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wine spectatorI ran across this winy little piece at the Napa Valley Register. Apparently, Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines from 2014 and the San Francisco Chronicle’s end-of-the-year summary didn’t include enough Napa wines, and the folks in Napa had their little fifis hurt.

The Spectator included six wines from Napa Valley wineries, but only four had a Napa Valley appellation…The Chronicle’s list didn’t include any Napa chardonnays except an Enfield from Wild Horse Valley, which is partly in Solano County…

The list didn’t include any Napa sparklers or pinot noirs…Among the cabernets, Napa did have 10 of the 14 top wines…A very few Napa wines were also included in the list of 60 top values under $40.

Looking at the list, it’s clear that unusual and new was a major criterion for picking wines.

The article goes on to lament the fact that wine writers don’t write about what is popular:

The whole list, like that of the Spectator, is mostly irrelevant. Though great for the wines chosen, it has little to do with the wines most people drink; the vast amount of top wines are chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, most from well-known producers sourcing grapes from familiar places.

I’m always suspicious of such lists, for writers and critics get bored. They like something different, and they also sometime suffer from the Consumer Reports syndrome: The winner has to be unexpected.

A list of wines by popularity (i.e., sales) is more relevant, but not if you think your taste is better than consumers.

I quite agree that the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list has a misleading title. The best wines in the world seldom appear on that list and sometimes their choices are just baffling. The criteria for choosing what gets on the list do seem to include what’s new, innovative, unusual and unexpected.

But why is that a flaw? Why would wine writers want to write about what’s already popular and well-known. A list of wines by popularity might be interesting in a study of what people drink, but why would such a list be newsworthy? The job of journalism is to inform readers about something they don’t know. If most people drink Cabernet and Chardonnay, then it’s the job of journalism to inform people about other varietals. If most people think ‘’Napa” when looking for quality Chardonnay then it’s journalism’s job to point out other sources of quality Chardonnay if they exist. Wine writing that sticks to only established varieties and regions would just be boring.

And on a side note, it is just false that most people drink wine from Napa. Napa produces about 4% of the wine made in California. Should journalists then devote only 4% of their space to writing about Napa?

The Bordelaise for years adopted the attitude that only they made quality wine and they could ignore the innovation going on around them. The result is a serious loss of market share as other regions realized their potential.

Is Napa suffering from that same sense of entitlement?

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