Yesterday, I posted my thoughts about a confounding Vitisphere editorial that argues about the downside of digital communications. What ensues is the obligatory publication of the author’s response to the responses to his response.
Remondat’s words that apply to yesterday’s blog post
Michel Remondat, the author of the editorial piece that sparked it all, has offered a few explanations on Vincent Pousson’s facebook photo. Just scroll down through the 100+ comments (bless you, facebookers). If you can’t be bothered to scroll down all those comments or if Vincent’s facebook photos don’t load for you, just scroll to the bottom of this post for the full text of Michel Remondat’s message.
I guess the important parts concerning what I wrote are:
– Un édito en 10 ou 15 lignes est forcément réducteur. Je regrette d’avoir offensé tes amis. Chaque semaine, Vitisphere essaie d’attirer l’attention des professionnels du vin sur un point, qui pèse ou pourrait peser, changer l’évolution de l’économie du vin…
and then later
C’est un produit commercial avec des contraintes techniques, œnologiques, de marketing et il faut de la formation, de l’apprentissage, de l’expérience pour l’évaluer. Pour ceux qui croient à l’avis des consommateurs donné sur Internet. C’est vrai ça fonctionne pour l’hôtellerie, pas sûr que ça fonctionne pour le vin !
– Enfin, si j’ai parlé de « certifier les certificateurs », c’est parce que j’ai pensé aux agences de notation et leur AAA. C’était un peu osé et ironique ! – Pour finir : Depuis deux ou trois ans, les attachés de presse des salons de vins se flattent d’organiser un « autobus de bloggeurs ». Autobus et bloggeurs, vous ne trouvez pas ça choquant. C’était le point de départ de l’édito !
So rough translation:
“a 15 line editorial is by nature over-simplifying. I regret having upset any of Vincent’s friends. Each week, vitisphere tries to draw the wine trade’s attention to a topic that is relevant or may become relevant, to change the evolution of the wine economy…
“Wine is a commercial product enmeshed with technical constraints, oenological constraints, and marketing constraints, and you need training and experience to be able to evaluate it. For those who believe in consumer opinons being published online, it’s true that it works for the hotel business, but I’m not sure that it will work for wine!
“Finally, when I mentioned “certifying the certifiers”, it was because I was inspired by the ratings agencies and their AAA system. It was a bit much and said with a degree of irony! To finish, for two or three years, press agencies of wine salons have taken it upon themselves to organize blogger buses. Buses and blogs, you don’t find that shocking? That was the starting point of the editorial.”
I probably shouldn’t post this at all
After all, this sort of hyper-nerdy conversation about the ethics of wine criticism or the qualifications of wine drinkers to talk about wines online does almost nothing but scare away the usual visitors to my blog.
But at the same time, Michel has posted a response and it just makes sense to republish it here so that people who read my blog but don’t religiously follow facebook photo comments might also see his response. And maybe it will make more sense to you than it did to me. You know… blogger buses.
Here’s the full text:
Merci de m’avoir invité hier soir. Je suis rentré tard. Il n’y a pas que le vin et le Web dans la vie ! Difficile de répondre à tous ces mots et à toutes ces phrases. Ceci n’est pas une réponse, car je respecte trop les opinions de chacun. Juste quelques explications :
– Je m’intéresse depuis longtemps au vin, plutôt aux vins, mais ce que j’apprécie le plus ce sont les gens du vin.
– Un édito en 10 ou 15 lignes est forcément réducteur. Je regrette d’avoir offensé tes amis. Chaque semaine, Vitisphere essaie d’attirer l’attention des professionnels du vin sur un point, qui pèse ou pourrait peser, changer l’évolution de l’économie du vin. Je défends l’idée que les éditos ne soient pas signés car je préfère le nous au je.
– Le vin est aussi et surtout une activité économique, créatrice de valeurs. C’est précieux. Vitisphere a démarré il y a plus de 10 ans. Nous avons créé 12 emplois, sans subventions, grâce seulement aux efforts de l’équipe. Nous sommes très attentifs à ces notions d’économie, d’indépendance.
– A propos de « journalistes et bloggeurs ». Je ne suis pas journaliste, mais comme tout le monde, je constate les difficultés de la presse du vin. Il serait dommage que ce métier disparaisse. Vitisphere est du côté du numérique, et nous savons très bien qu’il y a du talent, de l’avenir et même de la modestie chez les bloggeurs.
Le vin n’est pas une œuvre d’art (même si certains défendent cette idée) dont la valeur serait corrélée à la force de la critique. C’est un produit qui permet aux vignerons, aux négociants de « gagner leur vie ». C’est un produit commercial avec des contraintes techniques, œnologiques, de marketing et il faut de la formation, de l’apprentissage, de l’expérience pour l’évaluer.
Pour ceux qui croient à l’avis des consommateurs donné sur Internet. C’est vrai ça fonctionne pour l’hôtellerie, pas sûr que ça fonctionne pour le vin !
– Enfin, si j’ai parlé de « certifier les certificateurs », c’est parce que j’ai pensé aux agences de notation et leur AAA. C’était un peu osé et ironique !
– Pour finir : Depuis deux ou trois ans, les attachés de presse des salons de vins se flattent d’organiser un « autobus de bloggeurs ». Autobus et bloggeurs, vous ne trouvez pas ça choquant. C’était le point de départ de l’édito !
