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98% of Wine Bloggers Are Hacks

Throw away the question of hereditary palate and being a super taster because the simple fact is that training your palate can be done just as you can learn to hit a 20 foot jumper off the dribble with a hand in your face.

Ask Michael Jordan.

Credit goes to Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator for highlighting the concept of 10,000 hours of training to be an expert in anything.  He culled a couple of nuggets from a book called, “This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel Levitin.  The premise of the book is more focused on a certain capability for musical genius, but it’s applicable to anything, including wine as he deftly points out in his column found here.

A couple of the excerpts from Levitin’s book, highlighted in Kramer’s article, are worth repeating here:

Ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything.

In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what you, this number comes up again and again.  Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or twenty hours a week, of practice over ten years.

No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.

The ten-thousand-hours theory is consistent with what we know about how the brain learns.  Learning requires the assimilation and consolidation of information in neural tissue.  The more experiences we have with something the stronger the memory/learning trace for the experience becomes.

Additional credit goes to Kramer for not staking a pious point of view about his own expertise; it’s an integrity-based position, probably more humble than reality, though.  He and his professional writing brethren all have an easy 10,000 hours in.

How is this related to wine blogging?  Well, the short answer is very few people, chance are, that do wine reviews on a wine blog are qualified under the premise of having to have 10,000 hrs. of training to be an expert, particularly when you consider the diversity of wines tasted and the need to have an expertise not at a macro-level, but instead at a micro-level.  Most of us are hacks.  And, it’s us against them—the pro’s versus the blogs.

What’s the good news?  Well, chances are if you had the gumption to start a wine-related blog, you have a long head start on the 10,000 hours and the next couple of years should be interesting as newly minted experts cross the 10,000 hour threshold.  This wine blogging online thing becomes a whole lot more interesting when we overtake the pro’s in numbers and I’m guessing a lot of people are accruing their hours quickly …


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (12) |


On 09/29, Jill wrote:

does spending time on facebook, reading other blogs, and writing twitter updates count towards the 10K hours?!

Oh god, I have a long way to go, don’t I?

(at least I’m tasting about 40+ wines a week on average, though I don’t write tasting notes for all of them)

On 09/30, Galen Struwe wrote:

The 10000 hour threshold is so far off for me that I probably think about it like I did imagining the future while watching The Jetsons as a kid.  I do, however, love my internship and fan-like status of other wine blogs.

On 10/01, ryan wrote:

5yrs retail experience tasting during 40hr work weeks, now three years of tasting pretty regularly in Iberia…hmmm…still aways to go to 10000 but at least i’m focused now on a region(s).

BTW I there needs to be a caveat. Kramer probably has his 10000 in wine maybe even in italian wine, but I doubt most critics have 10000 in one particular style of wine. What about the “jack of all trades, master of none” idea.

Could these “journalists” be more Masters of the critique,and not the wine they critique?

On 10/08, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I happen to know you never learned to hit a 20-foot jumper with a hand in your face, Jeff!

On 11/16, Avi wrote:

But there’s also a question about whether the wine blogs are all about tasting notes or about bringing other wine news (marketing/industry issues) or introducing people to wines that they may not have been exposed to.

Personally, I know I’m also a wine newbie but I’m also a Millenial and bring that unique experience that other bloggers (besides, perhaps, Hip Tastes) lack and also focus on Israeli wines, an up and coming region that is barely covered in the mainstream (although Parker is in the process of tasting Israel’s 100 best wines, according to the Israeli industry).

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