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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Benign Apathy Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

The Best Blog that’s not a Blog Pt. II

I’ve mentioned Garagiste and their daily email wine sales offers in the past.  The Seattle-based wine purveyor is notable not just for their wine offerings (which are stunning), but also for how that offer is presented—their long-form daily email missives represent some of the best wine writing found anywhere.

For entirely different reasons, you can add Bottlenotes to that list as well (subscribe to their email at this link).  If you’re not already a subscriber to Bottlenotes daily email, The Daily Sip, you should be.  Since hiring Eric Arnold (ex-Wine Spectator and author of First Big Crush) as Editorial Director in April of last year, Bottlenotes has come to represent one of the best daily wine-related reads anywhere.


Taking a less wine-specific approach and focusing on wine people, personalities and stories, Arnold has proven he has a nose for interesting angles while asking the right questions.  His writing leaves a reader satisfied with something they didn’t know beforehand, a neat trick given that every single wine-interested reader comes at the subject with a different point of view and knowledge base. 

Case in point: Recently, Arnold featured a little known documentary making the rounds of screenings that features Julian Faulkner, a young Provence winemaker, and his struggles in the global marketplace.  Arnold’s interview with Faulkner’s New York-based importer (Brian DiMarco of Barterhouse) caused me to pluck my wallet out of my pocket and buy the DVD.  The documentary called “Escaping Robert Parker” uses Parker as the foil for the idealistic Faulkner, perhaps not as successfully as Arnold’s writing intrigues, but the documentary is wholly satisfying none the less.

In the documentary, Faulkner discusses a good wine not as a vehicle for critical acclaim, but as being good when it, “Gives pleasure.”  It’s an oft-repeated phrase from the anti-Parker set, but Faulkner’s earnestness sells it as meaningful.

Overall, Arnold’s daily writing and the documentary are both satisfying ways to spend time if you’re a wine enthusiast.

Escaping Education

Speaking of “Escaping Robert Parker” and wine that, “Gives pleasure,” Elin McCoy (author of The Emperor of Wine), is featured in several vignettes in the documentary discussing the state of popular wine criticism – a part of wine appreciation that she describes as a declining need for younger wine consumers.

The role of the wine critic is a complicated subject, not easily placed within a neat box and a subject in which any opinion could be held up as having a shred of truth to it.  Yet, in general, McCoy’s notion that critical scores are less important to younger wine consumers rings true. 


I believe that not only is the role of the critic changing, but so too is the notion of education.

Historically, the wine business has lived off the “core” wine consumer – the small percentage of wine drinkers that drive over 90% of wine sales.  So, when you see research from the Wine Market Council that indicates 1 in 2 Millenials are coming into wine as a “core” consumer it’s easy to see why the industry is excited.

By sheer numbers, life is good and going to get better ... from a volume sales perspective.

However, the wine industry in a macro sense encompasses more than just wine – it also includes all of the peripheral activities that educate about wine, as well – magazines, books, events, etc. and the entire picture can’t be viewed through rose colored glasses. 

It’s the education portion that I think is in for the most dynamic change over the course of the next decade.

In large part, wine enthusiasm is a singular pursuit and serious wine lovers are known for being inveterate learners – reading books, educating themselves, tasting, traveling and then reading some more.

However, anecdotally, I’m seeing significantly less interest in younger consumers learning about wine as avocation, and instead merely looking at wine as something that, “Gives pleasure,” as Julian Faulkner so noted.

Last weekend my wife and I held an engagement party for my 26-year-old sister-in-law, her fiancé and their wedding party, all the same age, all 25 or 26 years old.  The party was wine themed.  Everybody was wine-interested.  A lot of wine was drunk.  My takeaway is that the importance of wine in that setting is its role as a social beverage.  Education or knowledge aside from the correct pronunciation of names and regions and whether or not the wine is good (or not) is about all that matters, even amongst people with the same interest.

The implications for this can’t be understated.  There was no geek talk.  No discussions of alcohol percentages, styles, or anything remotely deeper than enjoying each other’s company with a glass of vino.  This amongst a wine crowd.

I might be crazy, but if I were a wine educator, or a wine writer that focused on education, I would shift my focus not on the minutia of wine appreciation, but on the mechanics of how to say Chateauneuf-du-Pape without looking like an idiot alongside reviewing wine faults.  That’s it.

How do you pronounce it and is it good, bad, or flawed?

Everything else is details, and, well, nowadays, there’s enough going on without needless detail…Right?


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (2) |


On 02/14, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Ha1 Welcome to the What is-wine? class that I initiated more than a decade ago from our wine shop.

Once again—ahead of the curve


On 02/15, Asgar wrote:

We find that we have a lot of customers ringing us up and asking if the wine we sell is nice. To overcome this we have recently created an online TV channel called WineGifts4U Wine TV. The purpose of this educational wine channel is to teach people about wine and what food a particular type of wine would work well with.


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