Their success; their ability to effectively communicate about spanish and portuguese wine; their energy to grow and create dynamic, authentic and extraordinary services have attracted hundreds of thousands of iberian wine lovers from around the world.
Joan Gómez Pallarès http://www.devinis.org/

Wine Journalists, might consider using WordPress if you decide to join us! ;)

RODA vines006

I’m ticked off. I was supposed to be at the Meeting of Wine Creators in Ronda, Spain, this past weekend, but sadly, was unable to iron out the logistics to get there. It might seem like a trivial reason, but I would have needed to take a bus from the airport, and then transfer to a second bus in order to finally arrive in Ronda. I could have made it work, but for a two day conference, it seemed like a ridiculous amount of effort and wasted time traveling. Regardless, it sounded as if it was interesting, when considering the fascinating topics discussed. Top wine makers, wine writers and experts gathered in a who’s who of the wine world to discuss the issues related to the current state of the wine trade. Taken from their site:

WineCreator, the First International Meeting of Wine Creators, sprang from the unique concept of creating a debate between wine creators from all over the world and an international panel of experts on the current
situation of wine.

This meeting was prompted by the need to discuss the globalisation in terms of quality that has already reached the wine industry. The quality of wines today is quite high, not so much because of the imitation of styles and brands, but because of the generalisation of winemaking techniques and teachings.

For the first time, WineCreator, the First International Meeting of Wine Creators, will bring together the twelve most influential wine creators, chosen by a panel of experts made up of twenty of the most internationally renowned critics. The aim is to create alternatives to the models imposed through routine or through fashions in wine by taking a closer look at the creative, professional and human dimension of the wine creators themselves.

First International Meeting of Wine Creators This is designed as an event that will be repeated in different venues, one that will give critics and journalists their first chance to participate in this type of symposium, normally limited to technical circles, and to propose different options for making wines with personality.

I’m chatting about this conference today, because of this article in Decanter. The article titled, Jancis Robinson: critics should show more humility, quotes Jancis Robinson as saying, “We know how winemakers like to keep us sweet,” she continued, exhorting journalists to express what they really think about a wine – “and to be more humble.”

More humble? Wow! New ideas! Seems as though she stating some of the things that bloggers like to try to aim for everyday? I know that many feel as if bloggers have the same issues too, and that we are no better when it comes to similar questions of neutrality and egotism, but I think we wine bloggers maybe the fresh face that she seems to be asking for. In fact, we’re often criticized for “expressing what we really think”, since as all of you know we’re not “professionals”. We’re often seen as naive, while we prefer to call it being humble, accepting the fact that we don’t know everything.

Personally, I’ve quit reading most wine rags. Jay Miller’s scores of Spanish wine are a joke, information I’d completely pass up if it weren’t for the fact that every winemaker we talk to shove his scores in my face daily (though not “Jay’s scores”, often referred to as “Parker Points”), asking if I agree. Jay touches on such a small percentage of Spains wine, while pontificating about them as though he’s studied it in its entirety. It drives me insane, yet I don’t think this pompous attitude can only be attributed to him.

When referring to the big wine rags, lately, I haven’t heard anyone praise Wine Spectator. I can’t even remember the last time I looked at their magazine and thought, “gee there is some great journalism!” Decanter? I’ve referred to their articles only when quoting someone they’ve interviewed. There usefulness comes into play when assessing their impressive budget and ability to cover stories in locations and with the time an average blogger couldn’t even imagine to be affordable. Maybe if I had to buy Bordeaux futures I would turn to their shiny pages, but in reality, who has to buy Bordeaux futures, especially at the prices they’re being sold at?! Do mortals even drink this stuff anymore?

In the end, mainstreamers (new word), wine journalists, or to use Jancis’s own word: Parasites, if you want to try writing from the heart, if you want to say what is really on your mind and in a humble way, I suggest WordPress. There are other blogging platforms out there, but WordPress has the ability to grow, while having some cool features for you to play with. Hell, if any of you really want to start blogging, I’ll even help you set it up! It would be honor for me.

judging

I thus offer some humble advice for those better known Parasites, I mean journalists:

Jancis, humbly get rid of the subscriptions to your blog. It really isn’t a true blog unless it’s open. Just think of the humility you could show by providing free information to the common people. Open up and humbly share with us your stories and tales. Your still doing good with your writing elsewhere. Oh and I’m even fine with your wine notes being held behind golden doors, as I could care less about these. I only take issue with your thoughts and stories. These are what help other wine lovers to find new wines to try. Leave the wineries to pay for the notes so they can see what you think, and give us, the consumers, the material to explore the world. While at the same time opening up the conversation.

