If you knock ratings, then don’t rate wines!
Sante Magazine, which is run by two longtime acquaintances of mine, Mark Vaughan and his brother Byron, isn’t usually something that makes me angry. It’s a solid ‘zine catering to the restaurant trade (and the always interesting sommelier column is written by Evan Goldstein, whom I’ve known since I used to hang out at his mom, Joyce’s, restaurant, Square One, in San Francisco.) I had just finished reading Evan’s latest column, a thoughtful tribute to visionaries in wine and food, when I turned to the next column and, seeing the headline, I thought: Here we go again.
It was titled “Beverage journalism is tired.” (Sante doesn’t provide a link to it, but it’s in their Oct. 2008 issue. However, here’s a link to the author, Alan Kropf’s, website at Mutineer Magazine, where, as editor-in-chief, he praises Sante for running his article.) Kropf’s gist is that “The current format of ratings, reviews, reports, and other dry content may serve the industry and collectors well, but it has little relevance to the modern fine-beverage consumer.”
Kropf goes off on the usual rant against ratings. He complains they “supply a shortcut substitute for knowledge” and urges writers to “transcend this model and give readers more.”
I did a little Googling of Alan Kropf and managed to find out that he’s a sommelier in L.A., is connected with a wine collection management company called VinTrust, which in turn puts out a periodical I get from time to time, in the mail, for free, because they send it to me: Somm Selections. I usually browse through it, because I recognize many of the wines. Here’s how Somm Selections works, according to this article in Wines & Vines: “Independent sommeliers across the country review and rate wines; their scores are combined and only those scoring 90 points or higher are included in the newsletter–which accepts no advertising. The SOMMeliers are paid a flat monthly fee for reviews…”.
Let me get this straight. The editor-in-chief of Mutineer says ratings are irrelevant and must be transcended. Then he reviews wines (for profit?) for a magazine that uses the 100-point system.
Just once, I’d like to meet someone who bashes wine magazines and doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive — making money. Hasn’t happened yet.