Are wine blogs going tabloid?
I sometimes think the answer is yes. There are some of them out there that seem to be keened for every scandal that happens in the world of wine. Is somebody treading too close to the ethical edge? Is someone making money that a blogger thinks is inappropriate? Is somebody somewhere, anywhere, doing something that can be made to appear wrong? It’s going to end up in a blog, and most likely in some of the best known blogs in the country.
This screechy pattern of exposés is getting so frequent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a headline like CULT WINEMAKER LINKED TO SECRET LOVE CHILD or FAMOUS WINE ACTUALLY MADE BY SPACE ALIENS! One current example is the brouhaha stirred up when Sea Smoke put the words “grand cru” on their label, as reported by Dr. Vino.
Afterward, Tom Wark jumped onto the bandwagon at Fermentation.
Dr. Vino was actually pretty straightforward in his reporting; it was his commenters who got upset. Tom was more affronted, calling the Sea Smoke label “the most audacious packaging move I’ve ever seen a California wine ever make.” As someone who sees a lot of wine labels, I’ve seen far worse, such as labels where you can’t tell what the brand name is and what the proprietary name is, or where there’s an appellation listed that isn’t even an official A.V.A. (you’d be surprised, kids, at what an understaffed TTB can let slide by). I certainly find it much more audacious when a winery releases an expensive wine that sucks, which Sea Smoke’s wines emphatically don’t. Sea Smoke’s little exaggeration, therefore, doesn’t really bother me all that much, although the fact that they resorted to a Jim Laube quote shows a certain desperation in an era when Jim’s reputation has been declining for years.
Look, there’s nothing new here. We had a brand in California called Grand Cru years ago (does it still exist?), and don’t get me started on “reserve.” California wine labels frequently have stupid language on them. I personally detest anything French, including Grand Cru, because to use French words on an American label always strikes me as pretentious and misleading. But that’s not the only wording on labels I don’t like. I hate it when they put on somebody’s name–Jennifer’s Vineyard, or Terry’s Block, stuff like that. I don’t know who Jennifer or Terry are, and I don’t particularly want to. If you want to name a block or vineyard, do it the way Al Brounstein honestly did at Diamond Creek: Gravelly Meadow, Volcanic Hill, etc. In other words, something useful, not just personally boastful.
Why do certain bloggers revert to sensationalist stories that don’t, in the long run, matter? Because they want to boost readership with controversy. We all want more readers, needless to say, but at what price?