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Fourteen rules concerning wine blogging

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I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! We were down in Malibu, where we ate all the traditional foods and washed them down with a bunch of great wine.

 My post of Nov 24 elicited 32 comments (not counting the ridiculous spams, which fortunately you don’t have to see!), which is pretty good for a middle-aged blog that isn’t trying to rock the boat, but only thoughtfully observe what I see around me. Evidently, this subject of the relationship between wineries and bloggers (and the rules that can or should govern them) is of interest to many of my readers. It certainly is to me, which is why I address the topic with some frequency (hopefully, not too much!) As the Santa Barbara winemaker Larry Schaffer observes, This topic certainly has been covered before, but it’s always fun to see where folks stand on it.”

Fun, yes…and important, for as blogging (and other forms of online wine writing) become increasingly more important, it’s imperative to understand what these formal relationships really consist of. To my mind, the most important aspect of that relationship is that wine knowledge is becoming more diffuse and subjective. This is a huge game changer because:

  1. Nothing can be taken for granted anymore, because everybody is playing by their own rules (unlike the old days, when everybody played by the same rules).
  2. Bloggers, and younger generations in particular, are less beholden to the traditional way of doing things than their parents and grandparents.
  3. Therefore, there are as many sets of rules as there are bloggers.
  4. Therefore, any specific wine has a much greater chance of a great review or a lousy review than it used to have.
  5. Yet “what goes around, comes around.” What do I mean by this? See #14, below. But first, read #6 through #13.
  6. There’s no reason, in principle, why a lot of bloggers can’t decide that First Growth Bordeaux is too expensive, and is boring to boot.
  7. Thirty years ago, if someone had said “Bordeaux is too expensive and is also boring,” that person would have had zero credibility. Today, to say that “Bordeaux is expensive and boring” is a perfectly credible statement. Why? See #1 and #2, above.
  8. The inverse of this is to say that “Wine X is cheap but great.” It’s no longer necessarily true that a winemaker who selects a few special barrels of a wine, then puts extra oak on it and ages it longer before release, will produce a better wine. (Why? See #1 and #2.)
  9. When enough people agree that a “reserve”-style wine isn’t worth the extra money, winemakers will stop making reserve wines.
  10. I, personally, believe that most (not all) reserve wines are worth the extra money, but I am a Baby Boomer, and (once again), see #1 and #2, above.
  11. On the other hand, I don’t always want a reserve-style wine. We had mashed, baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows on our Thanksgiving table and it would have been ridiculous to drink an expensive wine with it. (Well, maybe Sauternes would have been nice.)
  12. Younger generations are more likely to eat things like sweet potatoes with marshmallows than gourmet cuisine, so they’re more likely to gravitate toward less expensive wines.
  13. In principle, there’s no reason why the age-old template of “everyday” wine versus “reserve” wine should continue to exist. Pace Andy Warhol, “In the future, every wine, expensive or cheap, will be famous for 15 minutes.”
  14. Here’s the irony. Although I believe everything I wrote above, I also believe we’ll continue to have expensive, critically-acclaimed wines forever. Why? See #5, above.

* * *

Today is our big event down in L.A., “A Tale of Sand & Fog.” I’ll be reporting on it in coming days. Meanwhile, please enjoy the rest of your Tuesday!

  1. “Today, to say that ‘Bordeaux is expensive and boring’ is a perfectly credible statement. Why? . . .”

    I’ll answer that softball question.

    The metric is “hours one has to work at his/her job to earn an income sufficient to purchase a bottle of First Growth Bordeaux.”

    (The same metric can be used for California “cult” Cabernets.)

    As a hypothetical, a wine enthusiast “nets” 50 dollars an hour in income.

    (“Back of the envelope math”: $50 “net” an hour times 8 hours a business day times 5 business days a week times 52 paid weeks a year equals “take home” pay of $104,000 a year. That’s an upper middle class income.)

    S/he covets a First Growth that sells for $400 at retail.

    (Not an uncommon price — corroborated by accessing Wine Searcher. It is not without some amusement that a Wine Searcher July 2014 profile of Le Pin stated the “2009 Le Pin . . . was released at $1630 per bottle.”

    Link: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/07/le-pin–the-ultimate-collector-s-wine- )

    S/he would have to work an entire business day to earn a sufficient income to purchase that First Growth bottle.

    S/he would have to work 12 days (two-plus business weeks) to earn a sufficient income to attain a case of that wine.

    How many individuals can afford to work half a month simply to purchase a case of wine?

    That’s the real world proof that Bordeaux is expensive — and increasingly out of the income reach of historically older collectors. And definitely most of the younger generation of first-time collectors.

    The question “How many hours do I have to work in order to afford this product?” underscores all elective consumer purchases (excerpting the truly affluent).

    [Aside: I attended the Santa Maria AVA event, and met Steve. But I won’t steal his thunder on writing up his thoughts on today’s gathering of the Los Angeles wine tribe.]

  2. Bob Henry says:

    “In Pursuit of Balance[d]” reporting, the less publicized aspect of Bordeaux.

    Courtesy of the Napa Valley Register “On Wine” Column (November 27, 2009, Page C1ff):

    “A Bloodbath in Bordeaux?”

    Link: http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/a-bloodbath-in-bordeaux/article_1d359ef5-2e74-54f0-9403-b5e36046b56a.html

    Excerpt:

    “Industry observers maintain Bordeaux is, in many ways, a victim of its own success. Due to a rather lofty reputation, wine drinkers tend to associate Bordeaux with the famous Grand Cru estates and assume that all Bordeaux is expensive.

    “Few consumers know that the majority of wines from the region are priced inexpensively. According to statistics released by the Bordeaux Wine Council, more than 80 percent of Bordeaux wines are sold at retail for less than $35.”

  3. Bob Henry says:

    Since this seems to be Dan Berger aphorisms night, let me add this column.

    Excerpt from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
    (November 26, 2008, Page D2):

    “Wine to Awe or Enjoy?;
    Setting aside scores, price and prestige may complement dinner most”

    Link: http://www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/creators-classics/dan-berger-on-wine/balance-in-wine.html

    By Dan Berger
    Creators Syndicate

    Excerpt:

    “Gaining entrance into the world’s most exclusive wine society is expensive, but there are no dues, no silly rituals to undergo, no costumes festooned with gewgaws, no gold medallions to polish, no bacchanalian icons requiring genuflection.

    “All it takes is a sealed case of some very expensive and already-famous wine, preferably red and preferably impossible to get.

    . . .

    “The secret is to have an unopened box of something so special that other wine collectors will drool when you tell them you have it. It must be a wine that others want, and thus is a wine that scores very high with one of the ‘in’ wine reviewers.”

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