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09.20.2006

What is The Wine Spectator Afraid Of?

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like August 31, 2006 to go down in modern wine publishing history. This is officially the day that the Wine Spectator (grand poobah of the wine publishing world) officially acknowledged the existence of wine blogs (aside from the ones they started that you can't read without paying).

Just for the record, while every major food magazine that has wine coverage, and every major lifestyle magazine that has wine coverage, and every major newspaper that covers wine has provided their readers with information about wine blogs, not a single major dedicated wine magazine has ever mentioned a specific wine blog. Not the Spectator, not Decanter, not Wine Enthusiast, not Wine & Spirits. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's a little fishy, dontcha think?

Anyhow, back to Kramer and the Spectator. Even though to my knowledge Matt Kramer had technically used the phrase "wine blogs" once before in the magazine and once in a column for the New York Sun, in the August Issue of the Spectator Kramer spends three whole paragraphs in an essay entitled "You Can't Get It, but That's OK" talking about wine blogs.

There is a slight problem however.

1. Everything he says is completely wrong.

2. He again fails to mention a single individual wine blog.

This is so preposterous and laughable that I hope you'll excuse me for quoting at length:

"The latest phase in writing about wine is blogging. Now I like blogs. For too long, wine writing was pretty much like sending messages to Voyager II. We writers held forth and, apart from the odd letter (usually asking if an old bottle of Blue Nun that the reader found in his mother's utility room is worth any money), we never heard anything back...."

"One thing is constant, though: Scratch a wine writer or blogger -- a good one, anyway -- and you'll find an evangelist. No sooner do you taste a terrific wine than you're on the horn by phone, fax, e-mail, chat board, or blog telling all your friends.

It's all about finding, and heralding, really good wines to try. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Because really Good wine is not that easy to buy...."

"Bloggers freely tout wines that are great but elusive. This is why I envy them. As a longtime newspaper wine columnist, let me tell you that newspaper readers don't want to hear about some goofy wine with production levels measured in the high two digits. They'll turn to the sports section so fast that the resulting wrist sprain will put them on the disabled list.

Indeed, even Wine Spectator, whose readers can be relied on to have more than a passing interest in the subject regularly receives complaints after recommending one wine or another whose total number of cases made wouldn't suffice to build a small igloo..."

"Just getting the news that new wine life forms are being discovered is a legitimate, even inspirational, part of today's wine gratification. And that, at least, is easier to get than ever before."

Seriously. How much of a joke is this?

I want to be clear that I don't see this article as an attack on wine blogs. Certainly Kramer seems to like them (though he won't tell you which ones). But he's totally off his rocker to suggest that one of "the problems" with wine blogs is that they end up recommending wines that no one can get.

If anything, it's quite the opposite. Most wine blogs, frankly, write about pretty mainstream wines that their owners are buying in local stores all the time. Vinography is probably the worst offender of the wine blogs out there, and I'd estimate I'm writing about sub-1000 case production wines only about 20% of the time.

I don't want to be snippy, but compare that to the Wine Spectator where quite often their highest rated wines are made in quantities between 50 and 150 cases, and Kramer doesn't have a leg to stand on with this argument. The top rated wines in the very same issue where his article appears are all roughly sub-1000 case production and of the collectible European wines some are only imported in quantities of less than 30 cases !!

Now, to my second point. Isn't it just a little bizzarre that Kramer talks about how he loves wine blogs, mentions that there are even "good ones" out there, and closes his entire essay with a statement that could be interpreted as saying that he finds wine blogs an "inspirational" source of wine information that's "easier to get than ever before" yet he fails to mention a single actual wine blog??

Stupefying.

Yes, of course this is a self serving rant on my part. But I would have been just as thrilled to see ANY of my fellow wine bloggers' sites in print in this article as I would have my own.

Come on, Kramer. Come on, Spectator (and the rest of you big wine publications). What are you afraid of?

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.