so I am clearly a 99-percenter slacker!)

Anyway… Conaway’s piece seems somewhat out of place in Worth in that context, but it’s the kind of article that makes me want to take up arms and shout from the rooftops, in the hope that it’s less a tempest-in-a-teapot and more a topical-sh*tstorm-about-to-explode (as The Tick might have shouted, “from the mighty butt checks of wine media justice!”)…

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The Waning Of The Wine Critic?

Vinted on November 20, 2012 binned in commentary

Earlier this month, I was a guest lecturer at a wine class for undergrads at Drexel University in downtown Philly. The class is taught by Jason Wilson (author of the very entertaining spirits book Boozehound and who somehow Id never met in Philly; it took a chance encounter at one of the Professional Wine Writers Symposium events in Napa for us to become friends)

Talk about flashbacks (but not those kinds of flashback!) – the impressive great court of Drexel’s Main Building and its serpentine staircases leading to the back classrooms reminded me in no small way of trying to find the Philosophy classroom at my alma matter’s (SJU) Barbelin Hall. I got the sense that a lot of 21-year-old students would’ve been very late trying to get to that Drexel class for the first time (and if you can make it back out after tasting ten-or-so wines without spitting… more power to you).

I was there to talk about the wine regions of Australia (which I’d recently visited), and taste the class through a sampling of wines from those locales, the theme of which, as I tried to summarize early in the likely eventuality that I’d completely lose control of the class later, was “in America we tend to treat French wine regions as if they’re continents apart when in reality you can drive between several of them in a couple of hours; but Australia we treat as one big dessert, when in reality their wine regions really are continents apart!”

Jason has published a fun and insightful take on the class – and on wine talk in general – over at Table Matters (a story in which I play the part of a Brett Nazi, though my reaction to the Bretty wine might have been a bit over-emphasized in that tale… or not, I was onto beer by then, so who knows…).

Scanning the faces of those kids (I can call them “kids” now that I’m 40, right?), sitting in two rows against the long side of the cramped rectangular classroom, I got a microcosm of the East Coast wine drinking future. Some stared pretty intently, offering quiet comments when a topic or wine really struck them. Others were yawning (hey, Wine Appreciation is a better elective than “Math Models In Chemistry,” right?). And others were clearly having revelations about their own tastes and the at lovable madness that is the diversity of wine just within Australia itself.

None of them had any fear whatsoever of trying a new region, grape, or blend. None of them had any concern more pressing than the price point of each bottle ($12 and under seemed to be the realistic cut off for future purchases).

And none of them – not a single one – has ever followed the advice of a wine critic…

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You Are The Wine Conversation (What’s A Wine Critic To Do When Everyone Is A Wine Critic?)

Vinted on January 18, 2012 binned in commentary, going pro, wine appreciation, wine blogging

IntoWine.com recently (at least I think it was recently, as their posts for reasons unknown to me aren’t dated) ran an interview with SF Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné (long-time readers will recall that roughly a year ago I was on a panel about writing better opinion pieces with Jon and the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague, both of whom probably still in therapy trying to get over my inclusion; I’m kidding… I think…).

I’m not here today to dissect Jon’s responses (many of which ring true for me, and are worth a read because he’s a very, very intelligent guy), but one answer he gave to the IntoWine folks struck me as a bit odd. To the tape (emphasis is mine):

The average consumer still feels intimidated by wine and wine-speak. Are publications like the Chronicle partly responsible for the prevalent feeling among consumers that wine is somehow beyond their comprehension?

If we’re going point fingers at the idea that wine is pretentious, let’s start with the spread of overpriced, mass-produced wine sold as an aspirational luxury. I’ll borrow a phrase from a conversation with a fellow writer a few days ago: You write up to your audience, not down. If sportswriters had to explain a two-point conversion every time they mentioned it, we’d all die of boredom. That’s not an excuse to fall into jargon. But there is no shortage of amateur wine criticism out there that doesn’t contribute to the conversation.”

The trouble for me is that I’ve got no idea what conversation Jon is talking about in that response.

It might be that there is a hidden wine conversation, one available only to a Romanée-Conti-sipping secret society of critics with wine review superpowers like UV vision that can detect the exact number of Brett, fruit, and mushroom particles floating around in a glass of Burgundy and determine at a glance if they are at an appropriate level. A secret society that meets in an underground lair at an undisclosed location (guarded by pools of sharks with lazer beams attached to their heads) and through joint nefarious consensus determines what wines will get the really high scores this year.

The bottom line is that this secret society might as well also be made up of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, because the real wine conversation is actually the one that the amateur critics are having. Or, I should say, it’s the thousands of real and virtual “water-cooler” conversations that the amateurs are having every day, all over the world…

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