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Friday Fishwrap

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Beringer to Latinos: Buenas dias!

It’s always been a matter of concern to me that wine consumption in America is overwhelmingly by white people. Ethics aside, if wine is only being enjoyed by Caucasians it’s bad business practice. In California, whites are already less than half the population. Why don’t more Blacks, Asians and Latinos drink? Cultural reasons, is why. Black people like to drink, but their alcoholic beverages of choice tend to be cognac and mixed drinks. Asians seem to prefer beer and rice wine, if they drink alcohol at all. Latinos, too, like beer and liquor.

The wine industry has been very bad at reaching out to these communities. Partly it’s because the industry has no coordinated marketing effort. It’s also relatively poor, compared to the beer and spirits industries. And maybe the wine industry didn’t want to seem like it was pandering to specific ethnicities, the way certain brandies do in Black communities with billboards that are frankly sexual in tone.

It’s nice to see that wineries like Beringer at least are finally starting to take Latinos seriously.


Another blast at critics

This time it’s from blogger Craig Camp, who reminds us again that wine “is indeed a social event, it’s what should be for dinner not ‘fodder for criticism.’” Wine and food should be about sharing and socializing, not scoring. “Critics rank wines and taste wines against each other, which is a cruel thing to do to wine of subtlety and grace.”

Well, of course there’s truth in that statement. Reviewing wine does reduce it somewhat to the status of a Miss America beauty pageant. But I don’t see why enjoying wine with friends, on the one hand, and critiquing it are mutually exclusive. A person can fit both comfortably into his life. Besides, millions of people enjoy reading wine reviews. They’re a helpful way to choose which wine to buy. And remember too that it’s not entirely true that “Critics rank wines and taste wines against each other” exclusively. I do do that, but I also write articles and books about wine, so I’m an educator, not just a critic. I think we critics are often easy targets for a kind of anti-elitist bashing that is a form of elitism in itself. Still, I commend Craig for reminding us that “Wine appreciation is about appreciating wine, more accurately about appreciating life.” True dat!

Does anyone care about Bordeaux anymore?

Mike Veseth had an interesting post the other day called “Is Bordeaux still relevent?” He wrote, “Relevant to those of us in the United States, I mean. It used to define fine wine, but now we don’t seem to buy much of it – the momentum’s shifted to Asia. It’s just another ‘brand’ to many Americans, and not one that is especially successful.”

I completely agree. Nobody I know is particularly interested in Bordeaux. Oh, the Napa winemakers are (to the extent they can afford it), and some über collectors are. But few others. Most of the cool restaurants I go to don’t even have Bordeaux on their wine lists anymore, or, if they do, it’s just for a token. Just as well. We Americans were mesmerized by Bordeaux for a few centuries. But time marches on.

  1. Steve, this seems like a good time to rehash something I was considering adding to my comments on your post “Are Baby Boomers & Millennials Talking Past Each Other.”

    The comments in this post about critics made me think of it.

    I had dinner just a few days after your post on Boomers & Millennials with a winemaker I absolutely love (one of your Happy Canyon friends). We were talking about that post, and he said he hopes there are always writers around who can sit down and pen a beautifully descriptive set of notes for a wine. Not a generic, “this is bright with light tannins,” but a thoughtful reflection on the wine and it’s subtle details.

    I thought about this for awhile and I liked what he was saying. He himself is one of those guys that can pull things out of a wine I can only dream of, and you know, there is value in that.

    So while part of a critics job is scores, that is maybe missing the main point, which is to describe a wine accurately. While I don’t pay too much attention to the actual scores, and neither do most of my friends, I think we have a lot of respect for people who can sit down and accurately say “this is what this wine is about.”

    I too hope that doesn’t disappear from wine writting because it is a real skill. With thousands of wines, it is helpful to have some concise thoughts to reference.

    P.S. I know one Latino winemaker who does a blend of Cab and Rhone varietals he calls “Cabrhone.” That’s funny if you have lived in CA long enough.

  2. Steve,

    I was in Boston selling wine a couple of weeks ago and much of the wine talk was about 2010 Bordeaux wines….pricing, availability (not so much of first growths — but of 4th and 5th –), etc.

    So I think the lack of Bordeaux interest is, in part, a west coast thing. I haven’t drunk Bordeaux in years but apparently some parts of the country still do.

    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  3. Wayne, Cabrhone. Love it. About writing: Yes I’d love it if I could make a living writing about 1 or 2 wines a day. I’d write the most rapturous prose you ever read. Unfortunately that wouldn’t pay the bills. For 99% of us critics, tasting by volume is the only way.

  4. Re: Cabrhone. Try Putting the translation of cabrhone on a label and see how funny it is. NOT.

    There is an oil company called Chevron. At one point, the company was called Standard Oil and Chevron was simply a name for some of its stations–maybe those owned by the company as opposed to those owned independently.

    When they went into Mexico with that name, it met with resistance and they did not know why. The reason was the same reason why calling a wine Cabrhone may be a cute play on words but also why the English translation would be unacceptable just as Chevron and Cabrhone have unfortunate meanings, when they are pronounced in Spanish.

