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Announcing the new “Voice of the People Worldwide Wine Awards Competition” exclusively on steveheimoff.com!

21 comments

“This coming March marks the date of the most unique, relevant and extraordinary wine assessment and awards event – ever.” Ever! Since the Big Bang! Nothing like it in the frigging history of the universe!!!!!

With this breathless hyperventilation, the producers of the latest get-rich-quick “wine awards” gimmick announce yet another effort to “democratize” wine assessment by taking it away from — gasp! — evil experts like me and handing it over to that ever-popular bastion of populism — the Consumer!

We’re seeing these “consumer-judged wine competitions” multiply like e coli in a petrie dish in this post-recessionary day and age. It’s kind of like the People’s Choice Awards, which lets the great unwashed booboisie (thank you, H.L. Mencken) give the bird to the elitists at the Oscars, Emmies, Tonies, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild by letting “The People” choose their own favorites, thank you, instead of having it crammed down their throats (interesting metaphor) by “experts.”

Irruptions (as opposed to eruptions) of democratic populism usually arise when democracy is being taken away by the powers who decide how much democracy the American people ought to be allowed. It’s understandable that people should want a say over things; hence the new crop of “democratic” wine competitions. It’s equally understandable that, when there’s a demand for something, entrepreneurs will seek to supply it. In fact, the smartest entrepreneur will convince the public they need something they didn’t even know they lacked. (Which is why hair conditioner was invented.)

Do you think most wine consumers missed being able to vote for wine? I don’t. They didn’t think about it one way or the other. That was before Social Media arose and told everyone far and wide that the age of “the people” had finally arrived. At long last, humankind will shake off the oppression of authority and govern itself through pure, unbridled democracy. Why take the word of a parlauzeroffrob (neologism: ParkerLaubeTanzerHeimoffRobinson) when “the people” can collectively make its own determinations? It’s especially good when a businessman can make a few bucks by organizing the circus.

So I am announcing my new “Voice of the People Worldwide Wine Awards Competition” via this site. It will be the greatest, most comprehensive, trustworthy, fabulous, most objective, fairest, most amazing, glorious, spectacular, praiseworthy, etc. etc. event in History. (Well, with the possible exception of the invention of bacon.) And you, The People, can star! Just send me a check for $10 and on the back of the check write down your favorite wine. I will personally tally the results and announce them here. One check per nomination, please. If you wish to nominate a magnum it’s $20. But a half-bottle will only cost you $5.

Brave new world! Who cares if print is dead? Long live The People! I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank!

  1. Good thing we have critics to protect us from the masses who prefer very ripe massively fruit wines steeped in oak . . . . oh wait . . . .

  2. Ah, the last gasp of the wine aristocracy. Like the Czar Nicholas and his family, you’ll be taken down in the cellar and… But if you’d just join the movement toward greater consumer participation, as Jancis Robinson did at CellarTracker, you might be spared.

  3. Tom, there’s no place I’d rather die than in a nice wine cellar!

  4. It sounds like fantasy camp for wine geeks–”Come hang out with your favorite MW and play wine judge for a day!”

  5. I’m laughing right now!

  6. Tobias Øno says:

    Gosh. Why not? Viva people, death to parlauzeroffrob!

  7. OMG – who are these morons who are putting this on and who do they think they are? I am always amazed by the audacity of anyone who thinks consumers are competent to weigh in on what they like!

    And certainly count me in on the “get-rich-quick” part of it! The stupid scheme I am involved in gives too much of the money back to the community and a global wheelchair foundation. How the ehll am I going to get quickly-rich with THAT kind of mentality!

    Hey Steve – come have lunch with me, I will cook.

  8. As someone who thinks that professional critics do have a place in the world of wine as well as in any other field, this was the stupidest article I’ve ever read on this particular topic.

    Why the resentment that some people like wines you don’t, or dislike your favorites? That’s the tone that comes across here.

    If people like big oak Pinots, let them drink oak. If they like flabby sweet Zinfandels, well, drink up. Who cares? You can still find wines you like, write about them, and people who follow you can drink them.

    If people buy books based on what the New York Times Best Seller list says, fine. You can always get a copy of the Poems of Catullus and read it in the original Latin. It’s available. Whether it’s the People’s Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, or the Oscars, do you always have to like the Best Movie of the Year? And what happens when the best TV show ever produced gets canceled after 2 episodes?

    People’s tastes are what they are. And now anybody can write about it easily and persuade others to follow their lead. So what is your point? That they are doing so?

    Please don’t write about this anymore. It demeans you and elevates no one.

  9. Tim "the ignorant" Consumer says:

    Thank you! Finally. Could you also tell me who I should vote for in the upcoming elections too? I don’t believe I am qualified to make that judgment either.

