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disappointing ‘wine-writers’

The caveat here, is that I’m talking about some ‘generalist’ wine-writers who occasionally dip their toe into a region, tasting at a few well-manicured addresses, probably sponsored by some ‘body’ or other, and back that up by tasting a bunch of grand crus that start at €100 a bottle. I’ve not been involved in a similar roughing of Twitter feathers before, but these two troll-esque tweets (from writers with over 40k of twitter followers) annoyed me just as much as previous Decanter (harvest) stories that seemed, at the same time, sensationalist yet lacking any real depth of comment or apparent knowledge:
Well, that’s my perjorative, clearly biased opinion based on what I read, anyway 😉

I assumed the first was tongue in cheek – and I like to have a laugh – but prodding showed that this was indeed Will’s thinking despite initially teasing-out that he was talking about ‘only the very best!’ His views seemed to harden and widen in the ‘conversation’ that followed. Hopefully he goes out and visits in more depth than I fear will be the case. As for Jamie – sorry, but that comment does not come up to his usual standards. There is much more to this if you wish to follow the conversations in the links above. Unfortunately, Twitter becomes unwieldy and close to useless once more than a couple of people are ‘involved’ in a conversation…

I pondered writing this, mainly because it seemed too self-serving, but the fact is, you need specialists if you want to know what to buy. Jancis’s site is going that way with multiple contributors, but already you have Roy Hersh for Port, Chris Kissack for Bordeaux and Loire, Burghound, maybe Neal Martin, maybe me for Burgundy – but for god’s sake, don’t read magazine/newspaper style columns hoping get useful info. World of Fine Wine is an exception, but has such lead-times you could never describe it as a guide for buying.

My basic premise is: Yes indeed Burgundy has become expensive for a certain niche producer list, put another way ‘no shit Sherlock.’ But a journalist can’t just say ‘I’m telling it like it is’ without actually showing some groundwork on which their opinions are formed. Actually, I’d be much more amenable if they simply said ‘In my opinion, Burgundy has a vanishing level of relevance because of xxxx, yyyy and zzzz‘ substantiating their words…

But we all know the phrase about ‘opinions’ – mine too! 😉

8 responses to “disappointing ‘wine-writers’”

  1. pgconnolly73

    When people start considering wine’s ability to “move the soul” it’s time to start thinking about Pseuds Corner. (or at least going out more).

    I drink a lot of Burgundy and can be perfectly delighted with a 20 euro Côte de Beaune Villages. But that’s because I drink wine to accompany food, with people I like and not to seek a transcendental experience. It’s just wine, albeit more enjoyable than from anywhere else on the planet.

    I’ll make a note to ignore posts by Goode and Lyons. Thanks, Philip

  2. jhasenpflug

    Bill, you are a beacon of truth in the murky oceans of those wine writers who presume to critique any- and every-thing they deign to let cross their lips and wash their tastebuds. They appear as sycophants basking in the limelight of an ever-diminishing number of “top-tier” producers, without having “discovered” a single new address. As a US importer, I would have to beg, cajole, even bribe so called independent wine writers from the major trade publications to visit, talk, and taste the wines of new, unknown producers, not to mention the difficult task of persuading the world that a generational change at a winery was a harbinger of imminent dramatic improvements in quality. The “top” writers and “top” producers have always been a self-promoting circle-jerk. The writers’ excuses for not doing the leg work necessary to find new wines (or entire new regions!) is to cover far too much territory in no more than a cursory manner. Excuse my rant, but as a budding novice writer, in the paraphrased words of Grouch Marx, I am not sure I would want to be a member of that club, especially if invited to join.

  3. Brian

    Bill,
    I was also disappointed at these comments as I have enjoyed articles from these writers in the past. I never bought into the wine writers/critics who try to be all things to all regions as this is an impossible task for any one palate and must border on arrogance to think so. As for anyone to remark there is no great affordable Burgundy is complete nonsense.

  4. Markydb

    I love and drink Burgundy’s wines and so read those who write about those wines. It’s impossible for me to be exposed to what can be readily tasted in Burgundy and so I look to those who can tell me about someone who is making terrific wines that have not yet risen to the level of “known so well I can’t get his/her wines” (or if I can I can’t afford them). These articles, and there have been some real nose busters recently are, let me put this politely, unhelpful. We already know that DRC is expensive and that the $100 threshold has been crossed by far to many premier crus and value is becoming more subjective with every passing vintage. But instead of whining incessantly about that which we cannot change, how about some of these writers go out and find some more winemakers like Patrick Essa & Jerome Galeyrand and tell everyone why they think we should be drinking their wines instead of the ones we already know but can no longer obtain or about regions who have started to make wines like they really matter and thus have elevated the entire village. Wine writers can and should be valuable to we consumers and telling us that the 2002 La Tache was really good and really expensive does not, shall we say, fit the bill.

  5. Michael Warner

    Personally I’m quite glad if the majority of wine writers focus entirely on the top 30 or 40 producers and ignore all the rest. I’m already priced out of those so more demand for them doesn’t really effect me. People who are really interested will continue to discover for themselves – with the help of people like Bill.

  6. Will Lyons

    Bill, sorry that my comments caused offense. None intended! I was merely posing a thought on Twitter before my trip. A preliminary sketch, definitely not the final piece. Just for the record, I have been buying, selling (with Justerini & Brooks, later Lea & Sandeman) and writing (Scotland on Sunday now WSJ) about Burgundy since the late 1990s. Heavens knows how many EP campaigns I have covered. So have lived through the recent price inflation. Felt the same about Bordeaux in 2009 & 2010 before publishing a series of articles on finding value in Bordeaux, which is exactly what I propose to do with Burgundy. Don’t take press trips – WSJ picks up all my expenses. Look forward to seeing you on the wine route. Best Will Lyons

  7. Winedr Blog » Wine Writing: Generalism vs Specialism

    […] thoughts came to mind as I read Burgundy expert’s Bill Nanson’s post describing his frustration at comments about the region which he knows so well made on Twitter. I liked a comment made in response by […]

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