Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stripped, Shocked and Surprised - Is There a Unicorn in the Cave?

Over the lifespan of this blog, I’ve written a post, on average, once every three days. For those who aren't familiar, they’ve developed into essays, around 800 words. With over 1,300 posts written, over twelve years, there are several blog posts that have surprised me in the way they have been received in the oenosphère, these unsuspecting Unicorns in the cave.

You say Ripasso and I say Ripassa; Three versions (May 21, 2006). One of my earliest posts and one which has had a long run in terms of reader popularity. Maybe because it’s a bit wonky. Reading it now, I see I need to amend it, as I have since then discovered at least two other methods of Ripasso. Who knew? It keeps going and going, an Energizer bunny with a long tail.

The Endangered Wine List in the New Millennium (October 10, 2016). This post apparently hit a nerve; there were sommeliers in the audience who fancied that I forged a chapter from their biography. In reality it was sifted from a pasticcio of personalities. That didn’t prevent one from trying to have me banished from their restaurant. And another from writing an incendiary counter-attack. I guess they thought this song was about them. In a world of selfies, the larger message got drowned out by those who are called to give a snappy comeback. Blessed be the noisemakers - loads of traffic!

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere (March 24, 2015). Written in early morning, between hectic days at Vinitaly. By the time I got to the fair, it had gone viral. My phone was ringing, email, texts, tweets, high fives from Luca Currado. It somewhat took me aback. What had been a screed, something to get off my chest, resonated with a larger, influential group. Unfortunately, for this introvert, the organizers of the fair were none too pleased. I’m sure my triage methods failed in that regard. Looking back over the past 2½ years, though, something happened to Vinitaly. It did get better, and with all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, progress has moved forward. Vinitaly will always be a bit of a mess, there are so many people, so much passion. But the logistical side of the fair has made great strides forward. Did my blog post have anything to do with it? People tell me it did. I didn’t expect anything from my rant, other than to vent. It might have provided some oxygen to an already smoldering dumpster fire.

The Burgundization of Barolo - An Imminent Sea Change in the Langhe (January 18, 2015). This post hit a main vein, to the point that other posts and articles have spun off this one. Something resonated in this piece. I had people, Burgundy nuts, tell me this got them thinking about Nebbiolo from Langhe in a different way. Unicorn post? Perhaps, or maybe a Skinner box of sorts.

I just want wines reviewed by Parker (September 6, 2015). One of those off-the-cuff posts, written after an encounter with a wine buyer who was very set in their buying ways. But if you think people aren’t any more buying (and selling) wine based on a Parker review, and in a large way, then I want what you are smoking. There isn’t a day that passes without someone referring me to a wine with a review. It moves the market in a much bigger way than a blog post, an Instagram photo or a tweet. At least in the wine trade at-large. The Emperor may have no clothes, but he still has influence.

Wine in Italy – from a Greek Perspective (May 29, 2016). OK, this one is truly my Unicorn wine blog post. Never in all my years of writing about wine did I think this would have the legs it has. Some weeks this post gets more readers than my regularly posted one (hmm, trying to tell me something, world?). In any case, it has altered how I think about wine blogging, charting a course in the future for posts I will pursue. One thing for sure, it got me thinking, “I must get back to Greece (and New Zealand) and see what has happened there to wine culture in the last 40 years.” Soon, I hope.

I am an incurable introvert who had to learn to be out in the world, thanks to restaurants and the service industry. As I progressed from server to sommelier, to beverage director, to manager, my introversion was tested and modified. As I moved into the wine trade, I often called upon the spirit of my dad, who was an extrovert of sorts, but who surely knew how to put on a face and play the role. In my case the role he modeled for me was the greatest salesman on earth. Number one rule was, keep the client happy.

In the case of blog writing, that hasn’t always been possible. After all, one must stand up, occasionally, and speak the truth as they see it, no? It was never meant with malice, though there are some out there who like to paint truth with their own special set of crayons. We’re living in a time of made up reality, where the facts often have no real bearing on how someone makes a decision. The blogosphere is rampant with magical thinking.

Wine blogs fall into that trap as well. Who has time to sort through all the stems and bad fruit? If we could have an optical sorter for wine blogs that would cut though all the crap, maybe that would help. As it stands, one can either sort through the must and the muck, manually, or just move on.

Many of us have done that. We live an era where there are no wine gods, and every sommelier’s Instagram feed is as important (to themselves) as any review by Robert Parker, any essay by Matt Kramer, or any video by Antonio Galloni. History is dead, and along with it, storytelling.

But, there are still those in pursuit of the elusive Unicorns in the wine cave, the Next of Kyn’s. And if we cannot find them, maybe a picture, or a video. Or maybe for those who like a longer style, a blog post, perhaps in essay form. In today’s world, anything goes.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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