Robert, that whole eRobertparker thing seems a bit inbred and stuffy! I left years ago after traveling with you from the beginning, my member number is less than 3 digits long. I’ll be happy to register BobsWinePicks.com if you’re interested! Maybe it’s time you tell us what you really think. Show us the emperor’s thoughts on wine, food and Neil Young.

Mr. Tanzer, you’ve always been a favorite of mine – an honest, begrudging user of the 100pt mess and super taster. My suggestion is to open up and lay it all on the line. Your notes are great, and keep charging for them, but tell us your thoughts, your ideas and your experiences. Please allow us to hear the stories that never make it to your front page.

Finally, Terry Theise. I wish this man had a blog, because his prose would make me read it every day! Terry, I’ll host the site for you, design it and run it. I’ll even take your notes and put them into the blog each day. Please, please, please join us on this adventure we call the Internets! I know you can do it and I know you would make a an enormous difference. Please turn the squawk box into a RSS feed. Hell your first post could be about this months Wine Blog Wednesday topic, one that is right up your alley.

With regret, I’m afraid to admit that this post is falling deaf ears. Old media can’t seem to see the value in conversations rather than subscriptions. Wine Spectator proved that when they opened up their closed door blogs! In truth, I think their stories are safer there anyways. Seriously would we want that stuff to leak out! ;)

I guess it’s up to us, fellow bloggers and wine lovers, and social media nuts. We are changing the internet and the wine world, one post and one comment (conversation) at a time. We are the voices that are often too humble, and still green, as we seek to understand wine. But in the end, we are succeeding. Wine is about friends, family, food, friendship, frivolity, and a few other “f”s that I can’t think of. Some of us are educated by fancy wine books, some my big titles and degrees, others by magazines and newspapers that we we haul to the recycling bin each week, but what unites us all is our unique way of discussing and participating as a community in a shared twitter feed. We are the future of wine! Humility is our badge. Thirst for knowledge our driving force.

Let’s show those parasites what we can do. Thanks Jancis for the quote.

Till Soon,

ryan opaz

PS: The first ever meeting of Non-Parasitic Wine Journalists (I mean Bloggers) will be taking place in La Rioja in August. I hope you join us. It will be fun.

  • RichardA

    Though I am largely in agreement with the main sentiment of this post, I do differ on the value of some wine magazines. I admit that I am a voracious reader. I read several wine mags regularly, including Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Food & Wine, and Quarterly Review of Wines. I read them because I do find articles of interest within them, articles that may be informative and educational. For example, I have found a number of Wine Spectator articles to be educational, especially when they discuss various wine regions or talk about certain wineries. Plus, the magazines mention far more wines than any single blogger could possibly cover. That gives me some basic info about wines I may have never heard of before. You can just ignore the scores. Could wine mags be better? Definitely. But I don't think they can be just dismissed out of hand as they do contain some value.

  • Ryan

    Agreed there is some good content, and like I said it mainly stems from the places where money and time can help. If you have a huge budget and the ability to take time for a story you can top most bloggers, for now. Hopefully we seem more "pro" wine bloggers change this, and we end up with more investigative pieces by the "common folk" :)

  • Wilf Krutzmann

    Ryan, as you say "Wine is about friends, family, food, friendship, frivolity, and…" In our daily hectic lives, we tend not to stop and smell the roses or in the case of us wine drinkers not slowing down for a few precious moments to fully enjoy the fruit of the vine. Good post. I had the pleasure of meeting Felipe Gonzales-Gordon from Bodega Gonzales-Byass when he was the guest speaker on Sherries here in Victoria for the Academy of Spain wine seminar last weekend. Talk about passion. That is what wine is all about for me. Greetings from Victoria, British Columbia!

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    Though I am largely in agreement with the main sentiment of this post, I do differ on the value of some wine magazines. I admit that I am a voracious reader. I read several wine mags regularly, including Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Food & Wine, and Quarterly Review of Wines. I read them because I do find articles of interest within them, articles that may be informative and educational. For example, I have found a number of Wine Spectator articles to be educational, especially when they discuss various wine regions or talk about certain wineries. Plus, the magazines mention far more wines than any single blogger could possibly cover. That gives me some basic info about wines I may have never heard of before. You can just ignore the scores.

    Could wine mags be better? Definitely. But I don’t think they can be just dismissed out of hand as they do contain some value.

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    Agreed there is some good content, and like I said it mainly stems from the places where money and time can help. If you have a huge budget and the ability to take time for a story you can top most bloggers, for now. Hopefully we seem more “pro” wine bloggers change this, and we end up with more investigative pieces by the “common folk” :)

  • http://wwpress.blogspot.com Wilf Krutzmann

    Ryan, as you say “Wine is about friends, family, food, friendship, frivolity, and…” In our daily hectic lives, we tend not to stop and smell the roses or in the case of us wine drinkers not slowing down for a few precious moments to fully enjoy the fruit of the vine. Good post. I had the pleasure of meeting Felipe Gonzales-Gordon from Bodega Gonzales-Byass when he was the guest speaker on Sherries here in Victoria for the Academy of Spain wine seminar last weekend. Talk about passion. That is what wine is all about for me. Greetings from Victoria, British Columbia!

