Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The false consensus effect in wine (diversity is the spice of wine...)

Something bothered me yesterday on another blog. Describing an interesting, critical alternative to the 100-pt system put forth by a group identifying themselves as "In the Pursuit of Balance" (IPOB), W. Blake Gray quoted Raj Parr, wine director for Michael Mina's restaurant empire. Parr is perhaps best known for his stance on not selling pinot noir or chardonnay that have more than 14% alcohol at his RN74 wine bar in San Francisco. Parr is also the co-founder of IPOB. He started IPOB to promote dialogue around the meaning and relevance of balance in California pinot noir and chardonnay. That in and of itself does not bother me. I actually support that goal.

But Gray quoted Parr saying, "Hopefully one day we won't have a tasting because everyone's going to be thinking the same way ... we do want to talk about how we can get better. Hopefully there will be more awareness that there is something else out there, that it's not just fruits" (emphasis added). I am all for trying to make better wine and having an open dialogue about how to do so. However, the idea that better means everyone thinking the same way bothers me.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Everything you need to know about cheap wine from someone who has made it his life’s work

I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about my friend Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon. Jeff has decided to write a book about cheap wine. Not bad wine, not inferior wine, but good wine that won't break the bank. Jeff, who also is the co-founder of Drink Local Wine, has devoted the majority of his blog to the topic of cheap wine. He believes (correctly) that wine made from places other than California and wine that costs less than $10 per bottle can be very enjoyable and shouldn't be scoffed at.

Unfortunately, many consumers are intimidated by the overwhelming number of choices at the local liquor store (or those of you not in Colorado, your grocery store). Wine is a product that is meant to be enjoyed by more than just the Chablis and Brie crowd. But there are lots of choices when it comes to wine. Once you get past the funny tasting notes and meaningless scores, wine offers many different pleasures. You can share it with friends and families. You use it to complement meals. You can celebrate or console yourself. Jeff is writing this book to help regular people (the 99% if you will) feel confident about buying and drinking wine. Jeff loves wine and wants to share his passion with others.

But to do so, Jeff needs your help. He has decided to use Kickstarter (a crowd-funding website) to raise funds for the design and publication of the book. I already made a pledge and now it is your turn. I think what Jeff does (and says) is important, and so should you. You've probably seen the recent stories about how 3 large wine corporations control 51% of all American wine production. Most of those companies brands are amongst the cheap wine category. But they're not the only wineries making cheap wine. Jeff's book should provide a much-needed insight into how you can make sure that you'll enjoy and feel good about the cheap wine you buy. Plus, it is always fun to make a self-proclaimed curmudgeon smile just a bit!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

VinCO comes into its own in 2013

Last week in Grand Junction, CO the Colorado wine industry gathered for the third annual VinCO conference. The Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) hosts the three-day event in concurrently with the Western Colorado Horticultural Society’s Annual Convention. VinCO brings together wine producers, winemakers, winery suppliers, industry leaders and expert speakers for a dynamic three-day wine industry forum that offers information, tools and networking opportunities vital to the success of the Colorado wine industry. In just three short years the conference has shown just much the industry has improved.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A different 100-pt system compromise...

Image from http://www.arvi.ch/
Amongst the few of us who write about wine, the 100-pt system is a contentious topic. There are many reasons that people like me don't like it; it projects a false sense of precision, it implies a false notion of objectivity, it removes context from a highly contextual product, and of course there is the issue of score inflation. Oh, sure there are many other problems, but those were the ones I could easily think of off the top of my head.

With the release of the Wine Advocate issue #204 a few weeks ago, the problem of score inflation has come to a head. Mike Steinberger wrote a great piece about it on his WineDiarist blog and Antonio Galloni even chimed in on a heated discussion over on the WineBerserkers forum. To summarize the latest “scandal,” Galloni handed out 95-100 point scores to almost a quarter of the 2010 Napa Valley wines he reviewed. Robert Parker added 17 100-point scores from the Rhône Valley from the 2009-2011 vintages. Just in the past year, Parker has given 100-pt scores to more than 50 wines from Bordeaux, Napa and the Rhône! Perfection (and near perfection) aren’t that hard to come by anymore. Apparently it isn’t obvious to Galloni and Parker that giving too many high scores is going to make high scores meaningless. Like the boy who cried wolf, this duo is quickly turning into the critics who cried classic!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Other articles...

One of the things associated with quality wine blogs is consistently posting new content. One of the best bloggers at doing so is Steve Heimoff. I don't always agree with what Steve writes, but I do give him credit for putting in all the work that goes into his blog. I enjoy being able to go to his website everyday and have the opportunity to share my objects with him. I have to admit I am sometimes jealous of the amount of comments on Steve's blog. Perhaps if I were to post more here I would receive more comments. Or maybe I could just be more controversial...

Nevertheless, I have not been able to write daily posts, though I attempt (unsuccessfully) to at least post weekly. There are many reasons for my inability to post more often (child, new house, job, laziness), but the excuse I most enjoy is that I have been able to write for other publications. I try to post those articles on Facebook and Twitter, but for those of you who do not follow me via social media you may not be aware of these works. To help share these articles with you, I've created a new page called Other Articles that lists (with links) other places that I've written about wine. I will also try to do a better job of posting on the blog when I've written an article elsewhere. Cheers!