Tag Archives: wine writing

podcast

Winecast 46: Richard Hemming, MW, and why wine writing isn’t necessarily objective

richard hemming

Richard Hemming, MW

“Why should [consumers] trust us? They shouldn’t, necessarily,” says Singapore-based wine writer

Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, wrote one of the most amazing blog posts I’ve ever read: Wine writers can’t be objective given the incestuous nature of the wine business, and consumers need to know that this prevents us from always being objective.

It’s one thing for me to write that, which I’ve been doing as long as there has been a blog. But if Hemming, firmly part of the Winestream Media — initials after his name, consulting work, and articles for important magazines and websites — writes this, it speaks to how messed up wine writing is.

Hemming doesn’t disagree. But he also doesn’t see a solution, since it’s difficult to make a living as a wine writer. So we have to depend on the kindness of strangers, with all of the compromises that entails. In this, Hemming notes, there’s a difference between a compromise, like not writing something that would offend a source, and corruption, such as taking money for a positive review.

Needless to say, I don’t agree. But Hemming’s point is well taken, and he hits on one of the key questions facing post-modern journalism, wine or otherwise: What’s going to replace the ad-supported model that paid for newspaper and magazine reporting in the second half of the 20th century? Because, so far, it isn’t the Internet.

The other thing worth noting? The post was easily the best read on Hemming’s blog, and most of the comments — from wine writers, of course — agreed with him.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 15 1/2 minutes long and takes up 9 megabytes. Quality is good to very good; I still haven’t figured out how to get the most out of Zoom.

Winebits 647: Responsible drinking, wine sales, wine writing

responsible drinkingThis week’s wine news: We’re not boozing it up during the duration, plus what comes next as the country opens up and a wine writer discusses wine writing and objectivity

Not overindulging: You couldn’t tell from many of the medical warnings we’ve heard over the past couple of months, but a survey last week found that we’re not drinking more than normal during the coronavirus pandemic. Responsiblity.org, a group funded by some of the biggest alcohol companies int the world, says more than six out of 10 Americans are drinking the same or less as before the pandemic – and that includes 11 percent of us who say they’ve stopped drinking entirely. These studies can be unreliable, and that it was paid for by liquor companies gives another reason to wonder. Having said that, the numbers – 35 percent drinking the same, 28 percent less – jive with similar surveys from Nielsen.

What will it take? Nielsen reports that alcohol sales will have to continue to grow more than 20 percent to offset losses from closed restaurants during the pandemic. Which isn’t very good news for the wine business, if the Responsibility.org survey is correct. That means, as restaurants open at less than capacity, or don’t open at all, we’ll have to buy more from retail to make up the difference from what we bought in restaurants.

Hardly objective: Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, caused a stink in the cyber-ether last week when he wrote that most wine writers aren’t particularly objective and do consumers a disservice. “the wine media is frequently compromised by the close-knit nature of the trade. … The quick answer is money.” The industry has it, whether in samples or trips, and wine writers take those perks. It would be one thing for me to write this – which I do regularly – but that someone with initials after the name put this in print is mind-boggling. I’m trying to set up a podcast with Hemming to talk about this; as soon as we figure out a way to handle the time difference between Singapore and Dallas, I’ll post the podcast.

wine critics

The sixth do-it-yourself wine review

do-it-yourself wine review

I’m really going to have to practice if I ever hope to write as well as this.

The blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review — what better way to enjoy the duration than to poke fun at wine?

Technology keeps threatening to make wine reviews obsolete, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still revel in the snobbish gibberish that has made them infamous. Hence, the blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review.

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him. This year, the format is a little different — reviews of four wines. A special tip of the WC’s fedora to those who contributed classic lines.

This French red blend:

This California cabernet sauvignon:

This Italian Prosecco:

This $50 rose:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The fifth do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review

wine critics

The do-it-yourself “Wine during the duration” post

do-it-yourself wine

“Let me finish this glass, and I’ll see if I can find that Boston doctor thing. It has to be around here somewhere.”

What better way to idle away the hours than with a do-it-yourself “wine during the duration” post?

The blog’s annual do-it-yourself posts are some of its most popular: the do-it-yourself wine New Year’s resolutions and wine review. They allow us to skewer wine’s pomposity and, if I’ve done a good job, offer a few giggles. So why not a do-it-yourself  “wine during the duration” post?

So take a look at these suggestions for spending your time with wine during the duration. Use the drop-down menus, click the answer, and choose your favorite line. And keep in mind that some people think drinking wine during the duration, including a certain Boston doctor, will kill us sooner rather than later.

Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so. As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the do-it-yourself idea from him.

The first thing I did after I had to stay at home was to:

My duration buying patterns have changed:

My duration drinking patterns have changed:

The biggest wine problem I’ve had during the duration has been:

All in all, I’d say wine during the duration:

Six days without wine

winespeakHow does a wine writer get by if he goes six days without wine?

How is this for irony? A day or so after last week’s wine blogging and coronavirus post, I got sick, and that meant no wine for six days.

The illness was nothing serious, just a variation on a theme that I’ve been enduring since grade school. It’s not really strep throat and it’s not exactly the flu; more of a cold and sore throat that last a week to 10 days and where the only thing one can do is wait it out.

