Thursday, September 10, 2015

EPHEMERA: Captain Points!

Jancis Robinson wrote a thoughtful and incisive piece about wine criticism recently. It’s perhaps a bit defensive, but that’s my interpretation. It seems all anyone writes about these days boils down to the uncertainty the universality of the internet brings to the wine business. Where, in other words, will Robert Parker’s power end up? Everyone wants a piece of it; most want all of it. There’s something tempting about possessing the ability to make or break a winery with your palate. It’s like being some sort of nerdy wine Marvel superhero—Captain Points! Making the world safe for hapless wine buyers! I have always been amazed at how many wine writers disparage Parker’s contributions, while at the same time clearly desiring his influence. There’s something wonderfully Oedipal about it.

After reading Robinson’s piece, typically well-written and articulately argued, I happened upon a post by Jamie Goode. In the piece, Goode advises new wine writers not to be too smart. Which is like advising suicide bombers not to plan for retirement. Goode writes, “Generally, in life, I reckon that less smart people are often happier.” A wonderful argument for reading more wine blogs to increase your happiness, I guess. Goode’s point is that he felt established wine writers were more helpful to him before they saw him as a competitor. Which, if I’m Jancis Robinson (only in my dreams), begs the question, “Competitor?”

Not long after reading Goode’s thoughtless piece, I read the news that there are now 19 more Masters of Wine (speaking of Marvel superheroes). It was like reading there are now 19 more zeppelin pilots, or 19 more Le Petomane impersonators. Impressive accomplishments, if a bit anachronistic these days. I know quite a few M.W.s, and most are very talented and very smart people. So they must not be very happy. But I’m sure even the Court of Masters of Wine must be astonished at how many applicants they have compared to, say, a generation ago. I wonder why that is.

Robinson writes about how she feels the need to constantly compete for attention now that there are so many ways for consumers to access the seemingly bottomless pit of wine reviews. And I think that’s the answer. A need for attention. In the past six weeks I have been around a gaggle of M.W.’s, a large pile of M.S.’s, and dozens of young people wanting to be one or the other. Some made a great impression on me, others not so much. Now, don’t get me wrong. Nobody sets out to impress the HoseMaster of Wine™. No one sane, anyway. But I realized that I didn’t care one teeny tiny bit whether a person had letters after his/her name, that it told me absolutely nothing about their wine IQ. Though they certainly make a point of telling you they have letters after their name. In the same way doctors always make a restaurant reservation with “Dr.” in front of their surname. You ask, “Last name on the reservation?” And they say, “Dr. Seuss.” Never just “Seuss.” And we are duly impressed. 

More and more I find I judge wine experts on their simple passion for wine, not for their passion to be somebody. I don’t recall that I thought about it that way in the past. In Texas, I met, and listened to, some folks who were severely impressed with themselves when it came to wine. It was clear to me that they knew a lot about wine, but I’d never take advice from them. It was the strange prestige of wine they were after, not the passion for wine that drove them. A longing for respect that they think letters will grant them. Only, ultimately, they won’t. I can tell them, as a guy who spent a long time in the trade, that respect flows directly from the respect you show other people in the trade, down to the poor clown schlepping eight dollar Bordeaux.

The eager wine people I met who are chasing their passion for wine impressed me no end. I learned a lot listening to them. Their ages are irrelevant. The most passionate people I know in wine are ageless. Some had degrees, many did not. I don’t have a degree, unless you count my satiric HMW, but there was a time in my life when I might have tried to earn one. This Ephemera is not a putdown of wine degrees, for a change. I’m madly in love with an M.W. (you know who you are), and admire her greatly. Any wine she loves, I know I’ll love as well. I sat and listened at a Tuscan wine seminar at TexSom given by Alfonso Cevola and Shelley Lindgren, and I gained great respect for their insights and, above all, their passion. I left loving wine more than I had when I sat down—and that’s a rare gift. The only letters after their names are Shelley’s A16, though I think Alfonso will soon have a DOCG after his. Believe me, many of the seminars were about the people conducting those seminars, and only peripherally about the wines. I walked out of those like they were yet another Tom Cruise vanity project, another “Mission Grape: Impossible.” I recently met a young sommelier, Marissa Payne, who impressed me with her passion for wine. She radiated joy when she talked about wine. She was eager to learn more, and unimpressed with herself. She’ll go a long way. I’d listen to her, give her recommendations a chance, because she is chasing wine, not power or fame in the wine business.

