Don’t blame wine writers
I agree in general with many of the criticisms Gregory Dal Piaz expressed yesterday in his online article, at Snooth, entitled 6 Current Issues in the Wine Industry And how to work around them.
I said “many of the criticisms.” Not all. He’s got it pretty much right in his remarks about the 100-point system (which he, himself, uses as a critic). Yes, it is subjective, in the sense that it’s not as accurate as the pH reading on a wine. As long as we’re clear on that, the 100-point system is useful–a fact Gregory acknowledges.
I also agree with Gregory about lazy retailers. But I don’t think he’s talking about fine wine shops; I suspect he’s talking about supermarkets. Most wine is sold in supermarkets, which are never going to have robust wine sections or knowledgeable floor staff. So if you’re looking for a proactive supermarket wine aisle, fageddaboudit!
Bossy distributors? Sure. I’m onboard with that.
Where we part company is when Gregory writes about “Arrogant Wine Writers.”
Go ahead, read the link. It’s only 3 paragraphs in length. What I don’t understand is the snarkiness with which Gregory expresses his opinion. “The people who know it all,” he describes wine writers, who critique a wine “based on spending merely five minutes” with it.
I guess that includes me.
Look, I have never claimed to “know it all,” which is a very negative thing to say of somebody. “A know it all” is a pompous, gaseous windbag who goes around pronouncing on matters of which he knows very little. We all know people like that in the wine world, but you know what? They don’t tend to be writers. The writers I know do know a lot about wine, because we’ve studied it for many years and, hey, when you study something you’re passionate about for a long time (butterflies, the Bon religion of Tibet, Major League Baseball statistics), you end up knowing a lot about it.
But wine writers in general are a pretty modest lot. They’ll tell you about wine if you ask, but if you don’t, they won’t. I would ask Gregory to name one “know it all” wine writer. There is an element of “know-it-all-ness” among Masters of Wine and certain others who have abbreviations after their names, and I don’t care for it, either. But don’t bash wine writers for arrogance!
Gregory also accuses us wine writers of “us[ing] a language full of code words to make sure you never catch on to us, and attack you when we think that’s not working.” I read that phrase over and over, and still don’t know what it means. “A language full of code”? I don’t think so. At least, I don’t. I use normal English words in my reviews–words that mean exactly what they seem to mean, and are not coded. I concur that a wine review means little or nothing to most people, but then, if a consumer cares enough about wine to read a review, he or she most likely can understand what the reviewer is trying to say. And “to make sure you never catch us”? Catch us at what? The implication is that we’re somehow trying to fool people. Really? Do you think credible wine writers are trying to pull a fast one? I don’t. All we’re doing is expressing an educated opinion about a wine. If you want to latch onto people who don’t want to get caught lying and cheating, I refer you to politicians, used car salesmen and real estate agents–not wine writers!
And “attack you when we think that’s not working”? What the heck does that mean? I’ve never attacked consumers. I embrace, respect and support the ordinary wine consumer. When I evaluate a wine, I have a generalized, Platonic image of that consumer in my mind. I imagine him or her sitting right next to me, and me trying to patiently and cogently offer an interpretation of the wine I hope will be helpful. I have no idea what Gregory is talking about when he says we “attack you.” That is truly weird.
Gregory ends with this faux message from a fictitious wine writer: “Now please renew your subscription lest you miss a single prognostication.” This sounds like something that someone would say who doesn’t work for a subscription-based publication! Of course I want people to subscribe to Wine Enthusiast! Why wouldn’t I? It’s a great magazine, and subscribers love it. Again, the attitude with which Greg expresses this sentiment disappoints me. Surely we can have a polite discussion about any and all of these issues without dissing hard-working wine writers or imputing nefarious motives to us.