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Ten on Top:  The Dramatic Issues that Incite the Wine World Pt. II #’s 6 - 10

For the non-sports wonks amongst us, there is a show on ESPN called “Pardon the Interruption.”  It’s a bombastic Siskel and Ebert-style opposing viewpoint take on the sports headlines.

“I hate Notre Dame Football and the arrogant pomposity of their fans …”

“I love Notre Dame Football, the richest tradition in major college sports …”

You get the point: the hosts of the show usually take opposing viewpoints on the issues du jour and create dramatic interest and opinion forming thought-leadership in one direction or another.


The wine world doesn’t have as colorful of a patina or the personalities to match other areas like sports and politics, but there are the tried and true issues that, if absent, would make wine a pretty darn boring and pedestrian experience, all small talk and no real conversation.

Yesterday I presented both sides of issues one through five, the issues in the wine world that drive the conversation. Today, Part II and issues six through 10:

100 Point Rating System

The 100 point rating system is a good gauge of quality for consumers.  Wine is an unparalleled consumer category with far too much choice for any reasonable human being to make a purchase decision at the point of sale.  100 point scale ratings act as an arbitration of quality and a valuable consumer service.

And, let’s not forget that a very, very small segment of wine consumers study wine as enthusiasts, the rest of the population needs a quality indicator.

Further proof is the simple fact that other subjective areas of review like music and books are adopting the 100 point scale because of its usefulness in helping consumers wade through too many choices with too few differentiators.


The 100 point rating system is the scourge of the wine world.  By placing a number on a wine, dictated by a singular palate, it prevents consumers from doing what is the simple joy of wine – exploration.  Instead, they make purchase decisions based on number, somebody else’s interpretation of “good.”

There is a difference between an artist and somebody who paints by the numbers, they are two completely different realms, and this painting by the numbers approach objectifies wine and its enjoyment in situ.

And, need I say anymore than the fact that it’s not even a 100 point scale, it’s really a 50 point scale and most wines, perfectly good wines, are persona non grata if they don’t score over an 85.

It’s ruining the wine world. 

Direct Shipping

Giving wineries and retailers the ability to sell directly to the consumer is THE American way.  Can you imagine if other consumer product categories had to go through a limited amount of distributors who would determine what could and could not be sold in a given state or market?

It’s lunacy and it’s anti-competitive for small producers who make up 95% of the wine world.

Factor in the political corruption of politicians who are hijacked by lobbyists under the guise of protecting our youth, and it all smells very rotten.

Give people the freedom to buy what they want from where they want.


The 21st Amendment was put in place for very good reason – to give states the power to protect their interests related to matters of alcohol.

It’s an efficient system that serves everybody very well – wine producers, retailers and consumers and in doing so gives them much greater choice then what would be available in a completely unregulated wild, wild west atmosphere, while keeping alcohol out of the hands of our youth.

The fact is that if checks and balances aren’t in place to protect youth, what is preventing them from buying wine online?  Our politicians are merely doing the work of the people, who have indicated that protecting our future, our kids, is paramount.


New World vs. Old World

New World wines, as proven at the Judgment of Paris, and repeatedly thereafter, show that history isn’t an indicator of quality.

No New World wine drinkers are blinded by the canard of tradition that isn’t backed by quality. 

Domestic wines have ruled the Old World for years and, in fact, other emerging wine countries are now giving the U.S. a run for IT’S money.

Technology, innovation, fresh thinking and competition all create a better product that is attuned to today’s palate, annoying traditionalists and their thin wines not included.


The New World needs to show some respect for Old World producers.  Quality isn’t measured in months or years, it’s measured in centuries.  Where would New World producers be were it not for the Old World?

Even the supposed New World champion, Robert Mondavi, used French quality as his baseline.

In 1855 the French were creating quality classifications for wineries that are still the best in the world to this day. Back then, the U.S. was trying to figure out if wine would even grow there, using French cuttings, I might add.

The U.S. culture is the same as their wine, all “now-now brashness” with no refinement and no sophistication.


