Wine’s Quiet Hypocrisy

Vinted on November 11, 2014 binned in commentary

For some reason (maybe I look trustworthy?), I’ve had a disproportionately large number of conversations with winemakers in which they divulge to me that they are upset about a myth/misunderstanding/half-truth/whatever being perpetuated by members of the wine media.

This could be things such as –

1) inaccuracies regarding long-held notions about a growing region, or

2) the supposedly (but grossly oversimplified ) poor performance of an overall vintage or a particular grape in a particular place, or

3) someone getting the historical facts about a producer’s or region’s history wrong, etc., etc., etc.

The not-so-subtle implication in those conversations is that wine media are abusing their positions of power in perpetuating these inaccuracies, misinformed opinions, and the like.

Far be it from me to disagree with these moderately-pissed-off folks. In the vast majority of cases, they have excellent points (hey, do we need yet another example of a wine from a supposedly “poor” vintage outperforming and outlasting wines from a supposedly “superior” vintage?). And they are usually much bigger than I am (even the girls).

BUT (and you knew that was coming)…

These same people (most of them, anyway) fail to see the hypocrisy in which their legitimate complaints are steeped. And as we’re about to see, those complaints are absolutely dripping in it, like a pair of feet are dripping with juice after they’ve have been stomping Port grapes in the lagares all day…

Most of these same complainers will also (quite understandably) go to great lengths to promote good reviews/mentions/scores/etc. from the very same publications/websites/media outlets about which they are complaining.

Hmmm… What. The. F*CK?!??

If you’re upset about wine media perpetuating something that isn’t accurate, then you’re upset about them in some ways abusing their influence and power. The same influence and power which YOU are responsible for giving to them.

Yeah, YOU.

What did/do you think they’ll do with the power that you give to them? If “abuse it to the betterment of their pocket linings” isn’t your answer, then you may have some issues, like still believing that there are unicorns, and they can fly, and pure cocaine spurts out of their horns.

Sorry, fine folk, but this approach makes absolutely no sense. It’s wine’s great, quiet hypocrisy that brands and producers will only complain about the abuse of power in words, and not by exercising their options in deeds.

You want to take the power back? Only use those scores when you absolutely have to (with lazy importers and distributors, snobby collectors, whatever). Otherwise, you can, if you so choose, simply not play their game as much as they want you to play it. There are other ways to generate buzz these days, and they have the dual benefit of helping you both strengthen consumer / customer bonds and sell wine.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • pbilling13


    Well, I guess YOU'RE off of Robert Parker's Christmas card list.

    But seriously, I see your point, 'but' (to paraphrase a world renowned wine blogger), everyone particularly the newbies need a starting point. You and your fellow wine writers alike are it. I know you're making your living at this but the thing no one talks about is bad wine. It can't all be good, hell I KNOW it's not all good, I've drunk plenty of bad ones, but nobody talks abouts about. I understand why, but there must be some way to get the message out. Personally, if I can find one single review or mention of a wine I just assume it must be awful and avoid it. That can't be fair. Maybe wine writers as a group need to create and Alan Smithee (google it) reviewer for harsh reviews that would not be attributable to an individual. Just my 2 cents

    • Thomas Pellechia


      Obviously, you haven't got the message, pb: just as no child in the schoolyard game can be a bad athlete, there's no such thing as bad wine…

    • 1WineDude


      Good point, pb. I used to do negative reviews. Now, they are quite infrequent, mostly because I have exposure to too many good ones to leave room for much of the bad ones…

      • Thomas Pellechia


        I suspect pb might agree with me on this: saying that you haven't the time or room to do negative reviews is a major cop-out. It is also a disservice to consumers that leaves some to wonder about a critic's talent and allegiance–or both.

        Seeing that most critics don't produce negative reviews, I think the winemaker you cite in this post should stop complaining.

        • 1WineDude


          Thomas – it's winemakers plural. I agree they should stop complaining, but not for the same reasons! :) Regarding reviews, you are implying that that every wine a critic tastes should be published with a critique. I am not sure it's a cop-out to admit that I cannot do that in my case (only one of me here, and only so much time to devote to 1WD content).

          • Thomas Pellechia


            Joe, Joe:

            I do not imply what you inferred that I implied ;)

            Do you imply that you have come across wines you would review negatively but chose instead to give your time only to those that you can review positively?

            That would constitute a conscious decision to not give negative reviews to consumers–if guiding consumers is the aim, then that decision would be a disservice.

            When criticized for not being a serious endeavor, wine critics like to equate wine reviewing with movie or other arts reviewing. Those critics do provide consumers both positive and negative reviews.

            …and to beat a dead horse once again: I know that you know that applying the words "good" and "bad" in the context of subjectivity is a no-no.

