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MONDAY MANIFESTOS
05/02/2011
Monday Manifestos
The Industry Strikes Back Hard At The Wine Writers

By Charles Olken, 39

I received the following by email, sent anonymously, by someone who is obviously very young. I suspect that the wine world is on the verge of its own birth certificate kerfluffle.

==============

Recently, much ado has been made recently in the wine-world with regards to the printing of numbers.

No, this is not yet another critique of the 100 point rating scale. So many have already expressed scathing derision of the idea that the quality of a wine can be captured by a single, numerical expression that any more would be piling on. Rather, the current fuss revolves around the printing of another number, one apparently that does contain within its very nature the ability to differentiate between fine wine and base drink, between that which provides worth companion to a meal and that which is designed for mere intoxication and inevitably leads to great drunkenness and the downfall of all that has made wine worthy over the centuries. That number is, of course, the printing of the alcohol percentage of a wine alongside the review of said wine.

It is hardly necessary for me to tell you how meaningful it will be to your wine-drinking life to have these numbers printed next to the wine reviews. Jon Bonne, of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote about his decision to print alcohol levels alongside the wine reviews with such fanfare that it was (rightfully, of course, and done because Jon says the readers that comment on his stories – or as he called them via twitter “cranky Gatefolk” -want this information) deemed worthy of the cover story of the Food and Wine Section.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/24/FD311J4I7H.DTL&type=wine

Decanter Magazine, England’s leading wine publication (and the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Wine Magazine”), has decided to do the same,

http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/524024/decanter-magazine-to-list-alcohol-level-as-standard

While many others, Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast (in his blog www.steveheimoff.com) and Mike Dunne is his online column for the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/dunne_picks/index.html) amongst the group, have chosen to print alcohol levels without the release of a press release. Thus far the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, International Wine Cellar, and Burghound have eschewed the printing of such numbers and somehow survived unscathed from the resulting consumer outrage (though there have been some rumors that Robert Parker’s retirement from reviewing California wines was brought about because of the mobs of irate consumers at his Meadowood hotel room, complete with flaming bottles of cult Cabernet on stick).

Despite these holdouts, the course of the future seems to be clear, alcohol levels will be printed alongside each review in all major wine publications. This can only be a good thing and will have the added benefit of eliminating any wine writer responsibility for actually describing whether or not the aforementioned alcohol actually stands out in the wine (rejoinders of “we told you what the number was” shall soon follow). Ultimately, of course, one can only hope that such numbers will replace all descriptive prose, leading each of us to the promised land where:

14.7, 3.8, .52, 70%

will let us know that this is a wine to be avoided at all costs unless your desire is to achieve immediate inebriation and perhaps even endanger the life of all those around you while:

13.2, 3.4, .65, 15%

will provide you with a wine perfectly fit for your Jidori Hen Egg “Aux Fine Herbes, Griddled Brioche, Black Truffle, and Prosciutto. (What? Is your Jidori chicken egg actually from an American raised, Jidori-style chicken? For shame....try 13.5, 3.6, .61, 33%).

However, until that blessed day is upon us when all wines can be evaluated solely by their numbers, it seems that we have arrived at the point where printed alcohol numbers will accompany many wine reviews. With this being settled, now it is time to focus our efforts on the printing of another, even more important, number. Let us all gather our voices in favor of printing the age of the wine writer alongside each of his or her reviews.

Yes, it is imperative now that each wine review carry with it the age of the wine reviewer. In the huge National Geographic Study focusing on over 1 million respondents, it was determined that there are major changes in the verbal characterization of odors as the respondents aged (check out the summary of the report here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8473697?ordinalpos=7&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum). There are many findings contained within this report, including a lack of consensus on certain odors as the respondents aged, major changes in the recognition and description of certain odors as respondents entered the sixth decade of life, and increasing variability in the ability to distinguish sweet odors with the progression of age.

Certainly, the ability to smell a wine and describe its various smells is of paramount importance to a successful wine writer, perhaps even more so than the ability to taste (though this, too, changes with age) and yet we are being asked to trust wine reviews without each wine review having the reviewers age listed next to the review!