Gen. Y and Wine

Generation Y is a saving grace for New World wine producers.  With the aging of Baby-Boomers, the wine industry needed fresh blood.  Even better is the fact, that they have bypassed the traditional adoption curve starting with White Zin—they’re adventurous with a taste for premium wines, domestic and imports.  Not to mention, Gen. Y is also dragging wineries into social media kicking and screaming.

Thank goodness they’re here!


Generation Y.  taking to wine just might be the final swirl in the wine toilet bowl.

If we’re reduced to pandering to a demographic that treats wines with as much reverence as their constant and perpetual practice of being in the moment tethered to text messaging and Facebook, we should immediately start writing the obituary for wine as a beverage of distinction.


Having a wine writer, with a body of work, credibility built over years and not months, writing objectively about a winery and their wine, without the influence of “monetization,” is a path that needs to be continued in the wine world.

Parker built his reputation based on a Ralph Nader-style of consumer advocacy WITHOUT the muddying influence of advertising or junkets.

If wine consumers are to continue to believe in the credibility of wine reviews, critical review and commerce shouldn’t co-mingle.


My grandpa told my Dad that the Studebaker was the only car he would ever drive.  My Dad came back from Vietnam refusing to buy any car that wasn’t American.  Um, good call …!?

Times change, perspectives change and the traditional role of the critic coming down from up on high is a model that is breathing its last breath.

Read the trends, or open up your browser, in a connected world its power to the people.

And, really, in a world of transparency, I really have no reason to believe that just because a critic tells me he is objective, it actually means he is.  After all, everybody not named Parker makes their living off of advertising in some form.

I prefer the blogger model with disclosure.  I’ll sniff it out if somebody isn’t being forthright based on advertising dollars and I’ll direct my attention accordingly.

There it is – the top 10 wine issues in wine.  Without these conversational conduits, our wine lives would be reduced to breathlessly talking about tasting notes.  Drama sells, and this is our drama.

Leave a comment with your perspective on any of these issues and/or mention a topic I may have missed – the conversation points that make the wine world interesting!


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (14) |


On 06/16, Beltway Bacchus wrote:

Very interesting post that is sure to cause arguments among and between wine folks for some time. I like how you have clearly laid out the point and counter point to some of the biggest issues in the wine world today.

While the discussion surrounding the merits of Old World vs. New World wine producers will continue to be a heated debate, another strong case can now be made for arguing between New World and New World wine.  Place Chilean and Argentine wines against each other, for example. As you mention, some of the new New World countries are giving the U.S. a run for its money.

An even more interesting subject is comparing wines produced in states that aren’t California against each other. New York has fantastic Rieslings that can rival anything that comes out of California or Germany. Virginia is now the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the United States, with winemakers producing some very interesting and complex wines.

Getting out of the mindset that California is the only place that produces quality New World wines is necessary in the evolution of New World wine making and enjoyment – for wine makers and consumers alike. 

Perhaps it is time for a New World Judgment of Paris to show California that it is getting some much needed company at the top wine’s New World pecking order.

On 06/17, James Wright wrote:

if you think New York rieslings can rival anything out of Germany, than I’ve got a nice bridge also in NY to sell you—hell the best rieslings from Alsace and Austria have a hard time rivalling Germany, to say nothing of Austrlia, which is another legitimate riesling idiom

On 06/17, Ed Thralls wrote:

A DTC (Direct to Consumer) model can only be a win-win for all parties involved.  It increases profitability for those smaller wineries you mentioned as well as increases availablity/choice.  I disagree that the current system gives consumers greater choice, because we know that many of those smaller producers can’t get their wines to many of the other states. This legistlation is way outdated and needs to change.

On 06/18, Ron McFarland wrote:

I wonder if the traditional role of wine critic might be holding the industry back?

Do consumers need critics or self confidence to go out and explore the wonderful world of wine?

The concept of critic implies someone knows more, yet only the individual knows if it tastes good to them.

If consumers are going to have a critic in their wine life, I would suggest it be with the person they give their money to when they buy wine.

On 06/18, Beltway Bacchus wrote:

I agree with Rob McFarland that critics are not always necessary, especially for such an individualized pleasure such as wine. Critics can offer guidance and suggest wines that you may not have heard of, but ultimately a good wine rests on the taste buds of the individual. If you find a critic that you like, or who shares your tastes, great. If not, don’t put much stock into what they say. On my blog, I offer my own opinions on wine without saying that it is right or wrong, because that is impossible to do with wine. Everyone likes something different.

