Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’

We can only wish ...

We can only wish …

 

Let me be clear. I don’t make wine. I have never made wine. Everything I may know about making wine comes first from books and secondly from correlating what winemakers say about making wine with how their wines taste.

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of “learning”, and I can now say with full conviction that there is no one way to make wine.

I have heard all the theories, listened as winemakers proclaimed everything from biodynamics to barrel aging, from high acid to high approachability as the only answers, the “right” answers.

I have had to hold my tongue with some difficulty as winemaker after winemaker disparaged their peers whose wines I have praised in print. “Added a little water”? “Added acid”? “Used more than 25% new oak”? All verboten.
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(by Gemma Correll)

 

My sixth Wine Bloggers Conference was approached with trepidation. I’ve been questioning the utility of the semantics of “blogger” and “wine blogger” of late. Also, I knew nothing of Penticton, British Columbia. Finally, very few of my closer blogging-friends and colleagues would be in attendance.

The format was the same. Bring together “wine bloggers” in a wine region to discover that region, learn about wines from other parts of the world, explore their wine writing avocation amongst their peers and strengthen the camaraderie of the group. It turns out my trepidation was without merit. It was a very successful conference for me despite nearly coughing up my lungs with a nasty bout of the flu. I learned a lot this weekend.

1. Modern Greek Vin Santo is an amazing wine and should be discovered by all wine lovers.

2. Lungs can’t actually be “coughed up”, but you can exercise and tighten up your stomach muscles in the process of discovering it’s not possible.

3. Penticton, British Columbia really is a “must visit” for serious wine lovers, and its “Penticton Lakeside Resort” was the most beautiful venue yet for a Wine Bloggers Conference.

4. It would do all wine bloggers good to focus equally as much on the quality of their writing as on the extent of their wine knowledge.

 

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stiletto boot and mouse

 

While the empty bottles have long been gathered, the words continue to flow following the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference, which concluded just a few days ago, in Penticton, British Columbia.

The Wine Blogger’s Conference has run for six years now, and this year brought together over 200 bloggers who share their love of the ancient fare either in personal blogs or with paid gigs at magazines or newspapers. It’s an enormous networking opportunity, as well as a chance to personally meet growers and bottlers, who want to make media connections of their own, and to show appreciation.

It’s also a sign of just how much wine blogging’s combined and varied voice has grown lately. Increasingly, readers are adding what’s served up to their RSS feeds, as digital sommeliers help them figure out what wines go with life in general.

Wine bloggers are far more than individuals who toss one back then bandy about terms like “oaky” or “buttery”, “grassy” or “mellow” for the rest of us to decipher. They truly want to broaden the wine-tasting experiences of their readers, trying out perhaps lesser-known wines from around the globe, in search of unique flavors that vintners have brought forth through a variety of secretive techniques. Bloggers Peter and Nancy at Pull That Cork just recently covered their experience with wines from South Africa, while blending in a history of the wine-growing history of the Cape area.
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The health lobby in France has invoked the Evin Law in a call for stricter limits on what bloggers and social media users can write about wine online.

 
A report on the issues of addiction in France entitled ‘Les Dommages Liés Aux Addictions et les Strategies Validées pour Reduire Ces Dommages’ (Damage related to addictions and strategies for reducing the damage) is being prepared as part of the background to forming government policy from 2013-2017.

One of the suggestions put forward is that alcohol promotion should be formally forbidden on the internet and social media, including promotion of wine.

Specific sites belonging to producers, online wine merchants or wine tourism sites would be exempt, but wine bloggers would fall under the definition of sites that would be no longer authorised, as would any specific advertising or promotion of wine.
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Everyone is a critic!

Everyone is a critic!

 

Twice in the past several months, the wine world has been rocked by news from Robert Parker, the world’s most famous wine critic.

In December, Parker announced that he’d sold a “substantial interest” in the Wine Advocate, the influential magazine he founded in 1978, to a trio of Singapore-based investors—and that he’d relinquished editorial control. In February, one of Parker’s top critics, Antonio Galloni, said that he’d left the publication to start an online enterprise.

Parker, who popularized the 100-point scale for reviewing wine, is nearly 66. So he can’t be faulted for wanting to slow down. But thanks to this pair of stories, oenophiles finally seem ready to admit that wine criticism is changing.

Consumers don’t need—or want—centralized gatekeepers telling them what they should or shouldn’t drink. Consumers still need advisors, of course, but when today’s consumers want information, they’re willing to look past professional critics and instead turn to friends and trusted networks.

With travel, restaurants, movies, and so much else, this trend would hardly be worthy of commentary. TripAdvisor long ago supplanted paper-based guides like Frommer’s.

Yelp is now the holy grail of restaurant reviews, and local blogs are increasingly influential. With movies, opening the local newspaper for commentary no longer makes sense when you can check out dozens of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

With wine, however, this shift runs counter to so much of what’s sacred. Everything about wine—the bizarre tasting rituals, knowledge of obscure regions and varietals, and identifying good values—is supposed to be handed down from on high. Consumers are supposed to decide what to drink based on the advice of prominent wine critics, not mere amateurs.

