Articles Tagged wine reviewing

No Wine? Sorry, No Story.

Vinted on December 9, 2014 binned in commentary

A troubling trend is starting to appear in my Inbox.

[ Editor’s note: I wonder how many cheesy detective novels now begin with that premise… ]

Somewhat ironically, the troubling trend seems to mostly be coming from very well-meaning wine producers and their various public relations arms / firms / etc., and with very well-meant intentions. But the gameplan execution is all fumbled-at-the-five-yard-line.

What’s happening is that I am seeing a lot (LOT!) more wine brands clue into the fact that what differentiates them in what has become the single most competitive wine market in the history of mankind is, in part, their stories. So far, so good.

Some of them have even clued in on the other great differentiator in a market in which we are deluged with mostly non-human, robotic, advertorial interactions: the simple act of caring enough to deal with customers and consumers as real people, and giving them the extra love inherent in good service.

What they seem to be forgetting, however, is that the price of entry in this intensely competitive marketplace that is the modern wine biz is quality. If we in the media don’t get a chance to check out the wine, we cannot answer the fundamental question of whether or not the service and story are worth getting into in the first place.

The troubling trend? I am getting inundated with requests to talk about wine brand stories, connected to wines that I’ve yet to taste. Whoops!…

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Come Original (On Negative Reviews, #WBC14, Boring Wine Writing, & Non-Boring Wines)

Vinted on July 24, 2014 binned in commentary, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

“A warning to the crews out there who think they’re hot, if you’re not original rockers you will get shot
down by the kids neglectin’ your art, the stuff you did, eventually it get so bad puts you to bed
’cause when the lightning flashes sweet electricity, all the world then stands revealed with the clarity
of raw voltage, briefly we see and the hope is you’ll be able to tell just what dope is…”

Come Original by 311

Earlier this month, I attended the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, CA, as a speaker on a panel titled “How The Pros Taste.” I was actually in town primarily to help a friend of mine, Wandering Wino, kick off  a post-WBC tasting event (called “Authentic Press”) that focused on small SB-area producers (happy to report that was well-attended, and nary a drop of under-performing juice was to be found among the stellar lineup that he selected to pour at the event), so the timing all worked out splendidly.

I enjoyed WBC14 (well, ok, apart from the big dinner, which always seems to fall flat at WBC for some reason, excepting Alan Kropf’s entertaining WBA presentation), and thought this was one of the best incarnations yet, particularly for those new to wine blogging. The WBC keynote address by Corbett Barr seemed divisive based on the twitter chatter, but I also enjoyed that talk; and for anyone who doubts Barr’s assertion that character trumps everything else when it comes to building up your brand online, consider as some evidence that what I make for writing about wine puts me in the top 5-10% of all U.S. wine writers (and it’s a sad commentary that amount is only bonus-level money compared to my previous corporate gig).

I won’t comment on the Wine Blog Awards. No offense meant to the winners (there are some fine blogs in that group), and I’m always touched to be nominated and to be named a finalist, but I’m still pretty “fringe” and gonzo when it comes to wine writing (which, after all these years blogging, is also a kind of sad commentary, when you think about it), so the things I value and want to see recognized (in almost any genre, not just wine writing) are usually not what get rewarded. Just imagine how I feel about the Grammy’s!

A few hiccups involving LA road rage delays impacting fellow panelist Patrick Comiskey aside, I also had fun participating on my panel (for those of you who were thinking that I was stroking moderator Steve Heimoff’s crotch under the table on stage, I was actually petting Steve’s adorable pet dog Gus, who was sitting quietly in Steve’s lap the entire time; that’s my story, anyway), waxing philosophic about how I go about critically tasting vino (and getting totally fooled by the final “mystery wine” of the lineup). I’m good for at least one or two re-tweetable money quotes per panel, and the one that got the most attention during the panel seemed to be my comment on negative wine reviews (“some wines need to be kicked in the crotch”), so I thought I’d talk a bit more about that stance here.

My view on negative wine reviews is that they, like serving rare vintages of the world’s finest wines, ought to be reserved for special occasions. I say this because only a few wines are epically bad enough –and were created with sufficient malicious intent – that they deserve your finest writing work…

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More Proof That Social Influence Is Eroding The Power Of Traditional Wine Reviews

Vinted on May 22, 2014 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

As if we needed any more evidence that consumer perception of wine isn’t all that materially different than how they interact with every other produce available in the market today, the results of a study titled In Vino Veritas? Social Influence on ‘Private’ Wine Evaluations at a Wine Social Networking Site published by Wine-Economics.org provides more proof that wine is not immune from the same type of crowd-sourced review influences that have become the norm of on-line product searching.

The study was conducted by staff from Seton Hall, Oxford and the University of Exeter, from their departments of Diplomacy and International Relation, Experimental Psychology, and Psychology departments, respectively (if you want to go up against their level of smarties, be my guest; I know when I see a battle not worth fighting). Their subject was an analysis of Cellertracker.com reviews, which makes sense since it’s currently the largest such repository on planet Earth.

To the tape (emphasis mine):

“We conducted analyses based on 6,157 notes about 106 wines posted by wine drinkers at a wine social networking site. Our findings suggest that social influence on private wine evaluations occurred by communicating a descriptive norm via written information. We provide empirical evidence that there is social influence on private wine evaluations that is greater than the effect of experts’ ratings and prices combined. This influence comes mainly from the first few group members, and increases as a function of source uniformity. “

Hmmmm. Science and data deal uninformed, incumbent opinions a blow yet again

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Does The Wisdom Of The Crowd Provide Better Wine Reviews Than The Experts?

Vinted on September 5, 2013 binned in best of, commentary

[ WARNING: following is one of my lengthy diatribes. If you’re the lazy and impatient busy type, skip to the summary! ]

Do you believe that fine wines are multi-faceted?

What I mean is, do fine wines change over time, present different shades and complexities of aromas and flavors?

Well… duh

If you agree that fine wines are complex beasts, then I’m about to show you why it should logically follow that wine experts may not provide the best reviews of those wines.

Because if you also happen to believe in the truth-enlightening powers of scientific and statistically relevant data, then you cannot continue to hold onto the stubborn belief that traditional wine expert opinion always offers a superior summation of a wine to that provided by aggregate reviews in outlets such as CellarTracker.com. At least, you can’t do it without being Spock-raising-a-quizzical-eyebrow-at-you illogical. By the way, if you don’t believe in those truth-enlightening powers, then I’ve got some creationist “textbooks” to sell you, but let’s not get off track, okay?

Anyway… evidence actually supports the view that individual wine expert opinion is inferior to the wisdom of crowds when it comes to reviewing wines.  It’s not that single-shot expert opinion in this field is somehow irrelevant or useless, but that it is less valuable than the opinion offered by an educated, engaged, passionate, and diverse group of people (which may or may not contain experts in their ranks).

Don’t believe me? Well, then, put down that copy of Wine Spectator for a second and hear me out. Because while the view that crowd-sourced wine reviews have merit has been called “propaganda” by wine writers as celebrated as Matt Kramer, looking less passionately and more logically at the act of reviewing suggests that it is the Kramers of the wine world who are spouting the propaganda when it comes to dismissing the wisdom of the crowd

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