  • RichardA

    I agree Ryan that money plays a significant factor. How many bloggers can survive solely on the money generated from their blogs? Probably none. Bloggers who make money are generally involved in other wine endeavors, such as those with their own stores or those who represent wineries. Or they get sponsors who will help support some of their endeavors. Though most of that is probably still miniscule compared to the budgets of the major wine publications. That situation probably won't change too soon either. Though there are some promising signs, especially as bloggers acquire more and more credibility.

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    I agree Ryan that money plays a significant factor. How many bloggers can survive solely on the money generated from their blogs? Probably none. Bloggers who make money are generally involved in other wine endeavors, such as those with their own stores or those who represent wineries. Or they get sponsors who will help support some of their endeavors. Though most of that is probably still miniscule compared to the budgets of the major wine publications. That situation probably won’t change too soon either. Though there are some promising signs, especially as bloggers acquire more and more credibility.

  • AllAboutAlavesa

    Great post Ryan! Although I have to admit, I am kind of torn up inside because I both agree and disagree with you. As an importer in the U.S., we are basically at the mercy of all the different wine mags, especially Tanzer and your personal favorite, Parker. I say this because unfortunately, 99% of all stores almost require you to have shelf talkers for your wine if you want your product to sell. Yes, I admit, I am one of those people that puts scores right in your face, but my livelyhood literally depends on it. I wish this wasn't the case, but you know as well as I do that some people follow these magazines like a cult and won't buy a wine or go out of their comfort zone if it doesn't have a stamp of approval and a high rating from these mags. While some of the magazines will occasionally have an interesting or informative article, this is where I applaud Catavino and other blogs for focusing their writing and attention about WINE not about SCORES. Take your recent Rioja project for example, I haven't read a magazine article that in depth, that focused, but most important, that personal about Rioja in any of them, and they have the money to do a project like that!! This is what I think the big magazines need, a little personality. There is so much happening in the wine world today that I feel we need several different outlets for all this information, including the Parkers and Tanzers, but let's just hope they can open their eyes to new and different types of wine drinkers.

  • Ryan

    So ALLABOUTALAVESA what can be done to wean people off the points? If you don't like them, and I do know your need for them(I worked retail), I wonder what you can do to help people to realize they don't need them. Or what can be done, to help people look at them differently. I am completely serious when I ask the critics to start blogs. Why not! Lot's of them hate the points too, so why not have them actually talk about wine. Become human, relate to us the readers. Discuss with us, their weakness's and strengths…A pipe dream? Maybe….but it will make for nice dreams for sure! thanks for chiming in!

  • http://www.prgrisley.com AllAboutAlavesa

    Great post Ryan! Although I have to admit, I am kind of torn up inside because I both agree and disagree with you. As an importer in the U.S., we are basically at the mercy of all the different wine mags, especially Tanzer and your personal favorite, Parker. I say this because unfortunately, 99% of all stores almost require you to have shelf talkers for your wine if you want your product to sell. Yes, I admit, I am one of those people that puts scores right in your face, but my livelyhood literally depends on it. I wish this wasn’t the case, but you know as well as I do that some people follow these magazines like a cult and won’t buy a wine or go out of their comfort zone if it doesn’t have a stamp of approval and a high rating from these mags. While some of the magazines will occasionally have an interesting or informative article, this is where I applaud Catavino and other blogs for focusing their writing and attention about WINE not about SCORES. Take your recent Rioja project for example, I haven’t read a magazine article that in depth, that focused, but most important, that personal about Rioja in any of them, and they have the money to do a project like that!! This is what I think the big magazines need, a little personality. There is so much happening in the wine world today that I feel we need several different outlets for all this information, including the Parkers and Tanzers, but let’s just hope they can open their eyes to new and different types of wine drinkers.

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    So ALLABOUTALAVESA what can be done to wean people off the points? If you don’t like them, and I do know your need for them(I worked retail), I wonder what you can do to help people to realize they don’t need them. Or what can be done, to help people look at them differently.

    I am completely serious when I ask the critics to start blogs. Why not! Lot’s of them hate the points too, so why not have them actually talk about wine. Become human, relate to us the readers. Discuss with us, their weakness’s and strengths…A pipe dream? Maybe….but it will make for nice dreams for sure!

    thanks for chiming in!