I started writing about wine because I wanted to have some fun with it. My attitude offends a lot of people, for which I’m grateful. But you might notice that the folks I offend are usually the folks who desire wine’s power and prestige to rub off on them. They want Parker to die by their metaphorical hand, and then they want to be him. They want to be seen as wine superheroes. They’re tiresome drudges. They’re welcome to walk out on my blog.

The longer I'm around wine, the more I surrender to my vast ignorance of the subject. I'm going to keep saying this until it sinks in. Wine outclasses us. Humans do not possess the sensory equipment to grasp it adequately. We don't understand much of the actual chemistry of wine. Our language skills are tested daily when we write about wine, and we nearly always fail. No one, and I mean no one, is any better at this than anyone else. Some work harder, some are indefatigable, many exaggerate their sensory talents and influence. But being human is our downfall. The wonder of wine lies in its ability to make us feel more human by showing us our limitations, teaching us humility and a love for the earth we so foolishly take for granted, while rewarding us with beauty and a sense that life has purpose. Plus, drinking it fills us with a false courage to go on living.

So here’s my advice. Be smart as hell about wine. If you’re new to it, be fucking brilliant, passionate and humble. Talent comes in many forms. Some can write. Some are uncanny at discerning great wine. Some are great communicators. Very few are all three. Don’t compete for attention. Now you’re just the guy waving in the background during a live newscast—an asshole. Persist, have fun with your passion for wine, enjoy the great gift of being able to pursue a wine career, never believe your own press, and you’ll garner attention eventually--more than you may even want. Just make sure that it’s not the attention that you really desire.


Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks Ron, for the kind words...

Nick Harman said...

You used the words passion and passionate etc a heck of a lot in that piece.

In my opinion far too many people claim to be 'passionate'about stuff these these days, they even put it on their CVs, but in my experience passionate people all too often are wild eyed crazies who lack the ability to be calm and objective and are just showing off.

Passion implies a loss of reason, it used to be a plea for getting off murder; a crime of passion was one committed when, for a moment, the balance of your mind was disturbed. The argument was you should be let off because you would not do it again. Which was probably a bad argument, if you can lose it badly once you can certainly lose it again. Having a short fuse is usually a condition you will have for life.

Anyway, a bit less passion would be a good thing I reckon. Replace it with knowledge and experience.

Jerome Hasenpflug said...

Ron, this is a marvelous testament to what I love about wine, and what I detest about wine writing and the opinions of so many blowhards clamoring for my ear and judgement, rather than my tastebuds. In a self-fulfilling prophecy of tautology they laud the producers whose wines they can't afford, hoping to make themselves part of the inner circle, the Knights of the Golden Fleece, baying for a sip of the nectar of the gods. Vinous might as well buy up all the other publications - they are so redundant in the wines they cover (covet?) that any new and exciting producers are avoided like lepers at the table(often only found by those of us whose passion enervates our continual quest for the new and exciting, the offbeat and out of the way). Keep up the good work! I love your humor and satire, but I love the truth you speak even more.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You're welcome.

You make a great point. In one particular paragraph, written hastily (as usual), I used variations of "passion" far too often. I guess the difference I was trying to get at was the difference between wine lovers who become successful in the biz because they are fascinated by all things wine, and those who chase success because they want the prestige of wine to rub off on them. There, I wish I'd written that instead of all that gooey passion.

