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If it’s in the newspaper, it must be true


And it was in the newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle to be exact, in last Saturday’s Food & Wine Section:

Forget tasting — it’s now about ‘twasting’

(The headline in the online version is different, but the article itself is the same.)

This was wine editor Jon Bonne’s ode to Twitter, which he said he was late getting to but now gets. “I have seen the future of the tasting note,” writes Jon (a friend). “It is defined by Twitter. Forget pain grillé and 92 points. Welcome the era of the ‘twasting’ note.”

Pain grillé?


Anyhow, what excites Jon is “the glory of 140” — the upper limit of characters you’re allowed in a Tweet. By some stretch of the imagination, Jon equates the brevity of a Tweet with “shoving you [the reader], hard,” to the “truth” of– what? A Tweet? Has Twitter now become the repository of truth because it’s so, well, pithy?

Jon contrasts a Tweet with “the curse of old-fashioned tasting notes” which he says are just “a litany of the senses. No qualifications, and therefore no closer to truth.”

Well, as the writer of “old-fashioned tasting notes” (which Jon seems to equate with anything in print), I can’t agree. (And by ironic coincidence, on the same page as his column Jon has ten “old–fashioned” wine reviews, some of which approach 200 characters.) My tasting notes in Wine Enthusiast rarely if ever exceed 100 characters and are often shorter than that, because most wines can be described briefly. But I wouldn’t want an ironclad law to limit what I can say.

I also disagree that “old-fashioned tasting notes” have “no qualifications,” if by “qualifications” Jon means qualitative pronouncements. Here’s a sampling of things I wrote in recent reviews: “not an ager.” “Not going anywhere.” “Makes the tannins drier and harder.” (That can’t be good, can it?) “Asparagus-infused flavors.” “Clumsy.” “Anonymous.” I can be complimentary, too. “Delicious.” “Dramatic.” “Serious and classic.” Those are qualifications, not just “a litany of the senses.”

What I’m getting at here is the seductive power of social networks such as Twitter, which has so ensorceled (one of my favorite words, courtesy of Gore Vidal) Jon. The Internet is very empowering, and when people discover a new and interesting way of using it, they often become instant addicts. But there is evidence people leave Twitter after an initial period of enchantment. A Nielsen study published in April said that “more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month.” These “Twitter Quitters” are leaving at such a rapid rate, the study found, that “There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.” The bottom line is that Twitter “will not be able to sustain its meteoric rise without establishing a higher level of user loyalty.”

Well, Twitter gained another loyal user when Jon Bonné finally joined. But will he stay, or become another Twitter Quitter? We’ll have to wait and see. We’ll also have to see if this interesting prediction Jon made comes true: “Before the year’s out, you’ll see twasting notes quoted on the wine-shop shelf.” Maybe — if they’re written [twitten?] by Jancis Robinson.

By the way, I’m not saying I’ll never Twitter. I just might.

* * *

There once was a Tweeter named Ruth
Whose tweets contained naught but hard truth
With the glory of 140
Ruth told her short story
Then expanded her twastings on Snooth

  1. It’s odd – I’ve been using twitter for my tasting notes for about 2 years ( ) and I felt that article didn’t capture my experience with it at all.

  2. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the effect of Twitter on the wine world, Steve. I’ve already pitched the idea of using Twitter wine tasting notes on shelf talkers at Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, Mass. One of the owners, Craig Drollett, is the creator of Twitter Taste Live, which the author mentions briefly. It seems the only reason Craig hasn’t put tweets on shelf talkers is because his shop is moving wine so quickly that they don’t have a chance.

  3. Although I subscribe to your blog, ironically, I found out about this new post via Twitter!

    This was posted by @dalecruse

    Is @steveheimoff the Andy Rooney of wine? He doesn’t get how Twitter and wine intersect. Let’s explain it to him:

  4. Count me as one of the people who doesn’t get Twitter despite being part of the internet generation. Maybe I’m old fashioned: I like email and thoughts written in paragraph form, not chat and snippets. I think that’s an excellent point that Twitter notes are not all that different than “old fashioned” notes. Other than the lexicon, they’re remarkably alike.

    At any rate, tweeting brief notes doesn’t do much for me. Professional wine writers can do it better because of vast experience. I’ve commented before that the Web is best as an outlet filling a niche like diving deeper into an obscure wine or region or adding context to a wine beyond its organoleptic qualities. Tweeting is a facsimile, albeit in real time.

