Top 10 Issues that Incite the Wine World


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I have to take my side on a few points.  I don't think it is necessary to have strong opinions on every point but I do have something to say about a few:  1.  Wine competitions are mostly marketing platforms for the industry.  Anyone who has a better than average wine can bypass any real competition and go to a country fair to get an automatic gold or double gold and so on.  Most consumers are excited to see the fancy medals of gold and so on.  What they don't know is several hundred wines were awarded the same gold medal!!!  This is your basic "wine competition."  Everyone wins every time and exists to give a boost to the local economy.  2.  Wine magazines are what?  I like what I read in an article about magazine writing and the author wrote "today's wine magazine writing is TIRED."  And I think that says a lot about the quality of wine magazine writing without getting analytical.  3.  Restaurant wine prices are criminal.  I have bought warehouses loads of wines and made many successful wine lists and the industry pricing system qualifies as theft.  4.  Parker's palate?  Anyone who is trained in wine (for real not California-style wine education) can relate to the palate of others.  As a sommelier, it was automatic for me to remember the likes, and dislikes of customers' palates to purchase wine properly.  It just works and I can taste a wine and tell you very closely what Wine Spectator or Robert Parker would score it.  Yes, you can manufacture your wine to fit Parker's palate.  I can and would.  
You judge the rest.
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Sports pundits, newspaper columnists, talk radio jocks and the entire ESPN organization LOVE controversy in their realm of coverage – it virtually ensures that there is something interesting to write and/or talk about on a regular basis. 

“Kobe is the greatest player in the game.” 

“No, Lebron is the best, and the more complete player.” 

“Blessedly, Brett Favre should stay retired.”

“Are you crazy, the chance to watch a Hall of Famer like Brett one more time is the blessing.”

The two drama-inducing sides of the sports coin and the ensuing pop analysis fuel more than a few news cycles; in fact they save sports from being the equivalent of the church newsletter, all events and benign fecund fun, drama not included.

Wine is no different. Though we may not have the personalities that define the conversation, we have the issues that re-occur time after time, acting as a lightning rod for as much controversy as wine folks can muster up.

With that in mind, here are the first five of the 10 issues, in no certain order, that, without passionate side-taking, would render the wine world the equivalent of the church picnic, all mustard potato salad, that one weird dish nobody eats, bad volleyball, polite small talk and zero interest.

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Go ahead, and pick your side.

Wine Competitions

Wine competition interest by wineries is a product of the inability to get coverage (i.e. points) in the wine magazines. Say what you will, but medals in competition validate quality for consumers.  Having blind reviews by a panel of judges is as good of a measurement tool as any.  They’re good for wineries and good for consumers. 

Or

Wine competitions are ridiculous – have you seen some of the winners?  Besides the inherent flaw of judging with judges who have no standard experience baseline, its big wines that tend to show well, and, besides, it’s judging without food.  These competitions are completely bogus. 

Wine Magazines

Today’s wine magazines and content are a reflection of the interest that consumers and advertisers have in wine: lifestyle, luxury, aspiration and wine reviews.  They serve an audience and do it well.

Or

Today’s wine magazines suck.  They speak to a mythical audience segment that doesn’t exist, and if it does exist it’s a doctor that has a cellar and more money than wine sense.  Give me a magazine that actually is appealing to somebody that has wine chops, but a household income lower than $250K.

Restaurant wine prices

Restaurant wine prices are a reflection of the costs that go into running a dining establishment.  Without the built-in margin your entrée would be $45 instead of $30 and you’d use paper napkins instead of fresh linen. Forget about that fresh daisy on your table …

Or

When are these restaurants going to learn – if wine prices didn’t gouge you more people would be more inclined to buy a bottle regularly therefore increasing overall sales. Nowadays, I refuse to buy a bottle of wine, I’d rather hand over my ATM card to the owner so he can take out $40 bucks and put it in his pocket.  Restaurants would easily make up the margin based on volume of sales with reasonable pricing.

Parker’s Palate

It’s a fact.  I know winemakers that tailor their wines for Parker – and they’re big, rich, extracted, high in alcohol and completely undrinkable with a meal.  Kool-aid for adult kids.

Or

This whole Parker’s palate thing has gotten blown way out of proportion.  Do an analysis of his scores and they have been consistent with normal statistical variance over the years.  It’s mostly wineries that haven’t been reviewed him that are creating wines that THEY THINK he’ll like, and, for the most part, those folks continue to be on the outside looking in, perpetuating a myth.

Corporate vs. Artisanal Wine

Big wine companies are the death knell of the U.S. wine industry.  Before long, we’ll be swimming in oceans of unremarkable, cheap wine similar to the crap the Aussies have been exporting to us over the course of the last 10 years, if we aren’t already.

Not only that, but with many family-owned wineries on the verge of selling off over the next 15 years, we stand a chance of losing all that is remarkable about passionate winemaking where cases are counted by the pallet and not the truckload.

Or

This whole corporate wine thing is a big whine.  The top 30 wine companies in the country already represent over 90 percent of the domestic market by volume.  Am I supposed to worry about that percentage increasing from 90 to 93 percent in the next couple of years?

It doesn’t seem to daunt new wineries from starting – there are over 6000 of them now, and most of them are going after the same 2% of the wine buying public that buys wine over $25.  Corporate wine isn’t to blame here, the market share already exists.  What hasn’t happened yet is business Darwinism because these new wineries are launching without a clear articulation of how they are going to be successful.

Add a comment, based on which side of the issue you fall.  The balance of the Top 10 items that keep wine enthusiasts interested include, “100 point ratings,” “direct shipping” and more.

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