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Vin de Napkin - Bottle Shock

I don’t pretend to understand why the movie Baby Mama, which opened on April 28th, is still playing on screens in Indianapolis while the new wine movie Bottle Shock, that opened yesterday, isn’t found on a movie screen anywhere in the state.

Nor do I understand why it was praised at Sundance, but failed to pick up distribution.  I do know that the movie trailer makes the movie looks as technically authentic with wine as Varsity Blues is with football.  Nonetheless, I’m all for a laugh and a popcorn movie.  Maybe it will create a rising tide in wine movies.  Heaven help us, we all know a rising tide raises all ships.  The stoner movie Pineapple Express should do boffo business and Cheech & Chong, perhaps not so coincidentally, are touring this fall.  Admittedly, I would buy tickets to Cheech and Chong to see “Basketball Jones” and “Sister Mary Elephant” live. 


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*Ed Note*  Yes, in the Vin de Napkin I spelled “lightning” wrong.  Yes, I know this.  Yes, it would take a few minutes to rebuild the cartoon to be correct. Yes, it adds to the authentic and human nature of the blog, albeit unintentionally.  Yes, at 11:45 pm on a school night, I’m not fixing it.


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Required Reading for All Wine Lovers

One gets the feeling that Robert Parker has been waiting the last five years to find the right opportunity to respond to his detractors.

In his own very subtle way, he has.  The September 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine has an article by Parker called, 30 Years of Wine Trends that is required reading for all wine lovers.

Traversing 10 major occurrences in the wine industry over the last 30 years, Parker sanguinely opines on the following subjects:

• The Rise of the Winemaking Consultant
• The World’s Most Influential Wine Consultants
• The Rise of the Wine Critic
• The Culinary Revolution
• The Explosion of Diversity in Wine
• Exciting New Wine Regions
• The New Philosophy of Winemaking
• The Creation of Healthier Vineyards
• Wine Is Now Number One
• Huge Increases in Popularity and High Prices

In addition, some interesting things become known from his worldview:

On the rise of the winemaking consultant with a prefacing mention of Emile Peynaud:

Peynaud’s most influential successor was one of his students, Michel Rolland, who has had an equally profound effect on today’s global wine quality.  Rolland, based in Pomerol, is currently the world’s leading consultant, and virtually every estate he has touched in his travels—from India, China and South America to California, Washington state and Europe, of course—has produced finer wine than it ever did before.

Parker continues,

A number of brilliant winemaking consultants have emerged from California as well.  The first, and still one of the greatest, is Helen Turley, who put cult wines on the map at wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin and Blankiet.  Turley has also fostered other talented consultants, including Mark Aubert, Paul Hobbs, Bob Foley, Andy Erickson, Martha McClellan, Mark Herold, Heidi Barrett, Thomas Brown, and Phillippe Melka –- to name just a few.

It seems Parker is clearly disavowing any responsibility for two things – the cult wine craze and the typically “hedonistic” wine that go into those bottles.

On the rise of the Wine Critic


When I began visiting Bordeaux in 1979, only a handful of writers were there to taste the wines in the spring (and nearly all were British).  Today, more than 2,000 wine journalists from all over the world descend on this hallowed region each year.

Is the fact that his palate makes or breaks a vintage and the entire futures business too much of a responsibility for Parker?  Here, he blunts the notion by discussing how many journalists actually taste from barrel.

On The Explosion of Diversity in Wine

One of the biggest myths in wine today, constructed on half-truths, inaccurate observations and journalistic manipulations, is that the wine market has become so globalized that international companies are producing oceans of monochromatic wines from a limited number of grapes that all taste the same.  This radical and profoundly false point of view holds that individuality and artisanal winemaking have been replaced by oceans of vapid wines made with little taste or character.  This is appallingly untrue.  Moreover, there has been little serious discussion on the subject, and it cannot be backed by any specific evidence.

Hmm … this is where Parker veers into couched rhetoric.  Is it a red herring to say that Mondovino was talking about Yellowtail?  I think Parker is mixing storylines here.

On The New Philosophy of Winemaking

Here Parker discusses trends that have occurred that have led to stylistic advances in winemaking:

There have been major changes in winemaking, too, including cold soaks of the grapes pre-fermentation (to intensify the aromatic character of the wines)

…Other changes advocated by Emile Peynaud and his protégé Pascal Ribereau-Gayon –progenitors of the so-called soft approach to winemaking—called for aging in the bottle, not the barrel, resulting in wines that are less tired, with brighter flavors and more vibrant fruit.

… Producers have moved away from industrial-style fining and filtration, resulting in wines with more intense flavors, textures, aromatics and character.

