End of year thoughts

Here it is, the close of 2009. The interminable “best of” lists are everywhere, and as it is with individual wines, the many lists face agreement as well as disagreement. It’s all a great testament to the subjective tastes of people—which of course leads to wine.

Now that we are in the last stages of the “best of” blogs will certainly rack up their 2009 wine picks, and I will yawn with Jack at Fork & Bottle, as I can hear him all the way across the country.

Having said that, I particularly like Fredric Koeppel’s end of year list at his blog, Bigger Than Your Head—it’s a 12 days of Christmas list of sparkling wines, and it’s among the original-thinking lists to come around at this time of year. If I were so inclined to create a “best of” list, Fredric would be in the top few—he not only has things to say that don’t drip with self promotion; he can write.

In any case, it is the end of my third full year of blogging and I’ll be damned, I am running out of things to say.

One way to develop material for writing is to scan the Internet and pick stories that might appeal to readers. The problem with that method is that there are so many wine blogs these days that any good story that pops up seems to gain more coverage than is necessary.  What’s worse, so many stories are the same stuff wrapped in new packages, as are so many online discussions.

So, on the eve of 2010, I am left not with something to say, but with questions.

How many times can the shortfalls of critics be discussed?

How many times can we cover the way wine producers (and critics) try to fool consumers into a false sense of security?

Is there a wine retailer conspiracy, as so many suspect?

Can the Commerce Clause ever be over-invoked?

How big can one wholesaler actually get?

How long will it take for consumers to learn to understand the messages found on a wine label? Will they ever?

In how many variations can one talk about the relationship between acid and sugar?

Is there such a thing as too much wood, or too many wood chips?

Do fruit-forward wines last in the bottle?

How many gallons of water does it take to add back to wine to make it palatable because the grapes were overripe and the wine was over the top in alcohol?

How many stupid wine gadgets can we laugh at, and how many do we have waiting for us in 2010?

Must we endure armchair winemakers alongside armchair wine philosophers?

Can we ever measure the amount of philosophy contained in one bottle of wine?

How many arguments must we engage in before (or if) one of us on either side admits to having learned something?

Do people really understand subjectivity, or do they care to understand it?

How many terroir-driven wines get requisite accolades, no matter their orange color?

While we are at it, can we define terroir to everyone’s liking?

Must we face the same worn arguments in 2010 that we faced in 2009, 08, 07 and before?

Finally, is there anything that someone can say in 2010 that will hold our interest and maybe even break new ground?

Let’s hope so.

BiggerThanYourHead

Fork&Bottle

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
December 2009. All rights reserved.


20 Responses to “End of year thoughts”

  1. Mitch says:

    Thomas,

    I suspect that 2010 will be a banner year for consumer advocates now that Bling! has become passé. In other words, your readership will surely experience withdrawal symptoms should your keyboard go silent !

    Incidentally, some of your astute questions remind me of a remark by Jancis Robinson: “Naïvely, one might suppose that demand for a particular wine was determined by its quality. In fact it’s a wine’s desirability and not its quality per se that is important.”

    Hey now. Here’s to ringing in a Happy New Year !

  2. Another "junkyard dog" says:

    RE: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-wine-fraud30-2009dec30,1,2170798.story

    “Several collectors [they] spoke to for our cover story complain that Koch has yet to prove anything and that he may damage the entire [wine] industry in pursuit of a few bad apples,” said Mitch Frank, associate editor of Wine Spectator.

    See Thomas, you’ve got it ALL wrong. Aside from “a few bad apples,” the wine industry is a self-regulating, quality-conscious, consumer-oriented enterprise !

  3. Thomas says:

    Mitch,

    What’s wrong with bad apples? America has been eating them ever since wax was invented…

    I’m thinking about where vinofictions should go in 2010.

  4. Henrik says:

    Hold your position! Keep up the good work Thomas!

    Happy New Year to you and your wife

    Hek.

  5. Thomas says:

    To you, too, Henrik.

    Hold my position! My finger is numb and the water is ready to break through the dam…

  6. Henrik says:

    Thanks, I really think that Mitch has a point about “Consumer advocates”. There will plenty of needs to inform also in 2010.

    Recently I saw a program made by the english journalist Jane Moore for Channel 4 with the titel “What’s In Your Wine

    http://www1.nrk.no/nett-tv/klipp/580566.

    If you have the time some day you should it. It takes 45 min. But as a consumer many dreams are broken during the 45 min.

