Friday, March 26, 2010

Wine Writers for Local Newspapers are Shills

Back in the old days when the Washington Wine Commission still brought people to Yakima, I had dinner at Birchfield Manor with a bunch of wine writers accompanied by Simon Seigl, who was head of the Wine Commission at the time. I sat across the table from the writer from the San Francisco Chronicle. I'm sorry, I wasn't impressed enough to remember the gentleman's name. I just remember that his wife and I had a nice conversation after he became inebriated and his face fell into his half-finished plate of food. This was circa 1988.

Before he crashed and burned into his food he informed me that he wasn't interested in any wines that were not available in the Bay Area. I have heard this line a lot from local/regional wine writers. It's not my job to tell you what's new and exciting, I just report on what schlock the distributors give me.

If you are not out to find something 'new' for your 'news' paper, then why do you exist? Maybe this explains part of the demise of the newspaper business overall. Newspapers have an attitude that it is not their job to find news, just to cut and past stuff from the wire service and print a fish wrapper. They regurgitate (or fall into) what other people feed them

So if this guy wasn't interested in the wines he was tasting on the tour, why was he even here? Ah yes, the free vacation. In the business we call them fam (from familiarization) tours. Perks of the business. Like the Parker boys trip to Argentina.

These writers are shills of the distributors. The distributor finds wines he is interested in selling, then he gives free samples to the wine column guy and he pumps up the crap the distributor wants to sell. No wonder the wine selection sucks in many parts of the country. Instead of the wine writer telling the consumer of new and interesting wines he/she discovered on his/her fam tour (read free vacation), causing the distributor to go and seek new and interesting wines, the columnist merely rubber stamps the distributor's selections. The article comes out like this:

"My friend, Bob, from Big Brand Wine and Spirits has just brought in some new and exciting wines from the San Joaquin Valley in California. Mind you, these are not new wineries, but just new labels from the Callo Brothers. I particularly like the Cesspool Creek Chabis. It has hints of urine with dog vomit on the finish. 95……"

I sure wish I could remember that guy's name.

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