Mr. Kramer we do agree on one thing, this is “Not a Trivial Pursuit.” (For those who aren’t aware of what I am talking about you can find the article here http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/52721) My personal love for wine developed over years and was honed through the intense study required to become a Certified Sommelier. You asked in your article “Does this knowledge really make you a better, more insightful judge of wine?” I have two responses for you:
The first response to that question is yes it does. How many articles have you personally written about “terroir” and how that affects the flavors and aromas in wine? It is hard to imagine how an in-depth study into regions, climates, soils and culture can do anything but make one more insightful.
The second response is you have shown your cards my friend. It appears you are saying we who love wine enough to go through this rigor are not qualified to give our opinion on it. Change is hard and the world is changing around you. That ivory tower is crumbling away as we speak and it scares the living daylights out of you. There are several rising stars who, although not on your “approved” list to “judge” wine, are opening up new vibrant conversations about wine, wine makers and the industry.
You say the rigor and study resulting in certification is “a trivializing demarcation”, and ask your readers “Do you recall them as joy-of-learning types?” I say to you, as part of that collective which has spent considerable time and effort pursuing the esteemed designation of Certified Sommelier, there is nothing trivializing happening here. And yes we are the “joy-of-learning types.” You might have watched a movie about the exams, and passed your judgment. I ask you, you have never sat in a study group or a classroom with us, been there as the wine revealed itself to us and we all learned together? Didn’t think so.
As proud member of the “undesirable class” (referring to that segment in the article where you describe those whose “…pursuit of credentials creates an undesirable class differentiation for a subject that neither needs nor deserves one…” ) I say it is time to get your head out of the sand. You yourself are revealing that you do indeed believe that the true enjoyment of wine deserves a class structure, one in which you alone reign supreme. It is also clear that the root of this judgment you are casting about training and certification is fear. Fear of losing stature. Fear of losing control.
It is true, Wine Spectator, your magazine influenced how I thought about wine for years. I learned about the different wine regions in different countries and the unique wines produced there. I tracked rating and dutifully sought out the highest rated wines. I learned the language of wine through their reviews of specific wines and wineries. Even as I moved to more online sources like Wine Enthusiast or Reverse Wine Snob, Wine Spectator remained one of the few hardcopy mags I actually cracked open every month.
Trouble is while you were still publishing in hard copy, the rest of us have become an interactive community. The playing field has leveled and voices have become equal. We love information and we love to share it. We engage in open conversations through mediums like Social Media. If you really want to remain relevant to the now dominant generation of the 25 to 45 year olds, (and yes, even those of us who are 46 and older) talk with us not at us. Have real conversations rather than voicing your singular opinion. Really, we want you to.
It is all about tone. I have some things you can consider as a starting point. Take a clue from many of the successful up-starts like Reverse Wine Snob, as well as industry staples like Food & Wine. Adopt an open posture, reframe your conversation from being the voice on high to being inclusive, down to earth and real.
A great place to start is with your social media presence. I will pick on your twitter account because it is an easy target. Your twitter account was established in 2009. When I accessed it on February 27, 2016, you only 203K followers and you are following only 25. More than that, only on 5 felt your information was important enough to put on a list. Only 5. Let that soak in for a minute.
In contract, @ReverseWineSnob account was established in 2011. (Giving you a two-year head start). They have over 250K followers, follow 212K and are on 618 lists. (Let that soak in; 123 times more people find their content important enough to have them on a list– 123). This is not an anomaly. The twitter accounts of many of the wine bloggers, many whom you decry indirectly in your article, have followers in the multiple thousands and follow hundreds of not thousands themselves.
Yes, this is just one example. I challenge you, go through this same side by side with dozens of other wine media outlets and blogs. You will see the same thing. This is not simply a twitter phenomenon. The same rings true for every SM platform, whether Facebook, Instagram or any other in your arsenal.
I am sure as you read this (if you read this), many in your ranks will have a lot to say about the un-importance of being social. Many may even insist this is a waste of time. It isn’t. Culturally the generations-next and many of us “oldies” are a different breed. We love wine. We study it, and yes judge it, differently than you do. At the same time, many of us deeply value the amazing contribution Wine Spector has made to the wine industry and to our lives.
Still, there is a great deal of sadness within the wine community created by this article. Like it or not, the industry is changing, moving forward into the future. There is no re-creating the past; that ship has sailed never to return again. We really hope you will be brave enough to un-lodge yourself from that ivory tower and join us.