I think most of us sense those differences when we actually meet people who are fellow wine enthusiasts. I think I'm weary of the pretenders and the faux experts, the complacent who expect respect because they have initials after their name, or hold a job with some buying power. Not that any of this matters. It's only wine.

Thanks, Nick, you gave me something to think about. Points well-taken.

Welcome. Thanks for the kind words.

I don't read any wine publications anymore. Except to cruise for satiric material. They're becoming dinosaurs, in a way, or, at least their demographics are. (I qualify on that count.) They seem to be clamoring for each others attention rather than the actual wine buying public--which has paved the way for the success of CellarTracker and other public reviewing sites.

I shall try to keep up the good work. Or, rather, begin to do some.

Bob Henry said...

On the subject of our sensory perceptions and language failing to fully convey the experience of savoring a wine.

Excerpt from Slate
(posted June 15, 2007):

“Cherries, Berries, Asphalt, and Jam. Why wine writers talk that way.”


By Mike Steinberger
“Drink: Wine, beer, and other potent potables” Column

In his book "The Taste of Wine," legendary French oenologist Émile Peynaud elegantly explained the conundrum. "We tasters feel to some extent betrayed by language," he wrote. "It is impossible to describe a wine without simplifying and distorting its image." . . .

Don Clemens said...

"The longer I'm around wine, the more I surrender to my vast ignorance of the subject." This perfectly describes my passion (sorry, Nick!) about wine. It never fails to make me think about it while drinking it, and I'm always a bit in awe when something really new crosses my palate. "How was this made, who were the people, what is it's history, what kind of cuisine is influenced by this wine - or how did this kind of cuisine made this wine style important?" The questions never stop, and the joy of discovery continues.
Thanks, Ron, for a very thoughtful "Ephemera" post.

Amy Jean said...

" It was clear to me that they knew a lot about wine, but I’d never take advice from them."
Nailed it again, Ron.

P.S. The same Jamie Goode that doesn't want wine writers to be too smart also doesn't want winemakers to use machines.

Great Piece. Thank you.

DouglasH said...

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the next Robert Parker, if by that you mean the RMP of the 1980s. Ambition is admirable, even envious ambition.

The problem with most wine writing isn't vanity or ambition, it's inexperience and ..... (surprise!) a lack of integrity. From the wine mags which inflate ratings (for advertising and publicity) to the wine blogger who gets free wine or goes on junkets, the wine world is thoroughly corrupt. It is certainly possible to be passionate, joyous and knowledgable about wine, but most of these people either work in a quality wine shop or are sommeliers -- who don't write. Far too many writers are very easily bought and sold.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Why is it every time people don't like something someone says "you're just jealous"? I've never understood that. Like those blasted Housewives of Whateverthefuckmoniedcity that look and behave like assholes and respond to the criticism by saying people are just jealous of them and calling everyone haters. No, actually, we think you're gross ladies. Kinda the same way I feel about Parker. Never liked him, never bought a bottle of wine because of him and the three worst wines I've ever put in my mouth, that weren't flawed, were Parker 98s. Not at all jealous of him, just don't like him. Luckily for me our store is about to turn 20 years old and we don't post or use scores, never lived by them so we shan't die by them either. So I can't agree with that chunk of this piece bu the rest? Let me climb on board because you and I are on the same train.

I've worked with people with all sorts of certifications and letters behind their name and with many that did not, the pappered folks had tons and tons of information but maybe a little less passion than the ones that didn't. Not sure if the rattling off of tech stuff just, um, dries me up but listening to someone share with me a moment, a snapshot of a dinner, a story about the winery or winemaker, a description of an aroma or flavor that evokes something familiar or primal...I'm in. I think we are just drawn to the ones that speak our language and you My Love, your tongue speaks to me.
I love you!

Henry Moore said...

