subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

How do you describe a wine region, anyhow?

1 comment

 

One of the constants of the wine writer’s job is describing wine regions. Whether it’s the Right Bank of Bordeaux, the Santa Rita Hills or the Finger Lakes, the wine writer is expected to understand the region’s terroir (climate, soils) and its impact on the major wine varieties and types produced there.

I don’t think there’s ever been a wine book that didn’t contain this information; at least, I’ve never seen one. It’s part and parcel of the wine writer’s challenge to explain why wine smells and tastes as it does. After all, if you take this away from the writer, there’s not much else to opine about!

So how’s it done? You’d think the wine writer would visit the region/s he’s writing about, but this isn’t always possible, given the financial constraints of the trade (don’t get me started). So the wine writer makes certain compromises: he looks up to see what others have written about the region in question—others with, presumably, more opportunities for world travel than he possesses (or who accept all those junkets!).

The traditional way of researching what others have written is, of course, books. But we’re in the Age of the Internet now. Why bother to read a book when Google can give you anything you want for free? The result is a new generation of wine writers that appropriates pre-digested information from the Internet.

I’m not saying there’s anything immoral about this, but it can be dangerous. The reason is obvious: You can’t trust everything you find on the Internet. Few people, I admit, have the motive to lie about something as dull as the effects of the mistral in the Rhone Valley, so the wine writer who depends on the Internet as his source of this kind of information is on generally solid ground. Still, second-hand sourcing can be risky.

I don’t think readers want, as their first choice, a wine writer who gets her facts from the Internet. They prefer, or at least deserve, hearing from writers who actually go to the places they write about. And not only go to them—but spend time in them, year after year walking the land, breathing the air, listening to the leaves rustle in the wind, smelling the earth and the soils and the underbrush, sensing how the temperature and wind patterns shift hour-to-hour, talking to anybody and everybody about anything and everything, and drinking the wines from that place to determine for oneself what they’re like. Well-heeled writers, sometimes sponsored, can travel vast distances of the globe, parachuting in and “reporting” on Austria or Crete or someplace else the sponsors send wine writers to for 3 or 4 days. But is this the best kind of wine writing ?

The worst thing in the world for the wine industry is for old myths to be repeated. There are so many of them; so many are wrong. If every wine writer took the following oath, wine writing would take a great leap forward: “I vow not to automatically believe things just because I read them or heard them from someone. I vow to come to every wine experience with fresh eyes and an open, inquisitive mind.” Wouldn’t that be something?

  1. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    Regarding . . .

    “The result is a new generation of wine writers that appropriates pre-digested information from the Internet. I’m not saying there’s anything immoral about this . . .”

    . . . not to sound like a pedant, but if someone “appropriates” . . .

    [definition:] take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission

    . . . information without attribution/permission, then that is unethical (plagiarism) and possibly illegal (copyright infringement).

    And if illegal, then depending on your belief system, immoral.

    Regarding these statements . . .

    “You can’t trust everything you find on the Internet. … I don’t think readers want, as their first choice, a wine writer who gets her facts from the Internet. They prefer, or at least deserve, hearing from writers who actually go to the places they write about.”

    . . . the question of whether a wine writer needs to have “boots on the ground” first-hand experience in an appellation to be qualified to opine about it, I answer “No.”

    Self-funded excursions to “wine country” (or gratis trade/press junkets) can only cover geographically a small portion of an appellation — largely that of your hosts. Only an enviable few have the luxury of time to repeatedly traverse an appellation and fully take in its geological nuances.

    ~~ Bob

Leave a Reply

*

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

Categories

Archives