What Has Been Confirmed and Learned in My 16th Year of Wine Writing

Having just completed my 16th year publishing FERMENTATION, I look back at these past 12 months and, as is my tradition, seek to understand what I’ve learned or confirmed about wine, my industry, and its people in the course of my reading and writing and living. These are those things.

CONFIRMED: Wine Communications Remains Vibrant:
When I think “Wine Communications” I’m thinking real writers and media, not influencers. I’m thinking about the emergence of The Drop, From Pix. I’m thinking of the most intriguing and provocative voices writing today like Oliver Styles, Esther Mobley, Sean O’Leary, Robert Joseph, the XChateau Podcasters and Tanya Colleen Morning Star Darling. These and many others continue to demonstrate that there really has been no other time in the history of wine media consumption when the menu of options was so diverse and interesting.

LEARNED: Identity Politics Have Been Embraced in Wine
Thinking about it, the idea that postmodernist worldviews would not invade wine seems a silly conjecture. Relativism, the notion that standards don’t or shouldn’t exist, that white men have somehow misguided the wine industry, and the embrace of the idea that my skin color or your skin color can provide us any significant perspective on the quality of a 2016 Lodi Zinfandel are all with the industry and appear to have a certain unfortunate inertia.

CONFIRMED: “Three Tier System” is a Term of Art, Not an Enduring System
These past 12 months has found me highly engaged with legal battles surrounding wine shipping, including numerous expert testimonies and enjoying multi-hour depositions by wholesalers’ attorneys and state attorneys general. What’s been remarkable at times is the continued insistence among the anti-shipping element of the industry that the “Three Tier System” in its purest form exists anywhere in America today. Often relying on the notion that only with the strict three-tier system in place can states combat a slide into social debauchery, the deposers and attorneys and their support system seem to shield their eyes from the fact that most states have and continue to dismantle the three-tier system in favor of more commercial freedom. The ‘Three-Tier System” is really a term of art today, rather than an ensconced reality.

LEARNED: Wine Is Vitally Connected to the Success of Western Civilization
Learned only because I’d not spent too much time thinking about it or investigating the claim but rather always assumed it. These past 12 months, however, I’ve made the point of fiddling with great commentary (old and new) on Western Civilization and almost always with wine front of mind . The debate today is, of course, the nature of Western Civilizations most lasting legacies, both positive and negative. It seems unquestionable that on the positive side of the ledger wine must sit as not only one of the culture’s most positive lasting legacies but also a prominent and current-day exporter of the positive aspects of Western Civilization.

LEARNED: This Is the Moment to Enter the Wine Industry
A combination of factors has created the best time since I entered the wine industry in 1990 for someone seeking to enter this industry to find a position in the industry. This is confirmed by the WineJobs.com site, which is the primary place for wine job listings to appear. As it has for most of the year, it currently is hosting a huge number of open positions. In just the past 7 days 238 new positions have been listed on the site. It’s a combination of the industry re-tooling after the Pandemic eliminated positions and the Great Resignation having hit the industry too. While a certain amount of angst has been expressed by hospitality workers over the conditions in which they work, it remains a fact that using a tasting room position as the entry into the wine industry that can easily lead to higher-level positions is a viable path and never more accessible.

CONFIRMED: Disdain for Wine “Influencers” Born of Intellectual Snobbery
I don’t think I’m alone in concluding that there is a substantial lack of intellectual substance exhibited among the Wine Influencer community. This past year I made a significant effort to explore and imbibe Influencer-generated “content”. I went into the effort under the assumption that most of what is furnished from Influencers as “content” possesses a substantial lack of depth and thoughtfulness. I came out of my investigations with a mind completely unchanged. In fairness, the point of the Wine Influencer is not to feed their followers intellectual curiosity nor to delve deep into subject matter, but rather to titillate and sell sponsorships—they are advertising vehicles. This I get. Still, I recognize that my obvious disdain for this breed of advertiser is based largely on my own intellectual snobbery and my constant hope that folks communicating about wine will rise above the shallowest of waters.

8 Responses

  1. George Ronay - December 8, 2021

    Tom: First of all, Congratulations on 16 year! Wish I could be as optimistic as you are about the decline and fall of the 3-tier system. Other relics of regulation continue as well – both Texas (a good friend with a good cellar lives there) and Colorado (my son and his SO) still don’t allow corkage – at least not legally. So I guess take-out will have to take place….

  2. Donn Rutkoff - December 8, 2021

    It has been and ALWAYS is a good time to get into the wine industry. Just for grins, last night, Dec 7, 2021, I opened a 2009 plain old Crianza from Rioja. Stored properly, of course. The fruit tasted like it was picked 24 hours ago. All the usual 6 or 8 different berries and cherries.
    Yum yum. Marques de Caceres. Bottoms up!

  3. rh+drexel - December 8, 2021

    Happy Anniversary! Keep the thoughtful content coming!

  4. Mark A Storer - December 9, 2021

    Congratulations on 16 years! I started reading Fermentation in your first year and it remains an invaluable source! Thanks for so much great work. Many Happy Returns!

  5. Tom Wark - December 9, 2021

    Donn….Keep having fun!

  6. Tom Wark - December 9, 2021


    Thank you!

  7. MONICAFIORILO - December 10, 2021

    I am an Italian web editor and have followed your page for a long time. Congratulations on your 16 years of work… you have shed “light” on many topics, especially from the other side of the world. I am pleased that we share fundamental concepts of wine such as culture, terroir, identity, typicality, and, why not, harmful elements in the “Wine World.”
    I think that the future of wine will be challenging, mainly because people do not always recognize these fundamentals and want to make wine a simple alcoholic beverage, mixed in RtD (Ready to Drink), inserted in the commodities of large-scale retail trade, simplified to the variety of grapes, disconnected from the territory and identity.

  8. Josephine Chapman - October 19, 2023

    Hey there, my friend! I just had to drop by and let you know how amazing this post is. It’s exceptionally well-written and covers all the important information. I’m eagerly looking forward to more posts just like this. Keep up the great work! By the way I am a Senior Researcher @ (Clickmen™)

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