Reaction to my distributor post was fast, furious
And unexpected. I never know when or if something I say will inflame passions or just bore. But the chastising comments I got have forced me to think this thing through.
Most of the negative comments to my post were along the lines of “stop bashing distributors.” Many seemed to be from distributors who took offense to my statement that they lack passion. One comment scored my post 68 points. Ouch. The most telling comment was from someone who accused me of the same faulty logic that Parker used when he said all bloggers are irresponsible: i.e., that all distributors lack passion.
For that, I issue a mea culpa. All distributors do not lack passion. I was wrong to tar them with the same brush, and I apologize.
Others wrote that it’s not fair to blame distributors when there are retail accounts that demand high Parker and Spectator scores; what are the distributors supposed to do? One or two said that the last thing the world needs is another high-priced Napa Cabernet from a famous vineyard. I’m not sure I agree with that. High-end Napa Cab is one of the most in-demand wines in the world, and when this recession is over, I expect it will bounce right back. But that writer is entitled to his opinion.
Someone else wrote in to say that the winemaker I referenced, the one who made the Beckstoffer Cabernet, really had no story to tell. I don’t understand that. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s some little peasant winemaker in the Veneto or Robert Mondavi. It’s dismissive to say that just because a winemaker uses Crushpad, he lacks authenticity as a winemaker. The industry is exploring new options and approaches, and these custom-crush, do-it-yourself facilities are one such. In fact, they’re more democratic than the traditional approach, because they enable people without deep pockets to get into the industry.
I think my frustration with distributors is due to the fact that I’ve heard countless stories from innumerable small family winemakers about not being able to get picked up and moved through the system. It’s true, as some commenters noted, that the wine business is exactly that, a business, and no one has the right to expect it to be easy. But when you hear this sad story about lack of distribution year in and year out, it gets to you. Something seems broken, somewhere along the line, if honest men and women who just want to have a little winery can’t sell the stuff without being on the road for 300 days a year.
Finally, there were commenters who agreed with my post. One thing I’ve learned about blogging is, We live in a big, messy democracy and people are going to have all kinds of different reactions to the issues. The 3-tiered system, obviously, is one that ignites passions, as it should. The status quo is unacceptable, and if my post moves the discussion an inch forward, that’s good. But thanks to my critics, I won’t be painting with such a broad brush anymore.
Parker, the Wall Street Journal & Me
I guess the Wall Street Journal is going to do an article on this Robert Parker thing that 1WineDude started and that Dr. Vino hopped on to. Actually, it’s more than a guess. The reporter, a guy named David, called up to interview me, and said he hopes to get to press this week. So, knowing a thing or two about the interview process, and bearing in mind that the WSJ now is owned by that paragon of fair and balanced reportage, Rupert Murdoch, I decided to inoculate myself against any possible misquotes, out-of-context quotes or just-plain lies.
Here’s what I told David.
1. Parker was wrong to impugn all wine bloggers (as I was wrong to impugn distributors).
2. He should say he’s sorry and get this behind him (as I hope to).
3. In fact, he should reach out to bloggers and find out who they are and what they’re trying to do. He might find, as I did, that they’re pretty cool. (I invite distributors to contact me anytime.)
4. The reporter wanted me to say that Parker’s diss of wine bloggers is a huge story in the wine industry. It’s not, and bloggers should let it go.
5. Re: Dr. Vino’s writing about paid travel:
6. It’s all about transparency. If Parker revealed, in his disclosures, that his hired correspondents accept junkets, I have no problem with that. (I don’t know if he did or didn’t, as I don’t read his blog.)
7. If he didn’t, then he should have.
8. If he’s now saying that he, Parker, personally never accepts junkets, but that he doesn’t concern himself with the business minutae of his hired writers, then Parker does have a little ‘splainin to do. But, again, it’s not some huge scandal he’s trying to cover up, IMHO.
9. Some bloggers sometimes seek to advance their careers by bringing down the big dogs with sensationalist exposés. I’m not saying anyone in particular is doing this, but it’s been known to happen.