  10. While I may not have the same reaction (Hopefully sarcasm from Tim Hanni) I have to say such events are a total waste. The come all critic consumer models do not work. For me the greatest example is Yelp here in the Bay Area. The concept is fun but if you actually try and use it to define a good restaurant from a bad one you will more often than not be disappointed. Put twenty very different people in a room and talk food, wine and service you simply will not get a consensus. Even if you have a large enough pool and proper guidelines for ratings all you will get is middling results. What if your taste tends to be outside of average? Simply put find a reviewer or two you agree with and trust then listen to what the recommend.

  11. I agree with Phil’s comment: Find a reviewer (or merchant) you trust, and listen to them.

  12. I don’t get it.

    And I mean, I don’t get the competition OR the criticism of the competition.

    Isn’t there room for both pro and consumer wine events? Even if those events seem dumb?

  13. Dude: sure there’s room. Just saying.

  14. Dumb or not the fact is they do not produce good useable results that help guide consumers in buying decisions. And in the end is that not what such information is for?

  15. Phil:

    Of course you get outliers in crowd sourcing. ALL tastes are not the same, but they do tend to follow a bell curve response, to cluster on a graph.

    Why are you more often than not disappointed with a preponderance of positive reviews in Yelp? The notes alone are extremely edifying. As they are on Amazon, Trip Advisor, Verizon, and on and on. Please elaborate beyond just a bald assertion.

    You do not get “middling” results when a majority of individuals at different times and in different circumstances arrive at the same opinions (by the way this is not the same as finding consensus).

    Since the expenditure of funds is involved, I’d much rather spend it on a wine that received positive ratings from other wine enthusiasts, especially when these non professionals back up the views of the “preferred professional”. Conversely, when a professional wine critic gives a wine a 93 and selects it as wine of the year, and the wineaux on CellarTracker bestow an 88 on the same wine I have reason to hesitate.

  16. Just to clarify: Tim the “ignorant consumer” is not the same person as Tim the “Moron of Wine.” And yes Phil, sarcasm from my end with the caveat that we are looking at a lot of really cool new scientific discoveries that explain a lot of the disagreement, dissonance, derision and dysfunction that really does not need to take place around the conversations related to the enjoyment of wine. Our Consumer Wine Awards at Lodi is an exploration of a new approach targeting a known, and very large, segment of the wine-consuming population.

    This week, Dan Berger, a hypersenstitive taster whose tongue and preferences I have personally analyzed, is writing about his very real and very passionate views on what Cabernet should or should not be. His hypersenstivity dictates high alcohol burns, modern Cabernets and many othr wines are over-blown, over-oaked and not nice with food. For Dan, and anyone else with his sensitivity and values, this point of view is dead-on correct: “There are complicated reasons for this turnabout, but the bottom line is that we may have lost cabernet for all time. I can’t drink them young; I can’t imagine they will age well, and I cannot figure out why so many people are still buying them.”

    People at the more tolerant end of the spectrum will LOVE the high-alcohol, oak and intensity that has come to define Cabernet for the Parker/Laube crowd. And with food as well! The alcohol tastes ‘sweet’, the oak and tannin are not at all overbearing and in fact the very same wines are perceived as smooth, tich and balanced. To them, not necessarily to you or anyone else.

    And then this from Steve H.: “Well, these certainly are wines that have become spectacular in recent years. You really do have to wonder where their evolution will take them. I know some people who don’t like the Napa cult style, which is based on super-mature grapes (with consequent low acidity) and generous dollops of new oak. They’re entitled to their opinion; I happen to like it.”

    I can pretty much surmise that this is the perspective of a Sensative taster, skewed a bit more to the Tolerant side of taste sensitivity continuum. I have not had the pleasure of personally assessing Steve H.’s senstivity profile but will when/if he comes to lunch. I have personally tested Tim Mondavi and Jancis Robinson and they, along with Dan, are both at the hypersenstive end of the spectrum and very predictably in the same camp with Dan Berger on the subject.

    As a matter of fact, Dan’s remark: “P.S. Is there any connection to the decline in cabernet style and the dramatically increased sales of pinot noir?” actually points to the migration of more sensitive tasters (NOTE: not inferring “better tasters” of anything of the sort!!!) to lower phenolic wines which they have a more natural tendency to enjoy. The you can see the Hypersensitive vs. Tolerant division erupet in the same way over Pinot Noir between the people who love and savor delicacy and finesse vs. the high extract, high alcohol and heavy oak camp (read Tolerant tasters).

    Understand this is a greatly oversimplified version of the findings of 20 years of observation, research and learning with the participation of really great researchers and scientists around the world. There are variations and mitigating factors that abound in all of this.

    Hell – everyone is invited to my place for lunch of learn what we have discovered, argue and attack all of the premises for my outrages claims. I will cook, and I am serious.