Just a quibble, Mr. Parker makes or breaks a winery with his pen, not his palate.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Isn't it how we talk about wine rather than that we talk about wine? Parker changed the dialogue about wine, and that's what made him successful. As well as his work ethic. Now most folks simply imitate his style, parody his style, use the 100 Point Scale, write ridiculous descriptions...all of which can only lower the discussion. However, the vast majority of people don't care. They just want to know what to buy. The rest is just mumbo-jumbo to them. Now the dialogue is changing--to the blather of the internet and its countless mouths. The pendulum swings--an Emperor, now the ugly hordes. And one day it will swing back...

Luckily, I'll be dead.

I've forgotten so much about wine. Facts. But facts are curiosities when it comes to wine. I like to think I understand to a large degree any wine I put in my mouth. I may not know the variety, I may not know the history, I may not know whether it was a great vintage, but I recognize what it's about. It's about twenty bucks. That's experience.

Amy Jean,
Thank you. It comes down to that old chestnut (attributed to so many, including Einstein) that Facts are not Knowledge, and Knowledge is not Wisdom. We all learn that the hard way.

I think my point is that so many writers want to be Parker, or at least have his kind of influence on wine buyers, but no one ever actually talks about that. They talk about the new internet era, where wine buyers might turn, why everyone should take them seriously... But the subtext is they want to be admired, and they want to be taken as seriously as Parker. Not be him, just be as influential.

Wine has always reflected culture. If the wine biz is corrupt, that's as it should be.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
You and I are always in agreement about this sort of thing. I didn't mean to say that everyone wants to be Parker, or is jealous of him. But in all the endless and mindless talk about how people will buy wine in the future, those who are wine critics sound to me like they do want to be the next bigshot. They write about his fading influence (kill Dad) and then try to sell their own expertise (replace Dad--sleep with Mom). As a wiseguy, I find it interesting.

You're a woman whose taste in wine is, to me, absolutely impeccable. You may not appreciate every style of wine, but you don't need to. I would buy anything you recommended to me because you're not just brilliant at wine, you feel wine in a way that only people with long experience and insight can. Alfonso is the same way, and Shelley. And it isn't just that I know you, it's that anyone can sense it who spends ten minutes listening to you talk about wine. I think all of us with a lot of experience sense that very quickly when we meet a new wine person. They're not speaking "our language," they're talking about wine, and not about themselves.

Quibbles are welcome. My dogs eat it every day.

Duly noted.

Bob Henry said...


Let me give the fuller paragraph quote from Mike Steinberger's column in Slate:

"In his book The 'Taste of Wine,' legendary French oenologist Émile Peynaud elegantly explained the conundrum. "We tasters feel to some extent betrayed by language," he wrote. 'It is impossible to describe a wine without simplifying and distorting its image.' This linguistic failure is surely one reason that numerical scores for wines have proven so popular; points are simplistic and distorting, too, but they at least give you something to hold onto -- more so than, say, 'spice box,' 'melted asphalt,' or 'liquefied minerals.'"

~~ Bob

Bob Henry said...


Regarding "too many writers are very easily bought and sold" with free [sample] wines and all-expense-paid press junkets, this accusation is timeless.

Dating back almost 30 years . . .

Excerpt from Los Angeles Times “Main News” Section
(August 23, 1987, Page A1ff):

“Wine Writers: Squeezing the Grape for News”
(Series: First of Two Articles)


By David Shaw
Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, Craig Goldwyn -- publisher of International Wine Review magazine -- spoke to a couple of East Coast audiences about people who write on wine for American newspapers and magazines.

Goldwyn, who also writes a monthly wine column in the Washington Post, began by asking, "What is a wine writer?" Then he answered his own question:

"A wine writer is a physician or a lawyer with a bottle of wine and a typewriter, looking to see his or her name in print, looking for an invitation to a free lunch and a way to write off the wine cellar."

Colman Andrews, who writes about wine for Los Angeles magazine, offered an even more acerbic observation in a recent interview:

"Any jerk can call himself a wine critic and get published."

. . .

