Wine and Spirit magazine on 'how the internet transformed wine'
Tasting at the IWC today, where the rather congenial panel I was on awarded many silvers, even more bronzes, but no gold medals. We didn't even come close to gold, alas, although I found one wine that I rated as gold in the last flight of the day. It was a stunning Cotes du Rhone Villages that was modern-styled, with dense fruit, but a lovely freshness, too. My panel thought it was 'jammy', but I reckon 'jammy' should be used to describe wines that have over-ripe, cloying fruit, with no life in it. Maybe they're afraid of fruit when it's this vibrant and exuberant - but this is a wine that I think had more to it than just fruit.
While I was at the IWC I picked up a copy of the excellent Wine and Spirit magazine. It grabbed my attention, because the front cover story is 'Revenge of the nerds: how the internet transformed wine'. It contains two articles on the internet wine scene, the first concentrating on internet-based retailers, and the second on wine bloggers ('Blogging a dead horse', by Claire Hu).
(An online version of the article is here.)
The standfirst sums up the article well. 'Online diarists have opened up new possibilities for wine. But are they still effective - or just open to corruption? Claire Hu investigates.'
Claire's piece is a good one. I'm happy to be quoted, mostly accurately (although she says, incorrectly, that I decided to go full time on my site after being made redundant from my day job - in fact, I'd say about one-quarter of my time is spent on my site - the rest is spent writing for other people and working on projects on a freelance basis). I also feel slightly that she pulled the bits out of our conversation that supported the agenda she had for her piece, which is that the wine blogging world is open to corruption, and that people taking money to review certain products is a big threat to the independence of wine bloggers.
I'm hesitant to say this, lest it give the impression that I think Claire's piece isn't good. I think it is good, and she has done her research properly, and given a good summary of the state of play of wine blogging. But from my perspective, I think the wine blogging community is quite 'pure' in the sense that people are saying what they think rather than answering to advertisers, or even more sinister commercial concerns.
She states that, 'At great risk to himself (imagine hundreds of wine nerds descending on your home), Charles Short of cluelessaboutwine.co.uk, has decided to lift the lid on what he sees as the hijacking of editorial integrity of wine blogs. "You have a lot of wine companies asking if you can write about products for £15 or £50", he says.' Considering Clive's site has an Alexa ranking (for what it is worth) of just shy of 5 million, I assume he's referring to other wine sites that have been approached in this way. I certainly haven't been approached by anyone offering payment for reviews - I'd be interested to know if any of the other wine bloggers with a decent readership have been. If they have, then I take this back. But the way I'm quoted, it makes me sound like I'm losing sleep over the issue of editorial integrity on wine blogs, which I'm not.
But where I'm very happy with the way my views are depicted is in the penultimate paragraph. Yes, I think blogs are a useful communication tool. But I still think there's a place for magazines and books - and an important one at that.
Back to wine. Tonight I'm drinking a lovely Argentinean wine, from the Bonarda grape, which we don't see a lot of, even though there's a lot of it planted there (only recently has Malbec overtaken it). It's a complicated grape to get a handle on: some people think it's the same as Charbono in California; it was brought to Argentina from Italy in the 19th century, but its Italian origins aren't clear.
Familia Zucchardi Bonarda Reserva 2006 Mendoza
A deep-coloured, oak-aged Bonarda weighing in at a modest 13% alcohol. This has an attractive, savoury nose of spicy plummy fruit, which leads to a palate that's dense, savoury and structured. There's plenty of forward red berry, cherry and plum fruit here as well as well integrated oak. Some grippy tannins on the finish make this a useful food wine. Great value for money and really delicious. 88/100 (£6.99 Oddbins)