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November 20, 2006



We know great minds think alike and all that, but we couldn’t help but notice a thread of newpaper articles that appeared in The Daily Mail, The Times and then all the way over in Australia after our post a couple of weeks back about the London International Wine and Spirits Competition

I’m not sure if we started something, but we posted that despite the fact that we won a Trophy, we were a bit uneasy with the whole thing: The cost of entry, the awards ceremony, etc.

The articles I think, were filled with inaccuracies and hyperbole and unfairly critical of all wine awards. More importantly, they really missed the point: From where we sit, over the coming years, online information will marginalize the need for many awards anyway.

Historically, authority in the wine business has been very “top down”. The few bestow authority on the many. Whether we are talking about awards, Wine Spectator ratings or newspaper columns, a relatively small group of people control and dole out ranking and authority to the hundreds of thousands of producers around the world.

If you speak to a producer about their wine, it often starts with “we won this medal or that award or got xyz rating in The Spectator”. Ratings are valuable because they simplify communication with the consumer. They deconstruct complicated messages about appellation, production techniques that the trade think the consumer cares about, but generally don’t.

But the problem remains: Relatively few people control the topics and quality of the discussion.

We talk about the fact that the “ New” web (web 2.0) has changed the world. Web 2.0 gives everyone a voice: Every consumer, every member of the wine trade and every producer. We believe that this will ultimately more evenly distribute control from the hands of the few journos, publications and awards businesses to the control of the consumer.

After all, logically, what should matter more? The opinions of a few tasters at an awards contest or the consensus of hundreds or thousands of consumers?

If a consumer wants to know about a book, one can get lots of reviews just by going to Amazon or doing a google search. You can still read book reviews in the Sunday New York Times, and this is a valuable resource to the reader, but there is wisdom in the collective opinion of the masses and we will start to see this with wine.

Ultimately, what makes the perception of a wine over time will not be about the opinions of a few, but the collective opinions of thousands of drinkers around the world.

We do live in interesting times.

Posted by Jason at November 20, 2006 2:14 PM

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How do you think Cork'd (http://www.corkd.com) etc. will change this situation?

Posted by: Simon at November 20, 2006 4:02 PM

Right on Simon!

This is exactly what we are talking about. I was going to link to them, but the post was getting too long. :-)

Posted by: Jason at November 20, 2006 5:45 PM

You should read David Hume about what it is that makes a good critic.

Consumer opinions are hugely important and it's great that they are being noticed. But these don't take the place of good, competent critics.

Blogs and Web 2.0 are redressing an unbalanced situation - the future will be one where expert critics exist alongside consumers with a voice.

And the boundaries will be blurred. Indeed, many 'amateur' wine lovers who have specialised in a certain region, or who have deep cellars, will have more experience and more astute opinions than the professional critics. If the magazines want to maintain their role, they need to sharpen up a bit, because these days if you b*****t the power of the web will find you out.

Posted by: Jamie G at November 28, 2006 11:24 PM

Jamie, Agree completely. The balance needs to be struck and the wine community (consumers, producers and journos) will benefit from a widening of the silo that now contains wine info. A couple of mags possibly won't benefit, though, I imagine.

I will read David Hume, thanks for the heads up.

BTW- You should mention Torres Chardonnay: Fabulous stuff and probably the most Burgundian of all Californian Chards.

Posted by: jason at November 28, 2006 11:44 PM

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