Provoking The Future of Wine Journalism
Of late (say the last 3 to 5 years) I noted something of slight detour in wine journalism. Rather than a dedication among wine journalists toward praising and congratulating wines as a rule, there is a slight move toward the secular and cynical when it comes to wine. But it’s ever so slight and that’s because among those who read most of the wine writings, there is not that much call for peering behind the color and taste of the wine.
Nevertheless, has anyone noticed the willingness among serious wine writers to question and closely consider what goes on in the world of wine and in the glass? We’ve always had those who place wine in a social and political context…at least one or two of them who write for a small audience. But today it seems more are willing to look at wine this way.
I’m not talking about reporting on scandal and society’s underbelly, which often leaves me feeling a tad soiled upon reading this kind of story. I’m thinking about critiques of governing wine styles, open questioning of the critic’s role in wine, the various business stories that count up the beans and the close investigations (usually in book form) of the "wine culture".
You don’t write stories about how a product is understood by people, critics and business unless unless that product has come to matter. Where that threshold is for how much a product or industry must matter to the public at large lies, I’m not sure. However, I do know we’ve crossed it when it comes to wine.
The Internet, with its blogs and chat rooms, will tend to cross that threshold more willingly than the traditional wine media if only because its members have less at stake and more concern to jump up and down shouting, "look at me!". In the last two weeks a variety of wine business stories broke out of the Internet and hit the traditional media. And in the recent past we’ve seen stories on how the character of wines have changed, why they should change back and what the international and globalist implications of wine might be.
I think the trend among the traditional wine media and the non-wine media is to continue to look for stories that have broader implications than just how a wine might be sumptuous or great to pair with lasagna, though this kind of writing will always rule the day.
I wonder if wineries have noticed this trend? And I wonder if their marketing and PR shops have noticed it too. If they haven’t then there is the risk of acting as though no one is watching or as if very little matters to the public and media beyond what their wines taste like. That would be a mistake. But here’s where the action and reaction comes in. We most certainly will see wine companies get into some tepid water now and again in the media. That will lead to wine companies being a bit more careful in how they act and speak. This will lead to the media peering in more closely. This will lead to even more searching journalism. This will lead to even more careful explanations by wineries of their company line.
This…in turn…offers opportunities to the winery that wants to gain attention by speaking honestly, forthrightly and provocatively…because it seems to me that wine writers, traditional and not-so-traditional are more frequently looking for "provocative."