Most wine writers are genuinely enthusiastic proselytizers for the wines they like . . .

Few wine writers are either experienced, professional journalists or knowledgeable students of wine; most are wine hobbyists -- lawyers, doctors or others who can afford to drink good wine regularly -- or free-lance writers eager for all-expense-paid trips to the vineyards of Europe.

"Most . . . people who are involved in . . . wine writing . . . are . . . by and large obligated to the people who are producing the product," says John Tilson, editor and publisher of the respected, Seal Beach-based "Wine Journal newsletter" (formerly called the "Underground Wine Letter").

Ethical standards in the wine writing field are virtually nonexistent. Most newspapers tolerate behavior from their wine writers -- most of whom are free-lance contributors, rather than staff members -- that they expressly forbid in other areas of the paper.

Most respected newspapers in major cities have policies, for example, prohibiting staff members (and, at a few papers, free-lance contributors as well) from accepting any free gifts from news sources or from taking any free trips or from engaging in any other activity that could be construed as even a potential conflict of interest.

A few papers apply these standards to their wine writers, too. But most wine writers are allowed to accept free lunches, dinners and junkets to the famous wine regions of the world, all fully paid for by individual wineries, groups of vintners or foreign trade and tourist organizations.

A few wine writers also work as consultants to the wineries they write about. Others write books subsidized by wine interests. Virtually all wine writers accept hundreds of bottles of free wine every year from the wineries they write about. Usually, wineries send writers just one or, sometimes, two sample bottles of each wine. But on occasion, "If a wine writer tells me, 'I really like your wine,' and then there is a pregnant pause, I'll offer him our 30%, 'friends of the winery' discount (for cases)," says Tor Kenward, vice president of communications for Beringer Vineyards in the Napa Valley.

. . .

Bob Henry said...

For those so interested, here is the sequel article . . .

From Los Angeles Times “Main News” Section
(August 24, 1987, Page A1 ff):

“Wine Critics: Influence of Writers Can Be Heady”
(Series: Second of Two Articles)


By David Shaw
Times Staff Writer

Nick Harman said...

Junkets are of course great fun, car writers probably get the best ones with wine people a close second. The difference seems to me that car writers have no hesitation about taking the freebie and then writing a complete and vicious take down of the car involve if it is terrible. They have no fear of not being asked on the next one, as wine bloggers do.

I don't think any motoring correspondent on any paper/magazine is banned from taking free trips. It would be laughable and impractical. As a food writer I sometimes get pitches rejected on the basis that the newspaper involved does not take articles derived from free trips. On one occasion I met the food editor a month later - on a different free trip and with his wife and 2 children no less. He had the grace to avoid my eye and to keep his distance. I don't blame him for taking the trip, I blame him for his hypocrisy.

Of course in the days of falling revenues many newspapers fill space with copy derived from freebies, they could not send the writer very far on their own money. They offer the trips to staffers as a kind of free bonus. I have met many writers on food trips who are actually the sports correspondent or a sub. They tell me they are obliged to take it off their holiday allowance and yet still turn in 800 words after.

One literary editor of a big UK Sunday paper colour supp told me that all the section editors on his paper were virtually guaranteed one long haul luxury family trip a year as paid guests of a travel PR in return for a quicky favourable piece knocked out on the plane home. It came with the pension and health benefits, almost contractual.

I can't get passionate about it (sic). The idea of food and wine and travel journos wandering about wearing white suits and waving the shining sword of truth is wishful thinking in all but a few cases. And those writers are usually a dull read anyway.

Charlie Olken said...

I hate to get serious here, but wine writing for me is not about passion but about learning and about communication. It starts with high interest in wine as a beverage, an accompaniment to life, and that is a passion of a sort, but the only way for that passion to have any meaning to me and to the people who are kind enough to read what I write is for me to know as much as about the subject as I can and then to use that knowledge with care and humility in crafting discussions about wine in general and about individual wines that provide useful information to the readers.

