July 1 2007
I’ve come to find Alder from Vinography and his writing very educated, grounded in classical wine appreciation, and demonstrating jurisprudence against lighter blogging wine fare, while completely eschewing the sophomoric.
Imagine Alder writing a post like I have about casting the Surreal Life with celebrities that have a wine label … built the mental image? Me neither. It’s too déclassé for the quality of wine knowledge that Alder imparts. He’s at the pinnacle of wine blogging, alongside Dr. Vino, which makes his post over the weekend decrying fair wine competitions uncharacteristically sharp and bordering on incendiary.
I initially didn’t think much about the Two Buck Chuck California State Fair imbroglio when I read the post at Quaffability in which John basically said fair medals aren’t a very good indicator of wine quality.
“how utterly ridiculous and meaningless these awards are, and how you should never use them as part of your decision for purchasing a wine.”
Make no mistake, it’s a decently reasoned argument, if not somewhat glancing in actual fact, but, in my opinion, he loses me when he says, as his riposte to end the post that wineries should:
… stop bragging about your medals and start telling people interesting things about you and your wine, and how and why you make it. Consumers, do yourself a favor and ignore any piece of wine marketing that talks about fair medals. Though you might start noticing the very limited overlap between wines that get scores or good reviews by any wine critic (take your pick) and those that get medals. Coincidence? Well, let’s just say that you don’t see really good restaurants setting up booths at county fairs for a reason. They don’t have to.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but this post seems elitist, misguided, benignly lacking in an understanding of how the rest of the country drinks outside of the land of milk and honey in San Francisco and lacking any level of understanding of how difficult it is to create mindshare with consumers in the wine industry.
Methinks that competitions are perfectly acceptable for small wineries (and large) that don’t ever get reviewed by the wine media elite as some level of arbitration of quality.
For a different take on wineries using their “story” see this Decanter quote from Linda Murphy’s column in the June issue. She’s tired of the “story,” it seems, in a column highlighting Charles Krug:
Quality: the simplest way to publicise a wine
Winery takeovers and makeovers come in such a steady stream these days that I go numb from all the announcements. Winemakers change jobs as often as parents change diapers. Consultants come and go, to polish both wines and marketing campaigns. Everyone has a new brand, alternative closure, hi-tech sorting table, solar energy system, fundraising dinner, organic, biodynamic or sustainable farming scheme, and a child who has just graduated from university and returned to tout the above accomplishments as a PR manager.
But no PR ploy works as well as putting quality wine in the bottle,
For a nicely done first person narrative about being a judge in a large-scale state fair wine competition, see this three part article from Jerry Shriver from the USA Today from last summer:
For my money, I always follow ‘caveat emptor’ for virtually all wine because a medal or a ribbon doesn’t know my palate. And, in addition, I certainly think this sort of attitude whereby we look down our nose at state fair competitions is incredibly misguided and definitely is a set-back in wine blogosphere thought-leadership. As I mentioned, the post is well-reasoned, if not a touch discursive, but I’m going to urge readers to look at the total picture of tastings that are blind and perfectly honorable ventures run by hard-working, well-intentioned people.