    Oh, and Chevy once had a car model called Nova. No va means no go in Spanish.

  5. Charlie, yeah I don’t know if they guy I met got the label approved. It was still in narrel when I met him. My wife told me about the Nova thing, pretty funny.

  6. El Cabrhone, the wine, on Facebook:
    http://on.fb.me/itMzoU

  7. Steve Says:
    “But I don’t see why enjoying wine with friends, on the one hand, and critiquing it are mutually exclusive.”

    They aren’t.

    Tom Wark…

  8. Tom, I see it didn’t take you too long to jump from Belize back into the blogosphere!

  9. While I stopped buying high end Bdx years ago, I still find that I prefer many of the lower priced offferings from the less exalted appellations that are priced in the under $20/ btl to most of the New World jammy fruit bombs.

    The other night we had two couples for dinner and four bottles of Bdx Superieur (Lestrille Capmartin)were consumed in no time! And had it not been 11pm, I suspect a few more would have been put away.

  10. Antonio says:

    Steve, please describe, delineate or otherwise tell us what you think a “Latino” is. You and your ilk of urban, intellectual, “greater than thou”, authoritative, liberals get my goat.
    I work in the wine business; have for more than three decades and I know a lot of Spanish surnamed people that enjoy the fruit of the vine. Just because a paricular billboard or advertisment is not in Spanish you come to the conclusion that we can’t read or understand the joys of wine?
    This is from a fourth generation Californian (on my mom’s side) whose father happens to come from Jalisco but is proud to be an American (without a hyphen) of what you would describe “Latino” descent.
    I still cannot figure out what or where Latino’s come from since it only describes an ancient language,no longer in use, not a country or ethnicity.

  11. Pete, awesome! I met Edgar at Barrel 27 last year. I brought them a bottle of Tequilla and he was pulling out a lot of food references from his Latin upbringing in his tasting note. He does it with wine too. That got him and I talking about Latinos and wine and he felt the same way as Steve.

    My wife is from Mexico and I can say her family very much loves wine, however, they don’t always drink very good wine unless I bring it. I think part of the reason for this is that there isn’t a place they fell comfortable to go and talk about wine. Let’s face it, it has largely been marketed to white affluent consumers like Steve said. To kudos to Edgar for pushing the envelope.

  12. Dear Antonio, calm down. Every generalization has its exceptions. Of course there are African Americans and Latinos who love fine wine. There are white urban Jews who hate wine. I am obviously referring to big picture realities well understood by advertisers and marketers. So I would ask you to understand that I was not casting aspersions on anyone. As for my “ilk,” that sounds a little angry and bigoted to me.

  13. Jon R Campbell says:

    I have had conversations with other winemakers about promoting wines made from iberian and mission grapes to try to better market to the hugely ignored hispanic demographic in california…..

    thankfully there are a few latino owned wineries that are promoting good wines such as bodega del sur in murphys and Borjon in plymouth……I hope in the future we see more latino owned wineries and latino wine drinkers……

    i like a good graciano, tempranillo, or mission port myself! the iberian grape is a good way to market wine to this demographic i think!

    and if you want to see a good party go to Borjon winery on the weekend of “the big crush” in Amador county, a huge spread of authentic mexican food and mariachi bands!!!

  14. Antonio says:

    Your right Steve I am an “Angry Bigot”.
    Why? …because I describe you and your “ilk” (Scottish derivative; meaning a sort or kind).
    As “urban” you live in Oakland, pretty urban in most people’s minds.
    “Intellectual” I assume this because I read your blog quite often and you seem well informed and intelligent, unlike people like me, the unwashed masses.
    “Authoritative” well you are an “author” and if you are not an “authority” on wine, why should we read what you write? (OK, I might have crossed the line on the “greater than thou” but that is the anger welling up in me, you understand Steve).
    “Liberal”, well Steve, you have made your political positions well known in your missives through the years, so if I am wrong on this one please correct me.
    So there you go, you pegged me Steve, I am the “Angry Bigot”.
    Of course you are not bigoted in any way, just because you stereotyped three ethnic groups in a matter of a few sentences with regards to their drinking habits.
    No… that’s how the media see’s us poor ethnic types, we have to talk down to them or they can’t understand what joy they will experience if they consume and buy our products.

  15. Sheesh, Antonio, as a gay short Jew I guess I know something about being stereotyped! But I don’t believe I stereotyped anyone. The facts I cited concerning wine consumption among varying ethnic groups are well known and not particularly controversial. You got all worked up over nothing.

  16. Antonio says:

    Yeah, well the details of your ethnicity, physical stature and sexual inclination really do not concern me, ergo my point.

    Let’s talk about this some other time in some other venue, obviously a wine blog is not a place to take to task a persons approach into racial stereotypes and such, so I will let it go for know, Mea culpa.

    Probably best discussed over a full bottle and a good meal. Just let us know when you are in the Napa.

  17. I haven’t thought too much about white people as main consumers of wine. But it does seem to be this way. So interesting.

  18. jon campbell says:

    Steve,
    What is the prefered varietals for the gay, short jew demographic

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