Friday, July 24, 2009
A CONTROVERSY AKIN TO SHAKESPEARE MEETS CHOP-SOCKY
It has been going on back and forth for some time now, the seemingly clear cut battle between traditional wine writers (Robert Parker, James Laube, et al) and the rising tide of wine bloggers out there (with such blogs as Vinography, Dr. Vino, The Pour, Fermentation, 1 Wine Dude, Good Grape and Sonadora). Now not everyone is participating. Most of the wine bloggers, myself included, have pretty much been writing our blogs without any artillery lobbing at bystanders or critics of our ilk. The latest traditional writer to chime in is Anthony Diaz Blue from The Tasting Panel. I don’t know the guy myself, and I have only recently begun skimming their magazine – I read virtually every wine magazine out there.
In a recent article, Mr. Blue lumps all of us bloggers into one bulk statement by saying:
“And who are these bloggers anyway and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.”
I recognize that there are a host of wine bloggers out there that are far superior to myself, as well as a veritable ocean of bloggers who do not have the formal training or knowledge of a wine professional, just someone who loves wine, yet to paint us all with a broad stroke of “burnt siena” and “umber” colors (you know, the colors of “poop”) is a bit over the top, harsh, and extremely uncalled for.
While my inner rebel is hoping beyond hope that the Tower of Parker comes tumbling down sooner rather than later, my experience in this business of selling wine prohibits me from doing anything more than voicing concern and caution to our customers. I have been in the business of selling wine in one capacity or another for around 20 years – restaurant and retail. I earn my certifications, study hard, and take in all the knowledge and wisdom I can from winemakers, importers, and fellow wine geeks each and every day. As a blogger, my mission is to convey that acquired knowledge and experience to both my customers locally, and my readers wherever and whoever they may be.
Do I brag about my knowledge levels? No. Do I pretend that I have a bigger audience than I actually do? No. Would I like to exert the same level of influence the likes of Parker and his ilk do on this business? Not at all. Do I wish to contribute to the conversations on wine? Absolutely.
The overall goal of anyone in this business is to facilitate the journey that the wine experience truly is. Everyone has to start somewhere, whether it is Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers, or Beringer White Zinfandel; there has to be a starting point. And like all voyages, once you start, you only want to keep going out, venturing into new frontiers, stopping along the way to revel in a new found favorite – be it a Napa Cabernet, an Australian Shiraz, a German Riesling – it doesn’t matter. And everyone takes a different path, meeting up along the way at different points, swapping stories, sharing experiences – that is the real beauty of wine.
Yes, I think that wine scores take away from the journey. I think that the critics distract people from the journey. But all of this petty bickering over nonsensical ownership of “who will be the bigger influence in the future” debate is just as much a distraction. The individuals like Parker have been king of the mountain for so long, they have no idea that the pathway to the future goes right past them, but we are not there just yet. Those writers like Mr. Blue are simply chiming in for the sake of controversy and selling magazines, and are not offering anything constructive to the debate. As for us bloggers, we all just need to concentrate on our intentions and goals for our respective blogs, do them the best we can, and hope for the best. In the end, this controversy is truly “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Thankfully, aside from the stinging barbs traded between the writers and bloggers, it hasn’t yet turned out to be the finale of “Titus Andronicus.” Something about the vision of Parker grinding bloggers into meat pies makes me shudder.