The Picasso of Wine’s Sameness

I’ve written about that company called Enologix before. Not too flatteringly either.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by the subtext of the Enologix story: delivering sameness of style is merely a proper response to what the consumer demands.

Enologix is a company that has essentially mapped out the chemical elements of wines that score well with Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator Magazine. The company helps a winery deploy manipulations in the vineyard and cellar to come as close as possible to creating a wine that mimics other wines that have scored well with Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator.

It’s easy to see how this service works on behalf of sameness in wine. It is trailing indicator of critics preferences rather than a leading indicator of what’s good.

Why do I bring up Enologix again? I came across a really interesting dialogue between the owner of Enologix (Leo McCloskey) and Nancy, who writes the Goosecross Cellars Blog. (I should have know about this dialogue earlier since Goosecross is a client.

The dialogue offers a fascinating window into the philosophical and economic justification of an Enologix service. Did you know, for example, that the work of Enologix is comparable to that of Picasso?  Did you know that the sameness that comes out of the sorcery that is Enologix is one that helps the artistry of the winemaker? I didn’t.

Read this dialogue. It’s fascinating.

10 Responses

  1. Derrick Schneider - November 16, 2006

    Technically, Enologix doesn’t necessarily create high-Parker-score wines. Instead, the wine maker chooses a benchmark of quality (a style of wine, basically) and Leo’s software analzyes the wine maker’s wine for its closeness to that style. If the style is a high Parker score, than that’s what you can steer towards. If you like a Cote-Rotie, aim for that.
    I’ve talked to a few wine makers who use Enologix, and most said that it gives them more data, but they don’t always follow the recommendations from Leo. In fact, of the ones I talked to (four? five?), only one actually followed Leo’s recs but all appreciated his data, as it gave them the ability to see things they only guessed at before.
    There are a lot of interesting things about the process, in particular the use of sabermetrics in the world of wine. Whether it’s good or bad…well…that’s a different question.

  2. Mary Baker - November 18, 2006

    Thanks for the link, Tom. I’ve posted some of my thoughts on the Dover Canyon blog.

  3. Saint_Vini - November 19, 2006

    Tom: The debate aside, I’m curious to know how you would handle a situation like this where a paying advertiser or client has a position that you strongly disagree with. Will you take their side, disagree openly, or remain quiet?
    Not a criticism, but a legit question. Newspaper editors rarely find themselves in open debate with advertisers, so you’re in somewhat uncharted territory here (as are many other ad-taking bloggers).
    I’m curious about this as I think that ethics in blogging is still wide open and subject to much change as we go on.

  4. tom - November 19, 2006

    Not exactly sure what you are referring to? Nor am I sure with whom I’m in open debate. Your question is interesting, but I’m not sure what you are referencing.

  5. Saint_Vini - November 20, 2006

    Tom: You are on the side of your client, Goosecross on this issue – Enologix – (based on your post above). Thus my question – I was wondering how you would handle it if the shoe were on the other foot….

  6. tom - November 20, 2006

    Got it. I understand what you are getting at.
    First I’d note that I was on the side of Goosecross long before Goosecross was a client of Wark Communications. So, in that respect the affinity is natural and above board.
    It turns out I also have another client that has used Enologix services. And, it turns out I wrote about my feelings regarding Enologix prior to knowing they were clients. I’ve also written about enologix since discovering this about the client and I’ve taken the same tack.
    The question comes down to what kind of personal and intellectual integrity I possess.
    I can say that I would not work for Enologix for even a large pile of money. There are other firms I’d also not consult for no matter how high the pile.
    That said, I’ll admit doing work for a client on specific issues where I did not agree with their position on that issue. However, I did represent their position insofar as I did some ghost writing for them.
    While the work I produced was good, it’s not something I can be particularly proud of.

  7. Alder - November 22, 2006

    Back to core of the Enologix dialogue (which I have also had with Leo on my blog), I’d like to say that slamming Enologix for producing “sameness” smacks of the same logic which says that it’s Parker’s fault that all wine is starting to taste the same, which is flawed flawed flawed, mostly because 1. wines are not all starting to taste the same 2. it’s definitely not Parker’s fault.
    Enologix helps their clients make better wine. If they didn’t actually help them do that, they would be out of business already.
    Same argument can be made for Biodynamics right? These winemakers aren’t stupid. They’re only going to pay the $$ or go to all the effort if they think it will help them make a better product.
    A better product, when it comes to wine, is…. wait for it…..
    … a wine that TASTES BETTER TO THE PERSON MAKING IT. Anyone who knows how wine gets made knows that the winemaker spends an awful lot of time tasting the wine, and they are trying to make a wine that tastes good to them. I’m sure there are a few winemakers out there who are making wines that don’t taste good to them but are crafted for someone else’s palate, but to suggest that this might be common is ludicrous.
    So what is the measure of a wine that tastes good in this day and age? First of all, a wine that sells. Consistently. But second, a wine that receives high marks from critics (take your pick of critics, I’m not partial). So why is it so bizarre for someone with a scientific background to analyze those wines that get high scores and tell a winemaker “you know that complexity and depth that marks a really phenomenal wine? Well it comes from this compound. And by the way, we’ve figured out that you can get more of that compound by reducing your yields even further in the vineyard, or harvesting a little earlier than you might think, etc…”
    One of the problems I think with the way people think about Enologix (I’ll admit my first reaction was the same) is that they equate wine analysis with chemical manipulation of the final product. As I understand it Enologix is not about “synthesizing” award winning wines, it’s about providing data for winemakers to do what they want better.

  8. NewWinemakers - January 3, 2007

    Business Week: 2006 Best and Worst Ideas
    Enologix made the “Best” list,
    Give the professionals a chance. When you slam the new you make it more interesting for winemakers, too.

  9. Johnso - March 29, 2007

    In the spirit of Alder. What is the crux of Enologix? Is it some sort of intermediary between winemakers and consumers? Take a look at today LA Times and Enologix.
    “What’s really in that wine?”
    New federal labels may tell us more than we want to know.
    By Corie Brown, Times Staff Writer
    March 28, 2007

  10. test - March 17, 2013

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