  5. RT @musecrossing RT @ryanopaz: The Ten Ways Twitter Will Permanently Change American Business [#empowrhim]

    In English, that’s a retweet of an article about twitter that Ryan Opaz and musecrossing and I all felt interesting enough to pass along. I do love Jon Bonne’s take on “twasting notes,” but also wanted to point out this aspect of twitter power – namely, not necessarily cramming a complete cencept into 140 characters, but rather simply using digital word of mouth to share links to other blogs/sites/articles in cyberspace.

    By the way, my experience is that twitter takes a good amount of time (weeks) to learn, but it’s more like learning a new dialect than a new skill. And the learning goes on for months; for example, I know in the retweet (RT) I pasted above, the #empowrhim indicates an aggregation of tweets under that “hashtag” but I am not sure what the heck empowrhim exactly means…

  6. Further along those lines, I would venture to say that the people that join then end up leaving Twitter don’t understand what the platform is all about.

    For example, how many of those people appreciate the power of:

  7. The Andy Rooney of wine…

    Oh, man – that is sooooooo good! 😉

  8. OK Dude, so who does that make you? The Aston Kutcher of Twitter!

  9. I was a Twitter quitter. The first year I managed nary a tweet. Then, a year later I picked it up again. For the past year and a half I’ve steadily increased my tweets to the point now where I only blog when I have a Very Important Message that I need to communicate.

    And even then, over 1/3 of my traffic comes after I tweet about it.

    Give it a try Steve. You’ll be struck by the immediacy. They you’ll tire of it because you won’t understand it fully. Then you’ll come back. It’s the established pattern. Come join the Sheeple!

  10. Also!

    95% of blogs are abandoned.

    Which is higher than 60%. So, Twitter wins!

  11. Shower to the Sheeple.

  12. Indeed. The sheeple could use a shower. They’re filthy. :-p

  13. The Aston Kutcher of Twitter? (or of wine?)

    I WISH!

  14. Further to Tish’s post:

    The illustrious Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and Web 2.0, has over 535,000 followers. The way he tweets is worth noting. Not one “I’m going to bed now” Just jammed packed references to worthwhile info on the Internet.

    For example:

    Why the Smart Grid Won’t Have the Innovations of the Internet Any Time Soon cf Hal Varian’s “real time economics” #gov20
    4 minutes ago from twhirl

    Cool to find Korzybski’s arcane but influential Science and Sanity online in its entirety Drawing on it for Ignite talk.
    31 minutes ago from twhirl

    Good to see Blair Levin taking a job at the FCC. He is one smart, thoughtful dude. #gov20
    about 1 hour ago from twhirl

    This makes me sad: Even those of us who can see it see less. I remember the brilliance of the milky way frm my childhood
    about 1 hour ago from twhirl

    Years ago, I published Love Your Job! Now Prags publish Land the Tech Job You Love Gr8 minds…?
    about 2 hours ago from twhirl

    RT @rabble Great talk by @ethanZ about his big data mining of the media project at beyond broadcasting #bb2009
    about 2 hours ago from twhirl

    “If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere” says @whiteafrican arguing for more sw dev and testing in Africa. Good!
    about 3 hours ago from twhirl

    @aracena Lots of strangers start conversations w me, but they do it by sending me stuff that they think I might want to know about. No #FAIL
    about 4 hours ago from twhirl

    @sengseng Totally. How do you think I found you, @cheeky_geeky and other #gov20 types in DC? Didn’t know anybody, now collaborating w lots
    about 4 hours ago from twhirl in reply to sengseng “people should not have to take a civics lesson to learn how to get the services they need.” #gov20
    about 4 hours ago from twhirl

    I’m honored that David Fletcher gives me some credit for inspiring features of new portal! #gov20
    about 4 hours ago from twhirl

    In worms, genetic clues to extending longevity. Tuesday (Science Times) is my favorite day to get @NYTimes!

    and so forth and so on

  15. Okay, when I got twittered by Stephen Fry, I knew my twitter days were numbered.
    I am on Steve’s side.
    Yes, a tasting note can be written in less than 140 characters (even Broadbent) and no, I don’t like that I inspire some marketing person to use my notes on their shelf talkers (and not pay me).
    Tish, I understand the concept, the execution (the URLs can be great references and are Twitter’s undercover interest), …and the bore factor in Twitter’s wine segment.

  16. Interesting to note that the more popular ways to use Twitter are in ways it wasn’t designed. It was designed to be the “what I am doing right now” for friends and family, and has turned into a link/reference broadcast engine for what each person finds cool.

    And a giant popularity game. Sort of silly to see someone following a 1,000 people. I follow 60 and can’t keep track of them (some people Twitter waayyyy too much!). I’m following Wine Enthusiast in there somewhere I think…

    I’m playing around with it myself as a way to add to the personality of the winery – still exploring how best to do that. It will be interesting to see how Twitter and other social media evolve (or devolve).