There are other aspects of the wine world that Parker touches on, but these are the highlights in terms of Parker completely eschewing any influence in the wine world that we see today.  It’s a pretty neat trick to backhand all of your detractors delicately in the span of 3000 words, but he has managed to do it.  I’m not sure I agree with it all, I’ve been following the wine world closely for 10 years and, while I’m well familiar with Emile Peynaud, I’ve never heard his name with such emphasis as the forbearer of so many of today’s trends.  Likewise, his brush-off of Bordeaux tastings emphasizing that he is one of 2000 writers, is complete B.S.  There may be 2000 journalists there, but only three or four matter.

However, admittedly, within context of the vitriol that Parker frequently takes, I do have to respect and admire his almost complete absolution of ego in any of the events of the last 30 years.  It takes a big person to take the high road; perhaps Parker still carries enough of the Ralph Nader ethos that set him down the path of wine in the first place. 

Check out the article here.


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Mile Markers on the Wine Blog Roadmap

This much I know:  blogging about blogging is dreadfully dull.  There is nothing like taking a navel-gazing medium and then writing about the navel-gazing.  If the subject matter is wine then all the more dreadfully boring because it is a niche of a niche with boorish tendencies.

That said, I do want to point out several separate circumstances that have happened in the last week that contribute to the growing wave of blogging as an incredibly forceful medium.

#1) The SEC will recognize blogging as an information outlet for regulated investment information. 

From Techcruch:

“UNDER certain circumstances, companies can rely on their websites and blogs to meet the public disclosure requirements under Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure), according to new guidance unanimously approved by the US Securities and Exchange Commission today.”

Chairman Christopher Cox opened up the discussion by recognizing that the Web has matured providing a big step forward for investors, “Ongoing technological advances in electronic communications have increased both the market’s and investors’ demand for more timely company disclosure and the ability for companies to capture, process and disseminate this information to market participants.”
It is easy to overstate and even easier to underestimate what this means, but this has the potential to completely upset the apple cart of traditional media.  No wire service.  No press release.  A blog.  That is Gutenberg’s press manifested for the 21st century.   

#2)  Good Grape along with six or seven other bloggers are participating in a coordinated blogging effort to announce the release of an allocated wine brand the week of August 18th.  This is unprecedented.  Bloggers are getting sampled at the same time as traditional media for an allocated brand launch.  There will be coverage, editorial will not be governed. 

This is damn progressive of the winery in question (more on them in a week) and a real coup for wine bloggers everywhere.  I hope it goes well, too; otherwise, it might be the last coordinated wine blogging effort to help launch an allocated brand. 

#3) Gartner releases a research report that is at once a no-brainer and genius in its insight, saying (from marketingcharts.com):

The online behavior, attitudes and interests of people from all walks of life are blending together online, cutting across generations and traditional demographics and giving rise to a new online group called “Generation Virtual” (Generation V), according to research by Gartner, which coined the term.

Unlike previous generations, Generation V is not defined by age, gender, social class or geography. Instead, it is based on achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.

Marketers will ultimately need a separate marketing strategy to reach this generation, according to Gartner.

Within the Generation V community, Gartner defines four levels of engagement - creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers - related to the extent to which customers engage with other customers and the level of engagement that businesses and other organizations must have to enable them.

Read full article on Generation V here.

Taken together, in the span of a week, these four items, to me, indicate without a shadow of a doubt, despite the imminent evolution of Web (and Wine) 2.0 into its next phase, that blogging, particularly wine blogging, is here to stay and will be a force to dealt with in the wine industry.

A couple of more mile markers on the wine blogging trip?  I think so …

*Ed Note*  This post was edited from its original version on 8/6/08


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Vin de Napkin_Flip Floppers

The annual Gallup polling on wine versus beer preferences has been kind to the US wine industry in recent years as wine consumption and subsequent mindshare have grown, creating wind for the sails, so to speak.

I always attributed the huge surge in wine drinkers to the wave of Gen. Y’ers coming of age, who continue to come to wine with strength.

So, it’s with a bit of curiosity and intrigue that the most recent Gallup poll shows beer taking a sizable lead in preference, especially amongst 30 - 49 year olds, historically the wine sweet spot for consumer adoption.

The interesting thing to me is the folks that switch back and forth.  I like beer; craft beer is a muse, but wine is my mistress and I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of other folks that are into wine.  I say let the beer crowd have these namby-pamby folks who can’t make up their mind.  We don’t want them.  The wine industry and its consumers is only as fast as the slowest buffalo and the confused, conflicted and dazed need to be thinned out.  The wine industry is slow enough as it is. 

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