  17. re: Dan Berger’s “we may have lost cabernet for all time,” this reminds me of those old “Who lost China?” arguments. Nobody “lost China.” China changed, and people who had (political, social and economic) investments in the old China were ticked off. Ditto with Cabernet. It’s not “lost.” The fact that so many people around the world love it, including me, proves that Cabernet is very much with us. Dan, whom I respect, may have a “hypersensitive” palate — I wouldn’t know. But is a hypersensitive palate necessarily a good thing in a wine critic? I don’t think so. Years ago I wrote, in the San Francisco Chronicle, that I wasn’t so sure Jim Laube’s hypersensitivity (or so he claimed) to TCA was a good thing. As for Tim’s observation that the “decline in Cabernet style” is connected to the rise of Pinot Noir, I don’t agree. Over the course of my career, many experienced collectors told me they started off with Bordeaux/Cabernet, and then, when they got older, found themselves preferring Burgundy/Pinot Noir. I think that’s a natural progression, and not due to any modern style of Cabernet.

  18. Jim Caudill says:

    Timmy, lunch sounds good. Will tonque scraping be involved? Count me in!

  19. Hi Steve,

    To your point “But is a hypersensitive palate necessarily a good thing in a wine critic? I don’t think so.” Not good, not bad. Just sensory physiology.

    The first thing to understand about what we are looking at is there is not a ‘good, bad, better’ to taste sensitivity. It just ‘is what it is.’ Some people have as few as 300 taste buds, others over 10,000 and this plays a very significant role in establishing our individual perception of wine and everything else. All of our senses come into play and taste sensitivity correlates to our sensitivities to smell, sight, touch and hearing as well. A person with way less taste buds has many advantages and the people with the very most taste buds often have preferences that makes the wine industry howl in horror! Just ask Dr. Virginia Untermohlen at Cornell University, one of our key research partners who studies this phenomenon in the context of personality development and behavioral traits and is a super/uber/hypersensitive taster.

    To your point “But is a hypersensitive palate necessarily a good thing in a wine critic? I don’t think so.” Not a good thing, not a bad thing – just a very important thing to understand so that the differences in our opinions, so brilliantly lit up by the ‘Great Cabernet Debate’, can be better understood in a very cool and valid new way. Also PLEASE keep in mind we are simultaneoulsy studying the psychological phenomena that have us move about with our preferences and passions.

    My observation on “the ‘decline in Cabernet style’ is connected to the rise of Pinot Noir” is specific to DAN’s comments, which are very typical of a hypersensative taster’s view of things and a migration to less intense, less bitter and astringent wines. It is not a universal or uniform progression to Burgundy or Pinot Noir, more like the ‘March of the More Sensitive Tasters’ with a lot of passion and intellectual elements involved! Seriously – give this a chance and you will be amazed at what we are learning.

  20. With all due respect, Tim, CA Cabernet sells three or four times as much wine as Pinot Noir and at higher prices. The “decline” notion is just B. S. by almost any measure except for those who are talking about stylistic preference.

    Those who do not like modern-day CS are wholly entitled to not like it. What they are not entitled to is to damn the wines as a whole class just because they do not like it. I respect everyone’s palate. I wonder why they do not respect mine or the rest of the world. I like Dan personally; most of us who have gotten to know him well also find him to be a very good and interesting person. But, his opinions are so one-sided, so very near to nihilistic at times like this that he has to be considered as a fringe player when it comes to describing the range of acceptable CA Cab styles.

    As for Pinot Noir, we are all delighted that it has made its way to the forefront of respectability. Its rise, so very late in coming, has nonetheless been a boon to the industry and to wine collectors. But, the rise of Pinot Noir, which from a hedonistic satisfaction standpoint began about 1990 by my ratings in Connoisseurs’ Guide, saw a tripling of Pinot acreage from 10,000 to 30,000 while Cabernet Sauvignon grow to 3 1/2 times its size, or 22,000 to 75,000.

    So, nothing wrong with the Pinot growth curve, but the facts say simply that CS grew more both on a percentage basis and in total acreage. Where do you find the CS decline in that? It does not exist, and calling it a decline in style is nonsense. The style is well-loved by the buying public. Dan’s palate does not dictate style and neither does anyone else’s–except possibly for the vox populi.

  21. Hi Charlie! Exactly my points – especially the vox populi end of things, ergo our Consumer Wine Awards! I think George Harrison played a Gretsch guitar through a Vox Populi amp early on, didn’t he?

    I have admired you almost as much as the Beatles since my early days in the wine biz, always waiting for the next round of puffs and prose from the Connoisseur’s Guide in the early eighties when I became a wine retailer in Atlanta.

    When are you coming to lunch? Jim Caudill is in – he even calls me ‘Timmy’ now!

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