    Henrik

  7. Thomas says:

    I can’t understand the site you linked to, Henrik.

    There certainly is a need for true consumer advocacy. The question is: what does it get the advocate?

    There is a need, but is there a market for it?

  8. Mitch says:

    “There certainly is a need for true consumer advocacy. The question is: what does it get the advocate? There is a need, but is there a market for it?”

    In a word, yes:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm

  9. Mitch says:

    This may be the clip Henrik refers to:

    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=101528008

    “Recently I saw a program made by the english journalist Jane Moore for Channel 4 with the titel “What’s In Your Wine””

  10. Thomas says:

    Thanks for the link, Mitch.

    Generally, the piece picks up on a trend that is developing: ingredient labeling for wine. In the U.S. it hasn’t happened yet because neither USDA nor FDA are in charge of wine regulation and labeling. That remains under the Treasury Dept.–because of the sizable tax revenue alcohol brings to the govt.

    Unfortunately, the piece is marred, in my view, by some of the stuff that is pure sensationalism. The people who produced it either did not know what they were talking about in some cases, or they chose not to explain their use of words such as, “artificial yeast” or components like “tartaric acid;” the former is a misnomer and the latter is a natural component in grapes that can be isolated and used in crystalline form–it is not unnatural to wine.

    There are other examples in the piece of blatant misinformation, but on the whole, the message that consumers should come away with is that, especially in large volume production, the romance of wine has been exploited to a great degree while industrialization really is the method.

    Historically this is not new. Classical Greece and Rome suffered these kinds of issues and scandals in the wine industry. Even before that, cultures took advantage of Phoenician wine savvy and produced bogus famous Biblian wines from Lebanon that were not produced in Lebanon at all.

    The trouble is that you can plainly produce enough so-called natural, unblemished wine to supply a certain volume of the population, but it is virtually impossible to produce enough wine that way to supply the general world population–at least not so we can all afford it.

    And by a “market for advocacy,” I don’t mean demand–I mean revenue.

  11. Mitch says:

    “Historically this is not new. Classical Greece and Rome suffered these kinds of issues and scandals in the wine industry. Even before that, cultures took advantage of Phoenician wine savvy and produced bogus famous Biblian wines from Lebanon that were not produced in Lebanon at all.”

    Now I really am going to have to find that book of yours, Thomas.

  12. Thomas says:

    Mitch,

    Have you ever heard of the famous Falernian wine of 121 BC?

    It was among the early single-vineyard wine sensations on earth, and the stuff was produced in a truly small spot in Campania, on a small mountain that demanded limited production.

    Still, over time more Falernian flooded the market than anyone could have imagined could have come from that little mountain. Finally, Roman elders proclaimed it second class plonk and the famous Falernian was no more.

    Greed and dishonesty are not limited to contemporary times.

  13. vinogirl says:

    Happy New Year!

  14. Henrik says:

    Thanks for posting the Link Mitch – Proberly the same problem we have in Europe when we want to see programs in US – banned by IP.

    I also agree with a Micth regarding the need for true consumer advocacy. This is defintely up in time in Europe and from my own blog I can see a lot of hits related to those issues. Why shouldn’t there be revenue for consumer advocacy??

    I will also admit that the competition for blogging is much bigger in US than me blogging in Danish. If you want to be heard you have a much bigger job to do promoting your site.

  15. Thomas says:

    Vinogirl,

    Thanks.

    Henrik,

    Whether blogging or writing for print, it’s difficult to find anyone willing to pay for consumer advocacy. I’m talking about the amount of research involved–that costs money.

  16. Henrik says:

    Apropos cost writing…. – going op-topics – can you recommend me a ghostwriter – one who can make em 8 blogs a months – each 200 – 250 word about Finger Lakes…?

  17. Thomas says:

    Henrik,

    I can’t imagine who could do that any better than I…can you???

  18. Henrik says:

    If you have the time? No… I wil give you a PM

  19. Great questions. Here’s a few more: when will consumers learn to punish wineries for inflating prices to curry prestige points? Will decent restaurants learn to feel comfortable pouring wine from a box? And what now that Argentina, Chile, Spain, Portugal etc. have been thoroughly popularized, where will the most exciting wines and the best deals come from in the next decade?

  20. Thomas says:

    To answer your last question, Tyce: the Finger Lakes of New York, but I’m prejudice 😉