The topic always has to be the wine. It is why my publication is not written in the first person singular and why no article has a byline.

Now, our blog. That's different. It's a blog, for goodness sake, and while it too requires knowledge and good communication qualities, it is a blog.

None of what I do or any of us do requires initials. Most of the writers I enjoy reading and learning from only have the initials they were born with.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I think there are a lot of unseemly practices in the wine business, but, as you point out, there are unseemly practices in a lot of businesses. In wine, I try to have fun with that kind of chicanery and dissembling, not as some sort of crusader, but because it makes me laugh. From junkets to charging to publish wine labels with reviews, to restaurant wine list awards, it's all just so much crap. Yet it's part of a business I love. Compromise is part of the human condition. On HoseMaster, I just try to shine a little light into the darkest places.

I wasn't really talking strictly about wine writing, I was talking about everyone in the biz who seeks to be an authority, who maybe writes about wine or maybe chases credentials, desires attention and prestige. And I was simply saying that most of the people I know in the wine business pay almost no attention to credentials. Are there credentials for book reviewers? Just something weird about wine.

Your reputation is well-established and admirable. Can I buy it from you? You've earned it. You don't need initials. You're Puff Daddy. You rule.

I read Jancis' piece, then Jamie Goode's, and the contrast struck me, so I began to write. I didn't know what the subject was until I got halfway through. That's the joy of writing for me. I have to begin, not knowing where I'm going, only to find out where my destination lies. It's a weird mental road trip without a map. I don't pretend that these essays actually hang together, or even mean much. They're just conversations with other folks who love wine--the folks who come here for the laughs, and put up with my cogitations as well. And when what I say sparks some conversation, then I'm satisfied.

Daniel said...

I think part of the reason so many in the business dislike Emperor Parker isn't just his influence over the years, or the actual power to make or break a winery/wine or salesperson's income, but the simple minded way that consumers just look at numbers to base their entire decision about what is good or not of something so subjective.
And sadly that mentality has taken over our "vote someone off the island", "tweet your votes now", 89 point world. Are we really that far away from a reality show to pick our next president? Any surprise that Mr. Comb-over is leading in "popular" polls?
I always found it funny that people would rather look at a '93' and just assume that whatever it is must be good. I always say, "But what if you don't like that kind of wine?". Just because it is the number one, Grammy winning, best country song of the year doesn't mean much if you don't like country music! Like Samantha said, I've had some 11000000 point "Gobs of unctuous fruit" wines that I actually really hated. But "Parker" gave them a big score.
And do people want that "power"? Of course, but no one person will ever have that same influence no matter how many other publications or websites they buy. And that is probably a good thing. Maybe we will see more conversations about wine as a part of life, and the great people and places behind each wine (like what Alfonso writes!). Less about trophies, more about drinking.

Nick Harman said...

I'm sorry Ron I never meant to imply you were one of these white suit wearers who are very tiresome and write with trowels.

I am not a wine writer, I just like the stuff, but I do get pissed off with wine writing and I do feel it's shocking how the producers suck up to bloggers because they think the blogger's tens of thousands (apparently, does anyone check these things?) of followers will buy their wine if the blogger tells them to.

Sad truth alert. A great many blog followers can't afford to buy the wines and possibly never will, at least not until they get a real job. What they want is to become a wine blogger too and get sent the stuff and travel the world for free for as long as possible.

So the target audience is what advertising calls the wrong demographic, but hey look at the numbers!

susan wu said...

Ron, very interesting piece, as usual, and nice that you introduced the two pieces of read. I like to read all that JR writes although I don't always resonate with them, like this one here. She wrote at length on how she got ticked off by how "civilian" reviewers had been garnering fast&vast attention through their new-found liberty from social-media -mania. But attention has a span; yes, you get my attention, now what? What do you have to offer which will and can sustain my attention? I think she'd be more at ease if she veered her attention from those whose goal was for pursuing the ephemeral fame. I like JG offers career advice to young people, but don't see why he needed to treat smart with dichotomy - you can be social & intellectual smart and make happiness multiplicative.

