The Great and Influential Wine Blogger Confesses
Yesterday I spent a little time looking over the recently issued “Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry” after a couple of friends alerted me to the 2nd annual listing by IntoWine.com. The way I know they were friends is that they didn’t smirk, laugh or guffaw when they said I made the list.
I take list making seriously primarily because I know other people do too. Also, the act of ranking things can entail some pretty sophisticated thinking. So, the idea of a Top 100 Most influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry holds interest for me because not only is wine my industry, but it also begs the important questions: What is Influence and How do you measure it.
The person behind the Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry is Michael Cervin, a very accomplished writer whose byline has appeared in numerous publications of note. Michael doesn’t really explain how the list was developed or how the ranking was done other than to write: “we sought help to assemble this list from a diverse group of people and we are grateful for their input.”
The really big question about this ranking is how do you define “influence” in the U.S. Wine Industry. Michael gets us part way to that answer when he writes that influence is defined as “people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, form policy, and create debate.”
I think this description of what amounts to “influence” is incomplete or slightly off base, but it’s a very good start. And with that brief description of how influence in gauged, it’s interesting to look at the top 10 of the 100 people listed:
1. Robert Parker (Wine Critic/Publisher)
2. Annette Alvares-Peters (Costco Buyer)
3. Marvin Shanken (Wine Spectator Publisher)
4. Wayne Champlin (President of Southern Wine & Spirits)
5. Rob Sands (CEO of Constellation Brands)
6. Gina Gallo (Winemaker, Gallo)
7. Jim Laube (Critic, Wine Spectator)
8. Adam Strum (Publisher, Wine Enthusiast)
9. Doug Frost (Master of Wine, Master Sommelier)
10. Matt Kramer (Columnist, Wine Spectator)
It’s a pretty interesting list of U.S. wine industry influencers, I think you will agree, and in large part a good case can be made for its correctness. But, it is beneficial to try to get at what “influence” really should mean.
“Influence” is coveted. It’s earned. It is often wielded in pursuit or in defense of something or someone. Real influence can be so valuable that there are well-defined marketplace where one can purchase influence (or rent it). But primarily, influence amounts to the possession of tangible things such as money, audience, loyalty, access, and intelligence. The real important thing to understand about influence is that to be influential one must have much of one or more of these things than most others and one must be willing to use it.
The idea of listing in order, then, the Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S Wine Industry must really be evaluating who possess the greatest and largest pile of these tools and who wields them most effectively. When you look the top 10 listed above with this in mind, you start to understand why some should belong in the top 10 and why some may not.
But to sum up, I know this list is bogus and incorrectly devised. I know this not merely because of my own ranking at #50, but more importantly because of who is listed behind me. Today, a couple thousand people will read this blog post. However Jay Sung, CEO of Lot 18 (#100), will put a great wine offer in front of hundreds of thousands of people. John Hinman, Partner at Hinman & Carmichael (#98), will make a legal defense for very powerful companies that will impact the future of their businesses and thousands of their employees. Trey Beffa, owner of three K&L Wine Merchants stores (#93) will introduce wine to thousands of wine lovers online and in his stores and will help the futures of numerous wine brands. Bill Foley, Founder of Foley Family Wines (#92) will oversee a winemaking empire that spans continents and is responsible for the production of nearly 1,00,000 cases of wine.
But I do want to thank the couple thousand people who will read this blog post.