Uncomfortable Truths: The Wine Edition
The Experts Are the Best Sources of Wine Info and Recommendations
The tendancy to disparage "wine experts" or "wine elite" grows as the role of social media and peer reviews grow. Yet the fact remains that the experts are the best and most reliable source of information on wine. Folks like Eric Asimov, Robert Parker, Jim Laube, Jancis Robinson, Steve Heimoff, Charles Olken, Dan Berger, Lettie Teague, Jon Bonne and other well known experts are the one's with the experience to best understand wine and best provide well-founded recommendations and critiques. There is no way around the fact that experience = expertise. It doesn't matter if you are talkinb about archeology, Rock n Roll, cheese, interior decorating or wine.
Expensive Wine Is Almost Always Better
While I realize that, like beauty, taste is in the palate of the beholder, it is a fact that a more expensive wine is likely to be a higher quality wine. The price of wine is generally dependant upon three things: the cost of production, the supply and the demand. More expensive wines almost always cost more to make because the they use better ingredients (grapes, barrels, winemakers, etc), because the demand for the wines are higher, and the supply is generally limited. I've argued in the past that pronouncements of quality are entirely subjective. But within the world of consensus understandings, we will almost always understand that more expensive wines are appreciated in greater degree than less expensive wines.
Few People Know What They are Talking About When It Comes to Terroir
We talk a lot about "terroir" and the taste of the soil in this business and industry. We all submit that translating the terroir into the bottle is paramount to the process. Yet the fact is, 99.9% of folks who talk about this sort of thing could not pick a Russian River Valley Pinot out of a line up that also included a Santa Barbara, New Zealand, and Carneros Pinot. And let's not even talk about trying to identify a Pinot from one vineyard and a Pinot from another vineyard a mile down the road. The implications of this uncomfortable truth are many, not the least of which is the role that faith plays in the area of wine appreciation.
Natural Wine Isn't Natural
Lots of talk of "natural" wine these days. More producers, retailers, wine bars and events are dedicated to the stuff. But "natural" is to wine as California Sparkling wine is to Champagne. It isn't that. "Natural" wine is processed grape juice and the processing and manipulation begins in the vineyard and ends with the marketing.
Ratings Sell LOTS of Wine
Despite the constant din of criticism of ratings and the 100 Point rating system in particular, ratings sell big time. And the 100 Point rating system is a huge driver of sales. If you don't think so, talk to the winemaker that just got their first 95 point rating from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator. Then ask them, would you rather have a string of tweets about your great wine or a 95 point rating from Robert Parker.
Driving the California Wine Routes Can Be Dangerous To Your Health
Driving along Highway 29 in Napa Valley, Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley or Westside Road in the Russian River Valley around 5pm on a Saturday can be very dangerous to your health. The problem is that so many folks who have just consumed way too much wine are on the roads. They may have been sipping, but in many cases it has been an all day sipping affair that is in reality and all-day drinking affair. This uncomfortable truth has yet to affect the local hospitality industry in substantial ways, but it just could in coming years when the next terrible tradjedy happens.
Too Much Wine Marketing Relies On The Idea That "You Can Be Better Than Them"
If you drink this wine, if you consume wines from this area, if you visit this wine region, you'll be a better, more sophisticated person than your neighbor. That, in a nutshell, is the basis of a great deal of wine-related marketing: being a "wine person" makes you a "better person". It is not an unusual marketing message. In fact, it is a message common to most luxury good products. But it is a little distasteful.