wine ‘tourism’ and independence

Update 20.3.2008(19.3.2008)billn

I use the quotation marks because I’m not really talking about ‘real’ tourists, rather the ever-increasing global band of ‘writers’ who travel the world at the expense of regional marketing groups – worldwide – it seems a nice life! In itself there is nothing wrong with this symbiotic relationship as the journalist arrives, learns, tastes and (hopefully) objectively provides opinion and some exposure for the region – this is the professional version. What raised my eyebrows during the Grands Jours de Bourgogne (a visit which was paid for with my own cash – but did get me invitations to some nice meals!) was the number of ‘professionals’ that I met who had had their air tickets and hotels paid for by the burgundy marketing groups – the number of people was not the issue, rather the apparent lack of knowledge of the region that a few exhibited. Personally speaking I see the Grands Jours as the ideal opportunity (for example) to taste a number of Volnays in one room with their producers and then Pommards in another room with their producers, to learn about and contrast and eventually deepen your knowledge of styles, terroir etc.. Some I spoke to needed help with grape varieties, hierarchy of crus etc., etc.. I hope I’m not being elitist about this, but I expect that if someone was paying my fare, I would have (at least) made some basic research! In this latter case, I wonder what value will eventually accrue to BIVB/AVCO etc…

That leads me to the term ‘independent’. One of the ‘professionals’ I met described themselves as a completely independent critic – that got me thinking – can a critic ever be independent? I suppose it depends on the context of the word independent; a writer who occasionally writes a wine-related critique can largely be said to be independent because their living is not directly linked to the vine. Anyone whose income stream is dependent on their critique of wines is by definition, not independent of the industry – whatever they say, even if not paid directly by that industry – but that doesn’t mean that they are not independent of thought. 😉

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 5 responses to “wine ‘tourism’ and independence”

  1. Michel19th March 2008 at 7:13 pmPermalinkReply

    I LOVE this post!

    I agree completely, how can you be “independent” when someone pays for your trip and meals. Automatically, you will have a positive view of the region represented by the marketing organization. I don’t care how disciplined you are, you are always influenced.

    Thank you for bringing this up, as I think many “independent” and even some professional writers refuse to admit this happens.

  2. Thor20th March 2008 at 3:31 amPermalinkReply

    In my opinion, no; true independence isn’t possible. That said, junkets are…problematic. They shouldn’t have to be so, but the best evidence that they are is that they’re so often populated by either non-journalists or writers who only republish press releases.

  3. Philip20th March 2008 at 8:00 amPermalinkReply

    Independence cuts both ways. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in (wine maker, car maker, film maker) providing you are doing a competent professional job (as opposed to cynically milking the paying public) the last thing you want is an informed, fearless and accurate review of your product. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, most of the time your product is fine, but in absolute terms actually no better than the competently executed competition. Most of the difference is personal taste, not inherent quality. And secondly, consumers might rely on it. They simply don’t have the time, skill or resources to make their own minds up.

  4. Phil Eaves21st March 2008 at 6:47 pmPermalinkReply

    Bill no I agree you are not being elitist when you argue these writers and professionals need to know the grape varieties and cru system how can they be constructive if they know nothing of the difference between the cru let alone the villages it makes me angry that these people cannot be bothered to bone up a bit yet consider themselves worthy to pass comments let alone judgements on
    the region. How many of these commentators get invited because of column inches but have no passion for these vineyards ? rant over

  5. Michael Donohue1st April 2008 at 3:25 pmPermalinkReply

    I can’t imagine there not being some salespeople or groupies at these “junkets”(or massively organized tastings) as well, perhaps “kids” new to the industry…The sad truth is some of these dweebs wind up buying product & managing sales and some may be the next MW – so sharing is always good – and clearly, to teach is to learn!

    Biting the hand that feeds you is rarely rewarding for either party. You had reason to celebrate @ Volnay it seemed, with a uniform high degree of satisfaction.

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