Oh, certainly there are other attributes of a trusted wine reviewer (their curriculum vitae, their overall knowledge of wine and the great wines of the world, their consistency over time, how your palate aligns with theirs, etc), but much like the ancillary attributes of a fine wine (such as pH, TA, oak aging, VA levels, brett levels, much less any characteristics of the vineyard in which the grapes were grown), these can be overlooked in favor of printing only one number, the reviewer’s age!

Imagine the confidence with which you will be able to purchase a wine when you see “JB, 38” knowing that his sense of smell is still keen, as he is in his youth, and that his evaluation must be spot on. Even better, calculate the money you will save when you see a review of a wine that sounds fantastic, and yet you know not to purchase it because it says “BH, 56” at the conclusion of the text.

So, yes, it is time as consumers to raise our voices and strike while the Zin is hot, and call for the printing of this vital number!

Comments

Monday Manifestos
by Bob Smith
Posted on:5/2/2011 10:27:59 AM

Charles, 

It's great to know that the Hosemaster is alive and well and can still make us LOL about how silly the blog world can get.  I sincerly hope that he continues to drop by now and then to keep us laughing.   I'm 100 on that!

Thanks,

Bob Smith

 

Agism In Wine Reviews
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:5/2/2011 10:38:03 AM

I have printed my age right next to my byline. I am trying to find a way to print my TA, RS and pH. I am pretty sure that my varietal content is 100% but my appellation (provenance) is mixed since I grew up in Boston but have lived in San Francisco since the 60s. It's amazing that I can still be 39, but then, I am a very youthful remnant of the 60s.

Numbers, Numbahs, Rhumbas...who cares?
by David Vergari
Posted on:5/2/2011 11:20:11 AM

Poking fun at the numeristas is preferable to righteous indignation.  IMO.  Dear gawd, how did we reach the point where the ETOH NUMBER counted so much for so few?

by the numbers
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:5/2/2011 1:47:15 PM

Obviously, none of you have ever painted by the numbers. If you had, you'd know how important numbers can be, and why there is such a thing as a college Fine Arts Degree.

Speaking of numbers: is this the second, fourth, hundredth, or some other numerical incarnation of the Hosemaster's resurrection?

Yes!
by Doug Thomson
Posted on:5/2/2011 5:36:56 PM

It's a relief that someone could hit the truth of the matter while being so entertaining at the same time.  "If you're going to tell the truth, you'd better make them laugh or they'll kill you." Oscar Wilde

Reminds me of when we burned our bras
by Jo Diaz
Posted on:5/3/2011 8:37:33 AM

Then, we all had to make a living and carry on. Turns out, our parents were also right about most things, including repsecting our elders (a mostly lost art for indiviulaistic societies like ours, which honors youth,and bright white smiles, I might add :)... But, we did spend time reeling against our elders, too, didn't we? (Still, it's our societal way.) We even thought that we invented rebellion. And such fun it was.

Each generation has a turn at it. I'm disappointed the person didn't have the guts to come out from behind the curtain (S/he must fear the confrontation.) S/he too, will grow up one day (age does that too us... quite shocklingly, I must add). S/he'll look back and giggle...

Thanks for a good laugh, Charlie. It's not like you've been telling everyone you're still in your rebellious youth. LOL

Very young?
by Mike Officer
Posted on:5/3/2011 10:45:27 AM

If this is indeed the Hosemaster, calling him "obviously very young" is quite the compliment.  More like obviously very young at heart!  Bravo!

Not So Young
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:5/3/2011 3:28:41 PM

Hi Mike--

Obviously, you know our Hosemaster. But, I do not think it was he who wrote the piece that was sent to me.

I think he would have written it in his own name and sent it to me directly if he were the author. He has never been one to pull his punches.

But since it came in over transom anonymously, I am guessing that it was somone one else.

It's still pretty funny--even to an old guy like me.

I would hope that you are kidding
by Rich Reader
Posted on:5/12/2011 11:37:05 AM

Are you speaking in jest?  The very idea that the age of a wine reviewer is a worthy measure by which the readers should decide whether or not to continue reading is both patently absurd ageist discrimination as well as ethically, morally, and constitutionally offensive. 

<a href="http://vinebuzz.biz/blog">VineBuzz</a>

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