Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tasting Notes

~Not long ago I was asked why I don’t post tasting notes on the few wine-dedicated bulletin boards that I frequent.
~I tried to answer a question that I knew would be difficult to explain and I was correct: the questioner was not impressed with my response.
~Since then, I’ve thought it over and I am more and more convinced that my decision makes sense, but now my feeling exceeds my original reason.
~When I stopped posting tasting notes my original intent was that since I get paid to write articles and books about wine I did not want ever to be accused of shilling for one or more wine producer. This thought came to me after I reflected on the volumes of press releases I receive from PR people that wineries hire, and from the wineries themselves.
~Inherent in the press releases is an assumption that a writer can be enticed not only into tasting the wines, maybe also into visiting the winery, and possibly into blithely believing in what the release says. The intent is to get the writer to write about the winery, favorably of course.
~I know that press releases are supposed to perform the function of promotion and to impart information—I know it because in the past I’ve gotten paid to write them. But that did not stop me from feeling insulted by the press releases coming my way.
~I’ve even had unsolicited wine sent to me.

I cannot imagine how to explain having written a tasting note that agrees with a press release concerning a free bottle that I had received, even if I knew that I hadn’t cheated—to me, the perception of a conflict of interest is damning enough.

(Forget about writing about wines after a trip that was paid for and sponsored by promoters or wine producers.)

~A personal sense of integrity still prevents me from writing tasting notes for the public to read; my notes are reserved for wine competitions and for my own information, which brings up another reason for my reluctance.
~After having read numerous tasting notes written by both consumer and professional wine critics, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care what they think of any particular wine. Whether or not I agree with their tasting note, I’m interested in the wine not in the discussion of it.
~I either like it or I don’t, and the only way for me to know that is to taste it myself, and I don’t need the notes of others to do that.
~With the above realization came the realization that others also don’t need to know what I think about a wine.
~It boils down to wine being a matter of personal—and highly subjective—choice.
~I can’t imagine using other people’s tasting notes to direct my wine buying, and I don’t think anyone should use my preferences to direct their wine buying.
~Then there are those who want to know what others think about a wine for the purpose of picking apart or finding agreement, which doesn’t seem to me to be about the wine but about voicing opinions. This is one reason I refer to my occupation as wine writing and not as wine criticism.
~The exception to my reluctance is when sharing wine and food with people, at table.
~Online, you have a distant calculation and opinion about wine by someone you may have never even met.
~Sitting at table tasting and talking about wine sparks conversation and that leads to more conversation and that illustrates, to me, the real purpose of wining and dining: conviviality. I don't get conviviality at my computer desk, no matter how many seemingly nice people I email or "chat" with online.

I know that some of you will completely disagree with me, and I’d like to read your reasons for engaging in posting tasting notes online. But keep it nice. The other thing I despise about a lot of online discourse is the lack of civility that often tinges a discussion, which may be another reason not to post tasting note opinions…

~Do you think some wine writers are influenced by freebies and press releases?
~Do you care what others think about any given wine and if so, why?
~Do you think your wine taste has merit for someone else’s palate, especially someone you don’t know personally?
~Do you think talking about wine approximates the pleasure of consuming it?
~Are you a fan of convivial wining and dining?
~Can you still render a coherent opinion after a few of those high-octane 16 percenters and up???

Just click on "comments" and start talking!

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
October 2007. All Rights Reserved

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

~Do you think some wine writers are influenced by freebies and press releases?
I THINK WRITERS ARE INFLUENCED TO BECOME INTERESTED IN PARTICULAR STORIES OR ANGLES. BUT NOT TO LIKE A WINE AS A RESULT.

~Do you care what others think about any given wine and if so, why?
YES. BECAUSE I RESPECT CERTAIN PEOPLE'S PALATES BECAUSE THEY'VE POINTED ME TOWARD WINES I LIKE BEFORE

~Do you think your wine taste has merit for someone else’s palate, especially someone you don’t know personally?
I DON'T THINK SO


~Do you think talking about wine approximates the pleasure of consuming it?
NO. BUT NEITHER DOES DRINKING WINE APPROXIMATE THE PLEASURE OF TALKING ABOUT IT.

~Are you a fan of convivial wining and dining?
YES

~Can you still render a coherent opinion after a few of those high-octane 16 percenters and up???
DEFINE "COHERENT".

TOM
http://www.fermentation.typepad.com
http://www.specialtywineretailers.org/blog

Thomas Pellechia said...

Welcome, Tom. Thanks for popping in. Let's have some fun now.

I'm curious about your second and third responses: if you respect someone else's palate because of past experience, why don't you think your palate has merit to someone else? Have you no taste at all?

Ah! In my view, consuming wine exceeds the pleasure of talking about it. But then, I'm forever talking about things--maybe I need the rest.

Oh, and the definition of coherence is when you say something that I can understand!!!

Jay said...

I SUSPECT THAT MANY DEVOTEES OF TASTING NOTES MAY BE SEEKING SHORT-CUTS TO SATISFACTION -- GIVEN THE FRENZIED LIFESTYLES OF MANY WORKING STIFFS.
~Do you think some wine writers are influenced by freebies and press releases?
A BETTER QUESTION WOULD BE WHAT PERCENTAGE ARE?
~Do you care what others think about any given wine and if so, why?
CERTAINLY, BECAUSE WE ONLY HAVE ONE LIVER.
~Do you think your wine taste has merit for someone else’s palate, especially someone you don’t know personally?
CERTAINLY, BUT IF THEY DESIRE TO SELF-RELIANT THEY'LL MAKE TIME ASCERTAIN THEIR OWN PALATE PREFERENCES.
~Do you think talking about wine approximates the pleasure of consuming it? FOR WINE GEEKS / BOOK WORMS, LONGEVITY DICTATES READING ABOUT AND DISCUSSING WINES...
~Are you a fan of convivial wining and dining? ONLY 100-POINT PARKER WINES AT 30-POINT ZAGAT JOINTS WITH LIKE-MINDED LEMMINGS. :-)

Thomas Pellechia said...

Jay,

Remind me not to ask you too many questions :/)