Since you mentioned Shelley L and about passion, I wonder if I dare to say one thing about sommeliers. I know of HoseMaster's caveat to us about not talking about somms since we're not one and thus not qualified. But one thing I observed at SPQR gave SL my thumbs up. Pls don't scold me, Ron.

When I checked with the bartender about a couple of wines at SPQR, he said he was new and did not really know but would like to offer me the samples. That attitude of being honest, nice and helpful rang my bell, and at that point, I was starting to credit SL for hiring a young man with such quality. Later at the dinner, I also saw the moment when the bartender and two other serving staffs gathered together to make a group decision on weather a bottle of wine had flaws or not. SL's standard for training her staffs became somewhat tactile to me; I felt the positive fresh-energy permeating the air at the restaurant. I thought to myself "this is another beautiful thing that a somm has done". Cheers to you, Ron and Shelly (if you don't mind).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

While I agree with much of what you write, this wasn't a piece about the 100 Point Scale. The scale resonates with consumers, and that has great power. I doubt Parker understood its power when he first started using it. His idea had wings. We're stuck with it. I just liked the idea that it might be an anomaly 200 years from now, a crazy idea that died. Ideas have lifespans. I suspect 200 years is very optimistic for the 100 Point Wine scale, and it won't live that long.

What Alfonso does is useful on a very, very, very small scale. Critics tackle countless wines, and have deadlines. But there are actually a lot of people writing about wine as part of life--but their audience is small and their motivation has be different than a critic. If you want free samples, junkets, attention, and power, which most new writers do, you have to rate wines, not spend your days telling stories about a subject you only barely understand. Wine is remarkable and ethereal and human--the wine business is marketing and sales.

I took no offense at anything you've written.

I've laughed at wine marketing people here for years. Six years ago, most of them would tell you endlessly that the future of wine criticism was bloggers, crowd reviews, blah blah blah. Never really happened. It seems that, except for the low end of the wine spectrum, the corporate plonk that sells the biggest volume of wine, wineries are ignoring all but a few bloggers. Look at those wine bloggers cranking out the reviews, and most of what they review is insipid and cheap. And they spend endless time telling everyone that there are great wines under $15. I guess "great" is in the eye of the beholder.

I have no idea how many people read my blog. None. I have stats, but I've come to realize they're utterly meaningless. Saying you have thousands of readers is like saying your IQ is 160--anyone who believes you deserves to be taken.

My IQ is a great wine score.

Susan Darling,
My caveat about sommeliers isn't to not speak of them because you're not one, but to not speak of what the job entails if you haven't done it. I'm sure you feel the same way about your job, Love.

I love Shelley. And I admire her. And your story abut SPQR rings absolutely true because I know her, and that kind of attitude trickles down from the top. San Francisco sommeliers would do well to emulate her. But they won't.

I thought Jancis' piece was interesting and honest, but, as I wrote, it read a bit defensively. She doesn't have much to prove at this point. But I can imagine that, as a woman in the UK wine trade, she's always had to compete for attention, from the time she first was able to even try to become an MW. Those habits die hard. She's a competitive soul, I'd think. And very successful. But the internet has made this a trivial and plagiaristic world--competing in that arena is very tough, and very frustrating. What is Wikipedia but where you go to read others' work you should have paid for, only now you pay Google and your internet provider? Comedians steal jokes off of Twitter on a regular basis. Copyright is violated endlessly all day every day--I do it every time I post a photograph, or Lo Hai Qu's painting. It's that kind of world. Shitty for artists of all kinds.

Smooch, My Darling.

Nick Harman said...

There is a slight whiff of sour grapes (sic) about some of the older wine writers complaints though.

The gilded garden gates have been smashed open and all these plebs are running around trampling the flowers.