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One of the pleasant side effects of being a wine professional is the opportunities that pop up involving our favorite beverage. Take, for example, one that arrived over the weekend.

A fairly large, fine-wine-oriented distributor was looking for volunteers to pour at their portfolio tasting on a Monday, in Manhattan, in September. Said the email:

“The work is pretty straightforward: They’ll need you from noon to 6:00 to pour wines; you’ll receive a fact sheet beforehand that will cover information about the region whose wines you’ll be working with. For your efforts, you will be compensated with a mixed case of their wines.”

Note that this email came to me under the auspices of a dues-driven association of New York wine media professionals, so my response needed to account for the fact that I am a member wine writer/blogger/communicator. That said, what do you think my reaction was? Here’s what ran through my head, roughly in order… Read the rest of this entry »

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Y’know, I was going to try to sit down and analyze the three glossy buying guides in (in)glorious detail. However, contrary to appearances, I do not really consider that a good use of time. I traveled down this road before, in a two-parter published in Wines & Vines {July & Sept., 2006; happy to email a pdf of those articles to anyone who emails tish (at) wineforall com}. Based on perusing recent issues of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits, however, I can say with confidence that the most relevant points I made back then still hold. In short, the buying guides may appear similar to the eye but are very different in execution, selectivity and transparency. To keep focus here, let’s stick just with the label presentations that wind up int said “buying guides.” To wit: Read the rest of this entry »

Deception, by nature, is often hard to spot. And hard to define. After all, in many cases deception itself can be a matter of opinion, and on top of that there are matters of degree.

The recent blog- and forum-driven storm over wine-writing ethics has focused on factors that can be very hard to get a grip on, namely the possibility that wine critics’ assessments of individual wines (and/or entire portfolios) can or have been impacted by unseen/unspoken perks (trips, dinners, insider access, etc.).

That firestorm, along with a more general publishing issue—the ethics of advertising being integrated into actual magazine covers (story here)—got me thinking that now is a good time to visit the question of: When is a label reproduction that appears in a wine magazine actually a paid promotion rather than an editorial graphic? Read the rest of this entry »

It has become clear in recent months days that what is clearly needed in the wine world today is education.

Yes, education. But not about wines, and their myriad combinations of distinctive grapes from far-flung places. We’ve got that part settled. Everyone who knows anything about wine knows: it’s all about personal taste. Find and follow your own palate. The rest is gravy. The age of needing critics to guide one to specific vintages from specific producers is gone.

No, the training people need now is how to deal with the trappings, the minutia, the devilish details that have come in the fast-paced, Web-driven new age of wine. With that in mind, I hereby am opening the E-cademy of Worldwide Wine. Or EWW {pronounced Eww!}.

All classes will be conducted via twitter, tumblr, facebook, Yelp, YouTube, Ning and/or other online platforms. No tuition, no need to register, just “Tune in or tune out,” as the great wine critic of the 1960s, Dr. Timothy Leary, used to say. Our first batch of classes will include… Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, ethics were represented by a big gray blob. Today I pry open the proverbial can of worms, replete with a Rockaway twist. Consider the following dilemmas:

Dilemma #1) In February I accepted a fellowship to attend the fifth Professional Wine Writers Symposium in Napa Valley, sponsored by Napa Valley Vintners and held over three days/nights at Meadowood (I am still using the soap I brought home). Moreover, the particular fellowship I won, through a “blind” (bylines removed) judging of three writing samples (not focused on Napa, in fact), was funded by a specific winery. I don’t believe they “chose” me, but somehow I wound up with theirs; and a dozen or so other writers earned other winery-specified awards covering the cost of the entire symposium, food, lodging and (naturally) swag. {Yes, my new favorite baseball hat has a NVV logo, cleverly designed to make people ask “What’s the ‘N’ for?”} We were told that our only obligation as recipients was that we had to sit with our designated winery’s representative at the closing dinner. Sounds kind of Sugar Daddyish, I know… but think about it—not a very tough deal, eh? Should I disclose my sponsoring winery here? Should I deliberately avoid writing about that label? How about other brands under the same ownership? And what about all my wine-scribe homies and their fellowships; should the public be wary of partisanship toward their begotten winery underwriters? Food for thought. Read the rest of this entry »

OK, I am finally blogging, having been spurred on by the recent invigorating posts related to wine-writing ethics over at my compadre Dr. Vino’s blog. The topic is way too broad to resolve or even present in one post, but it is certinaly a fertile place to start.

I used to have six-bottle wine bag from Cambria Vineyards and a leather backpack from Piper-Sonoma. I also used to have a cherry tree in my front yard, courtesy Sebastiani Vineyards (it died in our harsh Westchester winter…). My post-it notes say “Think Red. Think Cotes-du-Rhone.” My kids have gone to school with pens from Rioja, notepads from Sterling Vineyards and flashing pins from Georges Duboeuf.

Should I feel uneasy about any of this? I think not. It’s just the usual swag (as they call it in media circles)—publicity-driven tchotchkes. Then again, in wine the swag extends to, well, sample bottles…and freebies beyond swag entail tastings and dinners and wine-country accommodations and even all-expenses-paid trips. Read the rest of this entry »