So, of course, that meant no wine for the worst six days, which is hardly ideal for someone who makes their living drinking wine. Still, given how crappy I felt, I didn’t notice the absence. That’s more or less what happens every time I get this. In fact, one of the ways I know I feel better is that I want a glass of wine instead of the salt water I have been gargling every two hours.

My illness-induced abstinence made me ponder (though, to be honest, I didn’t do much pondering at the time given how crappy I felt):

• I didn’t want wine because I was sick. So how does that work during Dry January? I understand the motivation for people who are alcoholics, but if you’re not an addict, where does the impetus come from? The link above describes it as “reassessing your relationship with alcohol.” That phrase raises a variety of psychological and metaphysical questions that rarely come up when Dry January is discussed, as well as the U.S.’ seemingly ever-lasting temperance legacy.

• The only good thing about being too sick to drink wine is that one doesn’t have to worry about which wine to drink with dinner. When your meals are turkey vegetable soup for four days in a row, pairing doesn’t matter much.

• Second irony? The last glass of wine I had before I got sick was an oxidized, not-very-Beaujolais-like Beaujolais at one of Dallas’ more trendy French-style bistros. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Finally, I felt too crappy to care enough to to look at the blog numbers. Which is just as well, since they no longer resemble one of the best read wine blogs in the cyber-ether, but sit about where they were a decade ago. The drop in visitors I noted in the coronavirus post has accelerated, and if I was the kind of person who worried about metrics, I would be worrying.

Wine blogging in the time of coronavirus

coronavirus

How many of us remember this from high school?

What’s the point of a wine blog in a world consumed by the coronavirus? Call it necessary optimism

Friday update: Thanks to everyone who left such kind comments and sent such considerate e-mails. Again, I didn’t write this post to elicit sympathy, but to try to offer a bit of perspective. And to those of you who sent less than kind e-mails? No doubt your pandemic pantry is well stocked.

Blog traffic has been down as much as one-half over the past couple of weeks, mostly since the coronavirus started its deadly expansion from China to western Europe and points in between. In addition, blog cancellations have increased steadily, even though I haven’t written about screwcaps, ingredient labels, overpriced California wine, or any of the other things that usually portend cancellations.

Frankly, it’s damned depressing to write posts that no one reads. I say that not to elicit pity, but to ask a larger question: What’s to be be done about wine blogging in the time of coronavirus? Does it matter? What’s the point? Does anyone really care?

The answer, of course, is incredibly complicated. On the one hand, don’t we all want to behave like Albert Camus’ narrator in “The Plague” – “a man who, faced with suffering and a common crisis, does what he must and becomes a leader and an example, not out of heroic courage or careful reasoning, but rather from a sort of necessary optimism?”

On the other, and no matter how absurd it may seem, we also have a need to overwhelm Walmart and Costco to buy hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, household cleaners and staples like rice, pasta and canned food to build a “pandemic pantry” – just in case. And what about all that toilet paper?

And I can’t shake the feeling that the people who are supposed to be our version of Camus’ Dr. Rieux are more concerned with the stock market, the presidential election, and interest rates than they are with the coronavirus.

And maybe that’s the point, that the answer lies somewhere among all those contradictions. I am neither an epidemiologist nor a philosopher, but it seems that Jim Schutze, a former newspaper colleague and all around wise human being, hit on something recently: “We should be thinking about ways to keep doing what we need to do while minimizing our risk. It won’t work to try to shut everything down and hide in our holes. In fact, that will make things worse.”

So the blog will be here. If you read it, you read it. If you don’t, you don’t. But it will be here: Call it my small contribution to necessary optimism.

My apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who wrote “Love in the Time of Cholera,”  and to everyone else who has used a play on that title for their recent coronavirus posts.

Do wine critics matter any more?

wine critics

“It’s good to know someone is still reading my stuff.”

Go figure: Some one-quarter of wine drinkers still say wine critics’ scores and reviews are highly influential

The wine world has Instagram influencers, Facebook groups, Twitter raves, and who knows what else. So where does a traditional wine critic fit into all of this in the second decade of the 21st century?

Almost where we did the last time I wrote about this, according to one recent survey. We’re not quite as important as store employees or friends and family, but we still matter, according to a January survey by Wine Opinions (with analysis by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight). One quarter of wine drinkers say a 90-plus score from a “respected” critic is highly influential in wine purchase, while about one in five say a review on-line or in print is highly influential in making a purchase.

That compares to 42 percent for friends and family and 31 percent for store employees. Interestingly, tasting wine in the store ranked highest, at 60 percent, and second highest was “wine is from country or region I like,” at 45 percent. What makes those interesting? Talk to people who do store tastings, and they’ll tell you they often don’t sell that much wine. And that we buy wine from regions we know isn’t surprising; in fact, it’s one of wine’s great problems, that people won’t buy out of their comfort zones.

The other surprise? Price didn’t matter, coming in as only the seventh most influential. The question was phrased oddly, which may account for the result: “The wine is on sale for 10 percent off or more,”

And where did those Instagram influencers rank? The survey didn’t address them specifically, but this result speaks volumes for that approach to wine marketing. “Recommendation through an app” was just 8 percent, second lowest.

The survey results, not surprisingly, skewed significantly with age. Older men cared more about scores (which is why the preferences for scores didn’t bother me all that much). Meanwhile, younger wine drinkers cared more about recommendations from friends and family.