10-07-2017

What is wine “news”?

The other day my inbox was crying out to me. I felt its pain as well as a healthy lick of smartassery and put up the following tweet:

The inbox I refer to is separate email for press releases: tips@wineonsix.com. Please make use of it. I welcome any and all wine news information there. Note that if I tell you to send certain emails to that one, please don’t be offended as I use it to keep track of and reference everything I’ve been sent as far as wine news goes. It’s very useful in a day and age wherein email can be easily abused and it’s here where I’ll sort the wheat from the chaff to see what might be good to pick up and run on this site.

As I said, this email is for wine news and what can get a bit overwhelming is that nearly half of the emails in there revolve around broadcasting the latest scores given to a winery’s wines. Unless you’ve just gotten the first 100 point score in your regions, this, is not news. Yeah, okay, in the purest definition of “news”, you’ll find, “News is information about current events.” [1] and indeed a score received is current, but is it really an event anymore?

Wine is a pretty boring thing when you get down to it, so much so that getting scores from critics was indeed an “event” some time ago. We (and I mean the greater wine drinking public “we”) would await the scores of the wine titans that grew in strength and importance throughout the 1990s until we realized that these were just opinions and ones we didn’t always agree with. I would posit that individual wine scores officially stopped being an event when the Global Financial Crisis happened. It forced all of us to back up and think about what wine actually was, how it related to us, and maybe what it was we actually wanted to drink.

Am I saying that scores don’t matter? Not in the least, but they’ve gone from being the main event to being one detail in a greater event, much in how we regard what movie critics say about films. Want to know what the new Bordeaux En Primer should be priced at? Scores are guiding that. Want a nudge one way or the other when picking between two bottles from Australia that both have animals on the label? You go with the one that has a shelf talker declaring, “93 points!”

But this gets back to the issue that when sending out press releases, this is theoretically something for the press. The press reports on the news, or at least did so prior to the current White House squatter. Wine scores don’t really cut it as they’re not wine “news”. So does this translate to awards as well? I would say that it doesn’t insomuch as winning an award is something a bit different given that it’s an actual event. If a wine wins Gold and definitely if it wines Platinum at a judging like the Decanter Awards, yes that’s worthy of news. To win Silver or less these days, well, that gets a bit less “newsy” as how many Silver or Bronze-winning Olympians do we hear about?

Ah yes, “newsy”, in case you haven’t heard this term before, it is essentially the kiss of death to any journalist’s pitch. It essentially means, “Hmm, I don’t really find your article interesting because I think in two or less dimensions, so how is it current?” Thankfully I get this feedback sparingly these days, mainly because I don’t bother contacting the publications where this type of editor runs amok. But I still keep the idea at the back of my mind because it’s actually sound when one is to properly think about articles and when defining what news is important.

“Two bottles of wine used to subdue unruly passenger who tried to open airplane door!” Now that is indeed news, although it makes wine something of a secondary story. I’d still be interested to know which bottles and then have an interview with someone as to why he/she choose the wine bottles instead of something else. A follow-up quote with the winery whose wines were used might be a nice touch as well.

Wine news, when wine is front and center usually takes the form of: new releases, a new line of wines, a new vineyard, winemaker changes, the aforementioned notable awards, and other things such as this. What these all have in common is that they’re events. There’s something that has happened via a moment or moments of action and it has made for a demonstrable moment in time that you want people to know about while it’s current.

Telling me a wine score is news in this sense as much as a shelf talker or a someone pouring me the wine at a winery telling me the score is news. It’s just passing along information which I can very well look up online if I’m really, really interested. In case it hasn’t been spelled out, I’m not and so spare us all the score press announcements lest I send you a link to this email in reply, which honestly, no one really wants to see happen.