More Wine Populist Nonsense

clinking wine glassesThis argument, this time from W. Blake Gray,  gets really tiresome, but there seems to be no end to the joy wine writers get from beating up on wine lovers.

Nobody drinks buttery Chardonnay anymore. Wine pairing matters. The 100-point-scale rating is dead.

These are a few of the myths spread by the “wine intelligentsia” – the sommeliers, bloggers and writers who dominate our wine conversations.

These are not myths. They happen to be more or less true of the so called “wine intelligentsia”.

Gray devotes several paragraphs pointing out that the pre-occupations of the wine intelligentsia are not shared by the vast majority of wine consumers.  Well of course not. But who claimed they are? Where is the link or the quote that suggests “sommeliers, bloggers, and writers” are under the illusion that their audience is the general wine drinking public? I think all of us are well aware that our audience is other wine lovers. I use the word “lover” here to indicate someone who is obsessed with wine whether they are in the wine business or are connoisseurs. Most people who like wine are not obsessed with wine and don’t care to read about it. There is no reason why they should unless they want to expand their knowledge of wine.

Gray writes: “The problem is that we’re all talking to each other, and not to anybody outside our silo.”

Why is this a problem? Why is it a sin that people really interested in a topic want to talk to other people who share that interest?

Most people who occasionally visit an art museum don’t spend much time pouring over the pages of Art Forum. Most people who attend Major League Baseball games don’t know the difference between FIP and DICE. Most avid readers of literary fiction care nothing for what the writers at Paris Review think about the latest from Ian McEwan. Yet no one thinks such specialized writing is “a problem.”

Apparently only in wine is writing for a specialized audience “a problem”. And in fact the audience for thoughtful writing about wine isn’t all that small.

Enthusiasts – that’s us, the wine intelligentsia – make up just 10 percent of wine consumers, according to Constellation.

Since about 77 million people in the U.S in 2019 reported drinking wine regularly, that is a sizable audience for wine writing. Why he thinks serving nearly 8 million readers is a disservice is a mystery. Apparently, he thinks it’s because we hold opinions forcefully:

Nonetheless, we always present our positions like we’re 90 percent of the market, and the other 10 percent would be with us if they just knew better.

That is 100% bullshit. Again there is no indication of what writing he finds pernicious. I read a lot of wine writing; none of it assumes their audience includes fans of Jam Jar.

By the way, Gray writes about some of the most arcane topics in the wine business and states his position forcefully—that is why I enjoy reading him. I know little about his audience but I would be very surprised to discover most of them list Jam Jar among their favorites.

It is an enduring puzzle why wine writers engage in this kind of self-flagellation.

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