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The 2012 Curmudgies

Anyone can give out year-end awards, honor best wines and the like. Only the Wine Curmudgeon can hand out the Curmudgies, presented annually (we hope) to the people who did their best in 2012 to make sure that wine remained confusing, difficult to understand, and something reserved for only the haughtiest among us. Plus, a tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to someone more people need to listen to.

This is a work in progress, so any thoughts are welcome. The categories could change in the future, I could give out spiffy trophies, and even design a logo — or a lawyer could send me a cease and desist letter. Until then, the Curmudgie goes to. …

Worst news release: This, perhaps my favorite category, was the biggest challenge. How does one pick between so many wretched efforts? The winner, after much hand-wringing, goes to something called The Food Channel (not to be confused with the Food Network, home of “Iron Chef.” Rachel Ray and the like) for a December release detailing 2013 food trends. It included this epic quote from the channel’s editor: “Year after year we look back and see how our trends spotted something two, even three years early.” Wow. With prescience like that, who needs the Food Network? Or anyone else, for that matter?

The Wine Curmudgeon is an idiot: Given when I do something really stupid on the blog. No comments, please, about how many entries there are to choose from. This year, it goes to the seven – yes, seven – posts I did about wine writing and wine blogging (and no, I’m not going to link to them). That was probably six too many, and shows a remarkably narrow view of the wine business – something I spend so much time criticizing others for. Though, to be fair, it’s always a fun post to write, with lots of juicy targets.

The regional wine award, or the more things change, the more they stay the same:  Congratulations, CellarTracker user MMyers1984, for confirming my worst suspicions about wine drinkers and their snob-itude toward regional wine. “Plummy, but good for Texas,” he or she wrote in a community tasting note for the 2009 Messina Hof Cabernet Franc Private Reserve — a wine that is not only “good for Texas,” but good for anywhere cabernet franc is made, be it California, France, or Virginia.

The three-tier system is our friend award: Awarded to the people or instance that shows how outdated the three-tier system is, and why we’ll be stuck with it for generations to come. The winner, and I’m sure I’ll get a nasty email for this, goes to the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the distributor trade group that hands out campaign cash to state and federal legislators to preserve its monopoly under three-tier. WSWA president Craig Wolf took exception to comments made about his group by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight, and actually wrote Perdue an email chastising him. Free expression is one thing, but criticizing the WSWA? We should know better than that.

The Wine Spectator will always be the Wine Spectator: Yes, I know – way too easy. But how does one overlook a post like this – Matt Kramer’s defense of wine elitism? It’s wrong to say that if you like a wine, it’s a good wine, wrote Kramer: “This is, without question, the biggest lie of them all. … They think it will make wine more accessible to more people. They think they’re doing everyone a favor by ‘democratizing’ wine. Wine is too elitist, you see. It’s important — nay, essential — that wine be taken down a peg or two in order to make it accessible to all.” Because, if it was, who would need the Spectator?

Would someone please listen to this guy? The only serious Curmudgie, given to someone who actually understands what’s going on and tries to educate the rest of us  — the caveat being that too many of us already know everything and don’t need any education.  The winner is Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank, for efforts like this, in which he described the future of the U.S. wine business. He traces U.S. economic growth since Word War II, defines the role wine plays in the U.S. mindset, charts the difficulties the wine business will face because of each, and does it all in English and not economic-ese.

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