On 06/18, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The beauty of the subject of wine is its subjectivity. The thing that allows everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion on their most personal feeling about their experience with it.

On 06/18, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for all the comments, guys ... apologies for being slow on the draw in responding.

I think George summed it up, though—the beauty is the subjectivity and everybody can have an opinion; it definitely keeps things interesting in the wine world without the divisiveness that often marks politics.

Thanks for reading the site, I really appreciate it!


On 06/20, Todd Havens wrote:

Will be sure to link to both posts here on my blog because they’re an awesome snapshot of the major issues facing the wine industry today.  Thanks again, Jeff!

As for comments:

Direct Shipping - Whose youth is ultimately being protected by the antiquated 21st Amendment? 

How many underagers are jonesing for a day when they can order wine and spirits online, pay for shipping and wait for its arrival as opposed to slipping their older cousin Troy an extra five bucks to get it locally…in real time? 

Am I thinking too micro here?

If underage kids want to drink, they’ll find a way to do it and I don’t see how DTC laws actually “protect” them from reaching their goal.  Sounds like they cut off the youthful nose to spite the adult consumer face. (Which could also be a Michael Jackson metaphor, I guess.)

Gen Y, Wine and Critics

In this current age of “social media,” Gen Y’ers are not just leading the charge for their own generation, they’re making wine more accessible to a person of any age who’s always felt like an outsider to the vine-covered fortress of Winedom.

Professional critics will always have their place, but just as newsgathering is falling from on high down to the masses, so will the accessibility of wine enthusiasm. 

As everyone says, if you like a bottle of wine, no one can tell you you don’t.  And with the tools and platforms of this generation, the voice of the average wine consumer (there’s that phrase again) will be more equally weighted with that of the wine industry professional. 

How many blogs are started each day that aim to take the pretension out of the act of wine
enthusiasm and consumption?  Gary V certainly brought it to an audience not reached by the glossiest of industry mags with their 100-point rating systems.

I think there’s room at the table for everyone which means that we may need to add a couple more leaves into that table…like the holidays at my parents’ house.

(Eh, so I ended on a bum metaphor…it’s Saturday morning.)

Counter-point completely welcomed here, of course. smile

On 06/20, Ed Thralls wrote:

Some would say, and some have already said to me as an extension to my extension of this topic (did that make sense?) regarding direct shipping… that each part of the supply chain serve a purpose and are often desired by those trying to sell or buy product.  This can come in the form of distribution breadth and span, price breaks on volume, etc.

On 06/22, mydailywine wrote:

Wow. Where to start? I love that you have so accurately pinpointed the major issues facing the wine industry in both of these posts. But it is almost to much to take on at once.
You have one of the best wine business blogs, with a refreshing outsider point of view. Good Grape is on my must read list every week.

On 06/22, tricerapops wrote:

good use of ND football as a polarizing topic (i love ND football).  the whole gen Y argument is a no-brainer (i.e., there really should not be an argument).  tomorrow’s wine consumers are from Gen Y, if you’re not reaching them now, good luck later - and bye bye wine (hyperboles intended, and i’m Gen X for the record).

On 06/22, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for all the comments, guys ... much appreciated—especially the thoughtfulness. 

Amy - as always, thanks for coming by and the kind words—you can read daily (instead of weekly), though, it’s okay by me. 

Ticerapops—any ND fan is good by me.  I’m a huge fan, grw up in South Bend, go to a couple of games a year, the whole shotting match.

For all—these two posts are going to be revised and re-published in a drinks magazines called Mutineer.  If I quote something, I’ll reach out to you directly to seek any clarification and or get a real name for attribution.

Thanks again and my best to all!


On 11/30, mustang parts wrote:

With the high fuel prices and the world petroleum crisis, the United States may see its automotive market become more like the European market with fewer large vehicles on the road and more small cars.

On 05/20, TN Pas Cher wrote:

motive market become more like the European market with fewer large vehicle


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