The Problem with Wine Trends

Or how Robert Parker Influenced the Death of a Groupie from Back Alley Butt Implants

Monday, June 27, 2016

As I started to write this article, it’s ironic that I just got an email from a wine store that I patronize about the release of 2013 Dominus, which is rated 100 points by Robert Parker.  For those who have no idea of Robert Parker, he is a lawyer who started sending out an email of wines he liked to friends of his with explanations on why.  It got bigger and bigger – the list of whom he sent it out to – and started to cause some influence in wine purchasing.  Soon, producers started focusing on making wines in the style that Bob preferred in order to get highly rated by him versus staying true to themselves.  He has become a revered and hated person in the industry, depending upon whom you talk to.  It’s like people trying to chase higher placement in search engine results versus just doing what you do and letting word of mouth happen for you.

Now, as I was envisioning this article, it came from a wonderful question and point posed by another attendee at a Wines of Crete class and seminar that I also attended this week.  In the issue of most wine producers on Crete using just indigenous grapes, while others have also grown and blended in more well-known international varietals, the point was made to just focus on doing what it is you do, and not try to seek instant or quicker gratification and acknowledgement by focusing on the whims of others.

This is a very prophetic point in the wine industry.

It’s the same age old story – which was easily shown in both versions of “Love Doesn’t/Don’t Cost a Thing, one with Patrick Dempsey and the other with Nick Cannon – where someone tries to do everything to change themselves to get the attention of some of the most popular girls in school, only to find out that being themselves and what they are inside, is the most attractive things about them.  The funny thing is that when you run into those same people years later, they turn out not to have the same cachet that they had way back then (I think that some wine producers need to be more like Mike Jones, the rapper).

You see, the wine industry has many levels and many players, and for most people who sell wine, and not make it, they are more interested in following the trends and selling wines which fit under that.  For most producers, this is not necessarily the best thing, as in the least you have people willing to start relationships in order to get a particular type of product, and then end the relationship when people aren’t drinking it in the same numbers.  God forbid the producer took on loans in order to produce more of a particular thing, and then never sold enough to recoup that money or just broke even.

This is similar to the lady who winds up going to someone to get some injections to make their butt bigger [so that they can get attention from men in general or men specifically and use that in order to turn it into some financial or relationship advantage] and in the end it winds up killing her, or she has to get some things amputated.  There is also the case of the guy who let someone inject his penis with something to make it bigger.  How stupid can you be?  Usually, the people doing these procedures are unlicensed, have little or no medical training, and of course are using materials not fit to be injected into the body, like caulk or cement (google it).

And just like artificially tricking out the body, the same can be done with wine to alter the color as well as the taste.  It is done more than you realize.  Years ago, a certain wine producing area in France had some less than ideal harvests for one or two years, and some “expert” from out of town came in and convinced them to use cold maceration to produce wines from the haul.  It worked in the short term but the wines lacked the ability to age and the guy literally was run out of town on a rail!

Many trends in the industry are akin to the same cyclical bullshit that you see in women’s magazines or weightlifting magazines, as there really is nothing new under the sun, just when you get access to the information.  Certain countries have been making great wines for years, but the money used on advertising was coming from somewhere else, and so that is what was being written on. And you know the trends that you have read about or heard over the past decade; California Chardonnay; South African wines; Malbec from South America; Chilean wines; Argentinian wines; Shiraz from Australia; Spanish Tempranillo!  Some trends are based on what people might be purchasing within a certain area.  Moscato and the state of Pennsylvania, or women and sweet wines are two of them that stand out.  Remember the scourge of white zinfandel? How about wine colors? And then you had Arbor Mist and a bunch of other products mixing wine and flavors.  Some idiots now have started making blue wine in Spain.  Really?  And then there is that crap which mixes chocolate and wine.   

And while there are some very great and good quality wine producers out there, there are also the mass produced and lower quality labels meant to be enjoyed as an everyday wine.  And not all of these are really good.  Just like anything, you have people willing to churn out tons of low-grade product to sate the palates of cheap folks who just want to drink something that is the latest trend.  On a bigger level, this was the fate of Beaujolais at one point in time.  On a more massive level, you have producers buying up more grapes from growers, to produce a higher quantity of lower grade wines.  I have seen this when importers and distributors tell me that they have clients who come to them looking to get a certain type of wine at a certain price point, and that they seek it out for them. 

You ever see those campy sci-fi movies which are direct rip-offs of the hottest movies out, like “Transmorphers?”  Well, what happens in this case is that there are distributors who call up only a few studios and say to them that they need a movie with these certain elements in it.  However, when you turn out starring or directing a movie like that, or something like soft porn [or even hardcore porn], you are essentially making the quick dollar but ruining your reputation in the long run.  I mean, there are exceptions, but chances are you being a co-star on a Skinemax movie is going to basically follow you for life, and you’re never going to do more than that level of theater.  The same can be said for some producers who just keep producing out the crap.  But the difference is that the average/ignorant (meaning not knowledgeable) wine consumer still sits up there beaming thinking that they are living the life.  I once remember hearing a conversation by two people in a Walmart wine aisle – my ex in Atlanta swore by Walmart so don’t even come at me with that – where the guy says “I only fucks with Barefoot [Wines].”  I knew that I had to make it back to civilization at that point.

While wine trends can be good, as it can get people to become introduced to a specific type or region of wine that might not be well known, the reality is that trends come and go, and people who follow trends are like fair-weather friends; they are never in it for the long haul.  The reality for producers is to make what you make and put your passion and love into it, making a consistently great, or even good, product.  Like that commercial which talked about the new fad for tall hats, the person who focuses on doing what they have always done well will whether the tides of change.

And in all fairness, I have never met Robert Parker nor conversed with him in any way, shape or form.  It is tragic that so many producers have bent over backwards to shape their wines to his taste, thus losing their souls in the process.  It is very unfortunate that most people who drink wine really don’t have good access to the many styles and types of wine made from myriad producers and that those producers don’t have an easy path to market for their wines in other regions. 

But you know, I am working on it in some ways.


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