  • allaboutalavesa

    Well Ryan, my answer to your question is obviously complicated and has many different answers, but I think you touch on one of the main points that leads in that direction. You have already made the case several times, both in your main article and your post above, the critics need to start blogs!!! We 've already seen a huge jump in people takin charge and educating themselves about wine, which I think needs to progress even more, but I believe that is a step in the right direction in itself. I think readers need to trust their own palates more and not rely on the tastes and let's be real here, the opinions, of some of the wine critics. However, I think we do need to recognize the fact that these critics do know wine at a extremely professional level, so I don't think getting rid of the point system and the big name critics all together is possible, or even a positive thing. I guess in a long round-about way to answer your question, I think people need to educate themselves more, read the critics reviews with a grain of salt, and try as many different wines out there as possible to discover their own palate. Just because Jay Miller will score a big extracted Rioja a 96 (what does the plus mean really anyway?) doesn't mean that everyone will like it. Wilf mentioned above "Wine is about friends, family, food, friendship, frivolty and…." Isn't this really why we drink wine?

  • Alex

    Interesting that this item has popped up at the same time … some journalists showing humility and sense!<a href="http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html “>http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html

  • Alex

    Interesting that this item has popped up at the same time … some journalists showing humility and sense!<a href="http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html “>http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html

  • Alex

    Interesting that this item has popped up at the same time … some journalists showing humility and sense!<a href="http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html “>http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html

  • Alex

    Interesting that this item has popped up at the same time … some journalists showing humility and sense!<a href="http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html “>http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html

  • http://www.prgrisley.com allaboutalavesa

    Well Ryan, my answer to your question is obviously complicated and has many different answers, but I think you touch on one of the main points that leads in that direction. You have already made the case several times, both in your main article and your post above, the critics need to start blogs!!! We ‘ve already seen a huge jump in people takin charge and educating themselves about wine, which I think needs to progress even more, but I believe that is a step in the right direction in itself. I think readers need to trust their own palates more and not rely on the tastes and let’s be real here, the opinions, of some of the wine critics. However, I think we do need to recognize the fact that these critics do know wine at a extremely professional level, so I don’t think getting rid of the point system and the big name critics all together is possible, or even a positive thing. I guess in a long round-about way to answer your question, I think people need to educate themselves more, read the critics reviews with a grain of salt, and try as many different wines out there as possible to discover their own palate. Just because Jay Miller will score a big extracted Rioja a 96 (what does the plus mean really anyway?) doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. Wilf mentioned above “Wine is about friends, family, food, friendship, frivolty and….” Isn’t this really why we drink wine?

  • Ryan

    I agree these Big names know a ton, and I want them to stick around, but I want them to realize that sharing their knowledge could help defeat some of the problems that they themselves complain about. More than once Jancis, Hugh, Tanzer, even Parker have bemoaned the sheep reliance on their points. By them opening up a bit, and realizing they can still make money, while sharing info on the web, they could help us to all move past these issues we have. Granted there will always be issues, one of the biggest developments in wine in the past 30 years has been Parker entering the world with his points, and I think the second biggest thing to occur will be when he retires. Points I will never argue are any help to anyone, and have become a crutch for too many. Lazy people need points. Wine should not be for lazy people(well maybe mogan david!). In my opinion Wine writers should be there to educate, explain, and illustrate, not to make my being lazy an easier task. Oh and I do hope we continue to have experts publishing books, and memoirs, espousing their knowledge. I jsut want them to step into the new world of the internet. What would it be like if the next edition of the Wine Encyclopedia were to come out in Wiki form, or at the very least on an interactive website. I like books, but I also want the search ability that comes with the web. ok, there are a few more thoughts! ;)

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    I agree these Big names know a ton, and I want them to stick around, but I want them to realize that sharing their knowledge could help defeat some of the problems that they themselves complain about. More than once Jancis, Hugh, Tanzer, even Parker have bemoaned the sheep reliance on their points. By them opening up a bit, and realizing they can still make money, while sharing info on the web, they could help us to all move past these issues we have.

    Granted there will always be issues, one of the biggest developments in wine in the past 30+years has been Parker entering the world with his points, and I think the second biggest thing to occur will be when he retires. Points I will never argue are any help to anyone, and have become a crutch for too many. Lazy people need points. Wine should not be for lazy people(well maybe mogan david!). In my opinion Wine writers should be there to educate, explain, and illustrate, not to make my being lazy an easier task.

    Oh and I do hope we continue to have experts publishing books, and memoirs, espousing their knowledge. I jsut want them to step into the new world of the internet. What would it be like if the next edition of the Wine Encyclopedia were to come out in Wiki form, or at the very least on an interactive website. I like books, but I also want the search ability that comes with the web.

    ok, there are a few more thoughts! ;)

  • Alex

    Interesting that this item has popped up at the same time … some journalists showing humility and sense!