Wednesday, January 5, 2011

10 New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year!

As happens at the dawn of every new year, we pause for a bit of reflection and ask ourselves the same inspirational, hopeful questions like, 'What will I do differently this year to be a better person?', 'How will a live a life that more truly reflects what's important to me?'  And 'What am I going to commit to - and really do - that I've been putting off for years?'

Heady stuff.

Here?  We try to limit not to get too ambitious, but we have resolutions nonetheless.  So, looking forward to 2011, we're making some commitments to change Winethropology for the better.  These will make the material on this site more applicable, easier to digest, and more enjoyable - not to mention easier to write.  Here are our 10 New Years Resolutions:
  1. Enough is enough. This is the most regrettable resolution, so we may as well get it out of the way.  Since day one, a draft of every almost every single review has been sent to the winery, their importer, or PR firm along with and an invite to comment/make corrections.  Despite readers telling us how they love reading responses from wineries and how it makes them feel closer to the producer and their product, very few take advantage of it.  Unbelievable.  This courtesy is a time consuming pain the ass with too little participation and we resolve to no longer waste everybody's time doing this.  No mas. 
  2. Come clean.  There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 wine reviews that have yet to be published.  Yikes.  Expect 2011 to start off with a purge.
  3. Actionable intel. We resolve to start giving you very specific details about where to get the very best deals on the wines we're recommending and focusing more on how to find the best bargains out there.
  4. Cut to the chase.  We do a lot of wine reviews here.  A lot.  Winethropology is lucky to be on wineries' radar screens, but when the samples get backed up three cases deep, tasting wine is more analysis than appreciation.  This has reflected in the reviews primarily because the task of writing an entire piece on a single wine is so time consuming.  We'll still do that for wines deserving of the space and your attention, but we resolve to cut to the chase (should you buy it or not?) faster. 
  5. Less is more. 2010 saw around 170 posts published here with over 175 comments, 200+ tweets, and untold hours battling that damn Facebook RSS app. Traffic analysis suggests that might be too frequent.  (So does my wife.)  So, to make sure you're still getting relevant content, we're going to dovetail our previous resolution with batching reviews for anything short of noteworthy (good or bad) wines.
  6. Say cheese!  We resolve to include more original photography.  You asked for it, we'll do it.
  7. All.  Yes, all.  We resolve to review all samples sent to us.  Yes, even the Turning Leaf, Woodbridge, and Sutter Home.  Why?  Because producers work very hard to bring their product to market and they want to share it with our readers.  And because the best surprises are often found in the most unlikely of places.
  8. Tell it like it is.  We resolve to call it like we see it.  Parker gave that Garnacha 91 points?  Don't care.  Spectator slapped 92 on this Chardonnay?  Whoop-dee-freaking-do.  If you've been paying attention, we've been doing this from the get go.  Popular with the PR firms it is not, but we all have a roll to play and hopefully integrity is part of the picture for all of us.
  9. Take it off.  At the end of last summer we started reviewing all samples blind.  There is a ton of value in this and I thank Fred Swan for encouraging this method.  We will continue to taste wines blind when in a comparative lineup.  However, we are going to return to tasting individual wines, um...naked, if you will.  Why?  Joe Roberts made a simple, yet compelling argument for this when he recently wrote, "...I’d rather experience wine the way that everyone else normally does, so that I am coming to it from the same standpoint, and we have thus maximized are chances of 'connecting' when I describe that wine to YOU."  There are pros and cons to both and I reserve the right to flip-flop on this matter.  So there.
  10. Taste less, drink more.  Tyler Coleman (aka Dr. Vino) wrote a great, short piece  making the case for reviewing wines based on drinking, not tasting.  They are indeed two very different things.  You buy wine to drink it, not to line it up with a handful of others and discard it after a few analytical sips, right?
What's your new years wine resolution?

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for your list of 10. I will likewise do some from your list as well for the wines that I taste.

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  2. Great resolutions, though I'm sad to read # 1. How about just a quick e-mail to the producer/PR firm, with a 24 hour window to allow them to respond before posting the review? Those who care will take the time to respond, even if it's with a one-liner; those who don't aren't going to, so to hell with 'em.

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  3. Hey Craig,

    Yeah, #1 sucks. Thanks for your thoughts. I struggled to find a practical way to keep doing this. There's an inherent problem with the whole model, though.

    An increasing amount of my interaction is with PR firms/trade associations representing wineries. When they get a draft, they're not really empowered to respond to it. In fairness, that's more the domain of the winemaker or other winery-employed marketing person. But the PR firm is set up to act as a buffer between the media/trade and the winery so the winery can focus on wine and the PR people on dealing with jerk offs like me. Ergo, a flawed model resulting in the winery being too insulated. It's a little different when dealing directly with wineries, but not terribly so. Again, they're busy making/selling wine.

    The good news is that technology can provide visibility to and for the wineries - if they want it. Google Alerts allow wineries (and/or their PR firms) a fast, simple, and free way to get links to any site, blog, or media outlet that mention their product. The comments section we're using right now to have this conversation is just as available to winemakers - heck, Monique, the winemaker for Albeno Munari commented on the previous post.

    In an ideal world, PR firms would keep tabs on those things that merit a winery's personal touch and encourage them to interact with their target market as appropriate. But as an esteemed colleague of mine said yesterday, "Not to sound harsh but it's kind of their job to do that stuff."

    Cheers!

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  4. Craig,

    On second thought, there's no reason why I can't just point these folks to the recently revised samples policy (http://www.winethropology.com/2009/01/samples-policy.html) when they request shipping information. It isn't the one-by-one invite compelling them to interact, but it's something.

    Any other ideas are most welcome.

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  5. Hmm.. good point. Maybe your colleague is on the right track -- the burden should be on them, not on you. Give them, maybe, a 48 hour window, and if the PR firm or go-between can't get the winery to respond in that time frame, then you publish the review, note that the winery or its reps chose not to contribute to or comment on it, but that they're welcome to do so in the comments section, just as you noted Monique did. We, the readers, could take into account the winery's desire (or lack thereof) to communicate directly with the consumers as part of our evaluation....

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