 

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The human palate is arguably the weakest of the five traditional senses. This begs an important question regarding wine tasting: is it bullshit, or is it complete and utter bullshit?

There are no two ways about it: the bullshit is strong with wine. Wine tasting. Wine rating. Wine reviews. Wine descriptions. They’re all related. And they’re all egregious offenders, from a bullshit standpoint.

Exhibit A: Wine experts contradict themselves. Constantly.

Statistician and wine-lover Robert Hodgson recently analyzed a series of wine competitions in California, after “wondering how wines, such as his own, [could] win a gold medal at one competition, and ‘end up in the pooper’ at others.” In one study, Hodgson presented blindfolded wine experts with the same wine three times in succession. Incredibly, the judges’ ratings typically varied by ±4 points on a standard ratings scale running from 80 to 100. Via the Wall Street Journal:

A wine rated 91 on one tasting would often be rated an 87 or 95 on the next. Some of the judges did much worse, and only about one in 10 regularly rated the same wine within a range of ±2 points.

Mr. Hodgson also found that the judges whose ratings were most consistent in any given year landed in the middle of the pack in other years, suggesting that their consistent performance that year had simply been due to chance.
It bears repeating that the judges Hodgson surveyed were no ordinary taste-testers. These were judges at California State Fair wine competition – the oldest and most prestigious in North America. If you think you can consistently rate the “quality” of wine, it means two things:

1: No. You can’t.

2. Wine-tasting is bullshit.

Exhibit B: Expert wine critics can’t distinguish between red and white wines

This one’s one of my favorites. In 2001, researcher Frédéric Brochet invited 54 wine experts to give their opinions on what were ostensibly two glasses of different wine: one red, and one white. In actuality, the two wines were identical, with one exception: the “red” wine had been dyed with food coloring.

The experts described the “red” wine in language typically reserved for characterizing reds. They called it “jammy,” for example, and noted the flavors imparted by its “crushed red fruit.” Not one of the 54 experts surveyed noticed that it was, in fact a white wine.

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What everybody else hear them say!

What everybody else hear them say!

 

I am about to commit heresy right here in the CGCW blog. It won’t be the first time, and it probably will not be the last, but it is necessary to set the record straight. I have found out something about wine blogs, and it pains me to admit it.

We are talking to ourselves.

Now, don’t go and get all huffy, because I don’t mean that no one is reading our wonderful words, our Monday Manifestos, Wednesday Warblings and everything that comes in between, before and after. You, dear readers, are the reason we continue this blog in spite of the fact that it is not what we thought we had bargained for.

You see, we thought, in our infinite wisdom, that there was an enormous, like tens and tens of thousands, of hungry wine enthusiasts searching the internet for nuggets of wisdom. And, we therefore presumed that our pearls, our keen insights were going to attract those tens of thousands of unrequited wine word readers. Turns out that it is not so.

We get a nice, tidy readership every day, and we sometimes get comments—which we enjoy. But the readership, and especially the commenters, here and on virtually every other wine blog is pretty thin relative to what some folks would have the world believe. And while the several thousand folks who come by once in a while are very much appreciated, the folks who keep the comments section going are few and far between.

 

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Or is it?

Or is it?

 

America’s wine industry is booming.

But a new study from Michigan State Professor Philip Howard shows “industry” maybe something of a misnomer.

While you may see a wide variety of American labels at your local wine shop, the vast majority are merely offshoots of mega producers, most of them concentrated in California, Professor Howard found.

Click to read on and see the incredible browsable map he produced:

Also read:

wine_writing_0

For who are you writing?

So where have all these wine bloggers and writers been living for the past 10 years? Under a rock?

Last week, a professor at Michigan State University named Philip Howard made the news by publishing an article with a semi-nifty interactive graphic, entitled Concentration in the U.S. Wine Industry.

The article has been tweeted, its graphics stolen and republished (usually with proper credit given to the professor), and dozens of articles have been written by bloggers and mainstream journalists about the “news” that about 50% of the wine sold in America has been produced by just three large companies: E&J Gallo, Constellation, and The Wine Group. These articles range in tone from scandalized to awestruck, which prompts the question, if you write about wine and you didn’t know this already, what do you imagine most of the people in America actually drink?

I’ve been frankly nonplussed at the reaction to this information, and somewhat dismayed at what seems to be its clear implication: namely that a lot of people writing about wine are quiet out of touch with the average wine drinker in America.

Of course, most people writing about wine aren’t writing for the average wine drinker. You know, the one that buys most of their wines at the grocery store, or at chain restaurants where they eat out for dinner on occasion? These aren’t the folks reading wine blogs, wine magazines, or even wine columns in newspapers.
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