            Today is Veteran's Day–as a veteran, I'm feeling my speak-out oats ;)

            • 1WineDude


              Thomas – happy Veterans Day! I have come across wines I would review negatively, in that they are flawed or otherwise bad value for money in a significant way; they are such a small number that they still occasionally sneak through on the Twitter review feed, so they aren’t ignored wholesale. I would say that I encounter a lot of boring wine that just doesn’t need to be discussed; now those are too many for me to handle. So while not flawed or of poor quality, they provide nothing of interest to me and so I do not write about or review them. Sorry about the good/bad thing, I fully agree with your point.

              • Bob Henry


                Joe,

                If you . . .

                1) lack the time to write up a review of every wine tasted; and/or
                2) lack the "digital space" to publish every review written

                . . . then at the very least carve out the time / space to publish negative reviews of wines made from high profile, more expensive, name recognition producers who have seriously missed the mark. (Perhaps due to unfavorable weather during the growing season, or a slacker mentality of resting on their laurels and sleep-walking through life.)

                By way of example, if too many of the northern California Pinot Noirs from the mold-afflicted 2011 vintage sorely missed the mark, then you owe it to your readers to apprise them of that fact, and give them a heads-up on an unsatisfying drinking experience.

                And use that negative review to steer your readers towards a better producer in that vintage, or wines from a prior (e.g., 2009) or subsequent (e.g., 2012) vintage.

                To their credit, both Steve Heimoff and James Laube took a very public stand and warned wine enthusiasts about the 2011 vintage northern California Pinot Noirs:

                "An inconvenient truth about Pinot Noir – Steve Heimoff"

                Link: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2013/08/15/

                "More on the troubling 2011 vintage – Steve Heimoff"

                Link: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2013/12/17/

                "The Curtain Is Dropping on California's 2011 Vintage – James Laube"

                Link: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/49379

                Other wine writers and wine critics should embrace that "consumer protection" mindset.

                Bob

              • Bob Henry


                Joe,

                If you . . .

                1) lack the time to write up a review of every wine tasted; and/or
                2) lack the "digital space" to publish every review written

                . . . then at the very least carve out the time / space to publish negative reviews of wines made from high profile, more expensive, name recognition producers who have seriously missed the mark. (Perhaps due to unfavorable weather during the growing season, or a slacker mentality of resting on their laurels and sleep-walking through life.)

                By way of example, if too many of the northern California Pinot Noirs from the mold-afflicted 2011 vintage sorely missed the mark, then you owe it to your readers to apprise them of that fact, and give them a heads-up on an unsatisfying drinking experience.

                And use that negative review to steer your readers towards a better producer in that vintage, or wines from a prior (e.g., 2009) or subsequent (e.g., 2012) vintage.

                To their credit, both Steve Heimoff and James Laube took a very public stand and warned wine enthusiasts about the 2011 vintage northern California Pinot Noirs:

                "An inconvenient truth about Pinot Noir – Steve Heimoff"

                Link: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2013/08/15/

                "More on the troubling 2011 vintage – Steve Heimoff"

                Link: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2013/12/17/

                "The Curtain Is Dropping on California's 2011 Vintage – James Laube"

                Link: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/49379

                Other wine writers and wine critics should embrace that "consumer protection" mindset.

                Bob

              • 1WineDude


                Bob, this part of my wine life is a blog, written and distributed free of charge. I don't owe anyone anything. It's actually a minor miracle that I'm able to keep up with any content here at the moment.

              • Bob Henry


                Joe,

                If you tasted an egregiously bad bottle of wine from a noted, name recognition producer, would you feel compelled to request a replacement bottle to conduct a second review?

                Or feel compelled to write up a negative review on the first (and maybe only) sampled bottled to warn your readers?

                Bob

              • 1WineDude


                Bob, Yes to your first question, and I’ve done that a few times. Generally, I do review wines with a negative tone if I think they under perform. It’s rate, though, to encounter a really, truly Bad wine these days. Boring, yes, but fundamentally flawed or bad is much rarer.

              • Bob Henry


                Joe,

                Good to know you're willing to "call out" a winery when they badly miss the mark.

                The "wine whore" writers have no such compunction — milking the gravy train, and never biting the hand that feeds them free samples.

                Bob

              • 1WineDude


                Bob, I’m sure that contingent exists, but who are they, specifically? I’m convinced that their numbers and influence have been greatly exaggerated.

  • Charlie Olken


    There is one publication that understands who pays the bills: it's readers, not the wineries. And so, good or bad, loveable or execrable, it publishes reviews of every wine it tastes. And whether a wine is coming in for very high praise or for the dreaded kick in the backside, it gets tasted blind a second time. And if it is crap, then it is reviewed as crap.

    That publicaiton is Connoiseurs' Guide to California Wine.

    • 1WineDude


      Papa does preach! :-) Charlie, that's one of the reasons why you rule!

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