When is Wine Info Reliable?
What is "reliable" information?
This question might take on more significance when discussing matters of life or death, the value of your home or information upon which you are going to base business decisions. With regard to wine and our passion for the beverage I’m not sure it’s nearly as important. After all, if someone tells you, "This is the best wine in the universe" and it turns out not to be…big deal.
But it still remains something we should all keep in mind as we peruse blogs like this one, the various wine magazines, as we listen to wine experts and as we take in the various wine-related political riffs that folks like myself and other bloggers and writers indulge in from time to time.
How then does one determine if the information we suck up is reliable? There are some basic rules that deserve repeating.
Is a source cited?
When you read or hear that X did or said Y, can you get to that source? The fact that blogs and increasingly non-blog but Internet-housed information does this quite well generally is an overlooked asset to the blog format. We tend to link. The other day I ranted a bit about what appeared to be a web site that stereotyped gays. And I linked to the site. That allowed a number of folks to look at the site and offer their opposite impressions. Look for citations.
Know who is Doing the Talking
These days if I can’t know the name and the affiliation or background of the person making the claims or doing the commenting I simply won’t spend time at that website. It’s a matter of putting one’s name behind something. Increasingly, I won’t give much time to a blog or website that doesn’t give me a way to contact the person doing the writing outside the comment section. If they feel the need to be detached from their reader, I don’t feel the need to be their reader.
It seems a diminishing commodity these days, but given the amount of biased (celebratory bias?) one is exposed to these days, a source that self consciously tries to be a genuinely unbiased source is a real treasure. In the wine world there are a few of those sources: Wine Business Monthly, Wine Market Report, Wines & Vines, Practical Winery & Vineyard, Vineyard & Winery Management. What all these have in common is they serve the trade…business. They attempt to be sources of information that others can use to run a business. Those behind these publications surely have biases. But they rarely come out in the news and research they report.
The entertainment an lifestyle publications are biased. In fact you want them to be if you are looking for a good, provocative, interesting read. The reviews of wines are by definition the source of bias. What else could they be. And, the editors and writers bring to the table a solid idea of what they believe is a compelling story. There is no way to do this without using one’s bias. If a reader knows this, they can get a great deal more out of the wine publications.
I’m looking for experts. I’m looking for folks that have been around the wine business long enough that they’ve seen and heard a lot. I expect them have a bias, but I also have a great deal more respect for these folks. They’ve tasted widely, talked to more folks, including others like themselves and, importantly, they’ve seen trends come and go. These folks may not give us unbiased information, but that is different than unreliable information. My experience is that the information I get from those that have been around this business for 20 years or more is going to be of a higher caliber, better filtered, more contextual.
More and more I’m thinking about what’s reliable information and what’s not. I’ve not been burned of late by relying on bad information. But of late I’ve seen more opportunity to be burned.