  17. So. Would one say brevity is the soul of twit? (I’m something like the 2,011th person to crack that groaner, according to the google machine on the interwebs.) I’ve been on for 2 months and still have not found a reason to quit. But I don’t buy into this whole “wisdom of crowds” thing, especially when it comes to wine. Note to random people out there – chances are I don’t like what you like, and vice versa. As far as I’m concerned, most of the tweeting of wine notes is a big twaste of time.

  18. John: This thing will be playing out for some time. Stay tuned.

  19. From what I gather I think the sentiment being expressed by Jon Bonne is the reductionist appeal. By putting a limit on someone’s expression, you force them to get to the core of their message and prioritize to the most important information. There’s no other way around that fact. That’s what I believe he meant by truth.

  20. Dylan, but there’s no evidence or logic that forcing someone to testify quickly gets any further to the truth than considered thought.

  21. Steve B says:

    This is a great report because it has re-kindled my hopes that Twitter will come and go… People need REAL, ACCURATE, UN-BIASED information from QUALIFIED, EXPERIENCED, MATURE sources to make decisions that affect their lives. They also need to re-civilize themselves. Twitter ain’t that. I can’t wait for the day when people talk with each again. Technology aids for communication really only do one thing- they isolate people- think about it (pen & pencil excepted) EXAMPLE: Try talking about something besides the weather with a stranger and see how uneasy they get…

  22. I’ve tried, I just cant. I don’t get it, I don’t know how to read it and I NEED my (……..’s) to express myself, so I’m out. I understand that it may make reduction of verbage a must, but I like layers and texture, get no texture from tweets.

  23. Steve, one thing though.

    If woman wearing next to nothing with sultry names start following you it’s not because they think you’re a stud–they are really spammers incongnito.


  24. JD in Napa says:

    For those who feel that twasting notes have little value, consider that they can be best used as a teaser, followed by a link to your blog where the wine is discussed in full. I’m in full agreement with those who suggested that the value is not specifically in the 140 characters (best as 120 to permit retweets), but in where the Tweet leads you. Tom Merle provides great examples of this practice.

    And Tish is right about Twitter taking time to learn; at first blush, it’s a cascade of words, abbreviations, RTs and #. After you take some time to figure it out, and get things under control with a utility like TweetDeck, it becomes a useful tool.

  25. I have about 80 followers, including some from here. I get about 300 Tweets per day. Who can read them all? This is not conversation. It is a mess. But, Tweet I must, and, glory be to Bacchus, Steve Heimoff just added me to the list that he follows.

    Tish, you say you are learning the world of twits. You have over a thousand followers. How do you wade through it all and still do constructive work?

  26. Jim Caudill says:

    I’m still caught by the reference to Gore Vidal, and the fact that not one person even mentioned it. I’m guessing that boy (and Norman Mailer) would have made great Tweeters….

  27. Actually I think Gore is still alive. But I doubt if he twitters.

  28. Jim Caudill says:

    Your are, of course, quite correct, bad phrasing on my part. More Vidal trivia: his pen-names include Edgar Box, Cameron Kay and Katherine Everard the first two of which might make good brand names for wine.

  29. Charlie, “reading” tweets is like watching TV in slo-mo. It is designed to be far more fluid. It is like learning a new skill set and a new dialect.

    To use a metaphor (risky business around here), imagine being in a very large, very crowded, very dark place. It seems futile, useless, confusing. Twitter is like that; but if you relax, observe and participate you wind up filltering out the garbage and being able to “follow” people you might care about and then pay attention only to the tweets that actually interest you.

  30. William Bixby says:


    I’ve seen this used a number of times in magazine tasting notes, but can you really justify the use of the word “clumsy” based on a wine’s aroma and taste? What is that word really trying to say about the wine?

  31. William: clumsy. lacking grace or skill. awkwardly shaped or made; ill-constructed. badly contrived; inelegant. (From Webster’s New World Dictionary)

  32. What I cannot get is how people who multitask (tout le monde) deal with Twitter beyond best friends who interact and don’t overTwitter.
    When I have no work that pays or work that benefits from wine Twitter, I also have time to funTwitter and see how other “clubs” Twitter. Along the lines Tish described.
    Right now I am writing about global corruption and money laundering.
    So, of course, I must ask mes amis…what is the wine pairing? (off2wine)

  33. White Graves.

  34. In the Kingdom of Franzia we have no worries about money laundering. The King has it all.

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