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Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 400: Wine writing ethics edition

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Wine writing ethicsWho knew we’d have so much controversy about wine writing ethics? But an increasing number of wine writers don’t understand (if events this summer are any indication) that their first duty is to their readers, and not to sponsors or advertisers, and that readers are more than someone to flog wine at.

Respect your readers: Too little content, either or on-line or in print, is traditional any more, so it’s not surprising that so few wine writers understand what traditional means: If someone pays you to run a story, you must tell your readers. No exceptions, no hesitations. Readers visit your site to get honest, unbiased reviews and commentary, and if someone is paying for placement, readers should be told. The Wine Curmudgeon has spent much of the summer writing polite replies to snippy emails because I don’t accept advertorial or paid posts, and this irritates the companies who sell this crap no end. One emailer was stunned that I wouldn’t take $50 to compromise the integrity of the blog. Guess these companies don’t understand the concept of honor. Or journalism, since I’m just a blogger.

The Munchkin of Ink: Chris Kassel at the Intoxicology Report discusses conflicts of interest, and doesn’t understand why people who sell wine think they are above conflicts — and why one of them called him stupid for discussing the subject. This, sadly, is exactly the point about treating your readers with respect. It’s bad enough to have that conflict, but it’s inexcusable to pretend that it doesn’t matter because you are somehow special. Wine is not complicated, and as my pal Dave McIntyre has pointed out more than once, those of us who write about wine aren’t smarter or have better palates than most consumers. We just drink more wine, and we pay more attention.

It’s not really blackmail: Also from the “I’m better than you” department, a food blogger in Britain didn’t think she was treated with enough respect by a bakery owner, and her review made that perfectly clear. Jamie Goode reports that the incident sparked a Twittter hashtage — #bloggerblackmail — and notes that “… if you take payment for content, then your work suffers. Readers aren’t stupid (well, some of them might be, but most are quite smart). They know when something’s amiss. The trust of your readers is a currency that’s not really yours to spend. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to play it straight.” See, I told you it wasn’t difficult to figure this stuff out.

Winebits 399: Wine packaging, craft wine, vinho verde

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wine packaging

Stack those bottles: The Wine Curmudgeon rarely gets to offer advice to big-time financial reporters, but Charles Passy at the MarketWatch website should check out this post about wine packaging. Or this one. Consumers aren’t much interested in wine that comes in containers that aren’t 750-milliliter bottles. That should temper his enthusiasm for something called XO G wines, four 187-milliliter bottles that come stacked on top of each other. He waxes poetic about the packaging, even though there has traditionally been little interest in this kind of bottle. Interestingly, Passy says it doesn’t matter that XO G can best be described as “not horribly offensive,” since wine drinkers will buy the product because the packaging is clever. I wonder: Would he have written that sentence about any other consumer packaged good, advising us to buy not horribly offensive ketchup because the bottle was cute?

Do grapes matter? A Tennessee craft spirits producer whose motto is “booze for badasses” will expand into wine, so perhaps they should read Friday’s post about craft wine. It’s one thing to buy grain to make whiskey; it’s something completely different to buy grapes from California to make wine in Tennessee (to say nothing of the difference in production techniques). As the line gets blurred between craft products, expect to see more of this happen. How successful these endeavors will be will depend on whether the companies are serious about it, or whether they see it as as nothing more than marketing. In which case they’ll be stuck with a lot of unsold Tennessee chardonnay made with California grapes.

Lots of green wine: Vinho verde, the cheap and simple and often satisfying Portuguese wine, sold more than one-half million cases in the U.S. last year, an amazing total for a product with no marketing, little brand recognition, and limited distribution. The story doesn’t seem to know why this is happening, though it does make an effort to include premiumization in the explanation even though most vinho verde costs less than $10. That people are buying vinho verde because it isn’t expensive, tastes slightly different from white wine at that price, and is fun to drink has apparently escaped them.

Winebits 398: Chenin blanc, drunk animals, Australian wine

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chenin blancBring on the chenin: The Wine Curmudgeon has an ally in his long-running effort to convince consumers and winemakers that chenin blanc makes terrific, affordable wine: Eric Asimov of the New York Times. He writes: “Chenin blanc, the white grape of the central Loire Valley, is one of those grapes achieving new life in the United States.” Granted, Asimov’s idea of chenin is a world apart from mine in price, but the principle is the same. Chenin blanc makes delicious, interesting wine, and it’s about time winemakers other than those at Pine Ridge and Dry Creek (the links refer to the each winery’s $10 Hall of Fame chenin) realized it.

A bear in the woods: Can animals get drunk from eating rotting fruit? That’s a popular urban myth, but mostly debunked by the Atlas Obscura website. Its a well-written and entertaining post, quality journalism, and cites a variety of reasons, including the low levels of alcohol that most wild fruit can produce after it ferments. And it doesn’t miss the big one — the very, very big one. An adult bear, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds would have to eat hundreds of rotting apples in one sitting to get a buzz. Which, as an expert notes, isn’t very likely.

More bad news down under: Australia’s wine exports to the U.S. fell eight percent in the 12 months through June, just one more sign of trouble for the Aussie wine business. It’s hard to remember, but just five years go, the country was the second biggest exporter to the U.S. behind Italy. Or, to look at it another way, using some rough math, Yellow Tail accounts for about half the Australian wine sold in the U.S. That doesn’t leave much room for anyone else, and the sales figures show it.

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