Enough With the Haters: An STBNY Mini-Screed

It’s been quite a week. I had surgery on Tuesday (everything’s fine) and have spent the past 6 days in and out of a Percoset-induced haze. During my more lucid moments, I’ve been reading wine blogs. A LOT of wine blogs. This has not been as good for my health as I would have hoped. That there’s some dumb and mediocre stuff out there hasn’t surprised me. Hell, I’m not in love with everything I write. But what has shocked me is how mean-spirited and dismissive some wine bloggers can be about the most important person in the wine business: You. Without the consumer, there is no wine industry. Some bloggers and wine folk I’ve met over the years think of the consumer as an icky afterthought, the unpleasant cost of doing business, where “doing business” means swapping stories about the most obscure/expensive wines they’ve ever had (“and then we had the most incredible 1957 Andorran late-harvest Müller-Thurgau — you are familiar with the wines of Andorra, aren’t you?”) and complaining about Robert Parker.

I don’t get it. First of all, it’s rude. Second of all, it’s bad business. An unsophisticated wine consumer isn’t an insult — it’s an opportunity. People are much, much more willing to try new things than we give them credit for, and if you take the time to educate them about what they’re drinking, they’ll respond.* I did a class for a friend once where I poured a Torrontés from Argentina. She fell in love with it, abandoned her insipid and overpriced Pinot Grigio of choice, and spread the gospel to her friends and family. She hadn’t been drinking Pinot Grigio to that point because she had “bad taste” or no imagination — she had been drinking it because she didn’t know what her options were. No wine seller or waiter or sommelier had ever said to her “you know, here’s another wine in a similar style you might like instead. Taste it and tell me what you think.”

She’s now incredibly loyal to Torrontés (you’re welcome, Wines of Argentina) and at this point probably knows more about it than I do. She discovered something new and was delighted to share it. This is a common theme I’ve seen time and again, and every single time it thrills me to help someone make this discovery. I’d rather share a well-made $15 red from the Languedoc with a new and curious wine drinker and help her learn something than drink a First-Growth Bordeaux with a few of the wine bloggers I’ve been reading lately.  (Of course, best case scenario is to drink the First-Growth Bordeaux with the new and curious wine drinker.)

All of this to say, there’s a lively community of  kind, curious, generous and knowledgeable bloggers out there, too. I want to continue to be a member in good standing of this happy crew, so please, I want to hear from you if I’m being intolerant, confusing, or unhelpful.

And in the name of being generous, I’d like to share some blogs I do enjoy. There are many, but here’s a recent sample. I really like 1WineDude and SilenesCellar, both written by new acquaintances from last weekend’s TasteCamp. (Where anti-consumer sentiment was thin on the ground, thankfully.) I also came across this awesome entry from French wine blogger Miss Glou Glou (translated: Miss Glug Glug) on how to spit wine with elegance. Yes, it’s in French, but you can get a lot of it from context. It’s genius.

*Of course, there are exceptions. When I worked in wine retail I got a few mind-boggling questions. My favorite: a customer I had never met before held up two bottles in front of my face and asked: “which of these will I like better?” These folks always seemed a bit unhinged overall, so I’m guessing their eccentricities applied to all areas of their lives, not just wine.

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