This is a post in response to an editorial in Vitisphere. The author has since responded here.
I was a little shocked when reading the editorial on the most recent Vitisphere which concludes with the following:
“Enfin, il faudra accepter une certification des acteurs de la critique, de la notation, par une Autorité, sinon les technologies du numérique pourraient imposer la dictature d’une démocratie virtuelle. “
Roughly translated: Finally, we must accept a certification process for agents of criticism, of scoring, by some Authority, otherwise digital technology could impose a virtual tyranny of the masses.
The Tyranny of the Masses?
My natural instinct is to say that this is ridiculous. Ultimately, consumers know what they enjoy and they are the best people possible to decide what to buy. But let’s give the editor a chance. What are the potential downsides of a world without authoritative wine criticism? And what are the downsides of a “dictature d’une democratie virtuelle”?
I suppose there is a risk that we create a world where winemakers try to make bland and inoffensive wines that nobody hates (but nobody loves either). As I’ve discussed before, I wouldn’t want that. And it’s not an unrealistic proposition. Vast volumes of wine are already made this way.
Music that goes on the radio is often chosen in a similar fashion where the single release is rarely the best song on the album. It’s frequently just the least offensive song that is still a little catchy (but not too catchy!). There are stories about this where people organize a test group to listen to a CD and they intentionally pick the song with the most average score instead of the song that some people love and some people hate.
And when you see projects like Design A Sam Adams Beer, you see that some beverages are literally being ruled by a virtual democracy. And it is sort of preposterous.
But then the editorial sort of pines for the good old days when everybody’s pockets were full of francs and everybody’s glasses full of delicious wine. At one point, it feels like he’s even blaming the decrease in wine consumption on the absence of an authoritative voice in wine criticism:
“Et au 3ème et dernier acte, disparition de l’art de la critique du vin… Perdu par la multiplicité des références, des origines, des prix, le consommateur perd confiance et se protège en réduisant ses achats de vins !”
Roughly translated: in the 3rd act, the disappearance of the art of wine criticism… lost in a sea of choices, of denominations, of prices, the consumer loses confidence and protects himself by buying less wine!
This seems like a pretty zany argument. The reason people drink less wine in France is because they have less confidence in their ability to pick a good wine? I’m doubtful. It seems more likely that consumption is dropping because people are afraid to get a PV (moving violation) for drink driving. Or because mixed drinks are more fashionable than a glass of wine at most night clubs. Or even because there are more choices of what to drink today than there were 20 years ago. The point is there is no reason to think that dropping wine consumption rates in France are a result of lack of confidence in wine buyers.
And what’s more, I don’t think the rise of blogs and the downfall of authoritative wine criticism do anything to undermine consumer confidence. If anything, the notion that everybody can publish an opinion online should give confidence to consumers. Whereas consumers would be intimidated in a world full of famous wine critics that they haven’t had time to read, they should be liberated in a world where the only thing that matters is what you and your friends think when you open the bottle tonight.
Anyway, I’m puzzled by the logic.
My experience with egalitarian publishing
One of the best things that ever happened to me was the customer interface on Naked Wines. Customers who drink my wine can leave a review on the web site. It’s as simple as that. The majority of them don’t consider themselves bloggers or gurus or experts. They just review wines. And most of them simply say Yes or No to the question “Would you buy this wine again.” And then some of them write in detailed comments.
I used to think that I would never let a critic influence my winemaking style. But once the clients became critics… I changed my tune. When thousands of people are tasting my wines and hundreds are leaving detailed comments, I’m actually very keen to hear what they have to say. Obviously, I still make wines based on my own inclinations. But I’ll take it into account that two hundred people were happy with the 2009 Trah Lah Lah that was a little less tannic than the 08. It gives me confidence in the future to make a blend that’s a little less harsh.
Obviously, I shouldn’t make a bland and inoffensive wine just to appeal to everybody. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with taking the pulse of the people who are actually drinking your wine. And I’m glad that these people can share their own opinions, independent of what “recognized” wine authorities have to say.
Who gives authority to the authority?
And the last logical flaw in this editorial is about who gives power to the “Authority” that certifies critics.
“Pour éviter le drame, journalistes et éditeurs, du papier ou du numérique, devraient se réunir pour redonner un sens au journalisme du vin, redéfinir l’art de la critique.”
Roughly translated: To avoid tragedy, journalists and editors, be they paper or digital, should unite to bring back some meaning to wine journalism, redefine the art of criticism
If all wine writers get together to agree on who should write about wine (and how we should write about wine), doesn’t that include all the bloggers and social media voices that the author is denigrating in the rest of the editorial?
And why do we even need to redefine the art of criticism? Will that actually help consumers enjoy wine more? Or increase their confidence about picking a bottle at the restaurant? Personally, if I were a normal consumer, the idea that there are certified wine specialists whose opinions matter more than mine would terrify me far more than the notion that everybody has different opinions and you just like what you like and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not reading all of the “expert” opinions that have been published before picking a bottle and enjoying it.
No, I’m fairly confident in the tyranny of the majority. I like this brave new world we live in.
After reading Midi-Vin’s very good post (in French) about Le Vin 2.0, I have realized that my summary left a lot to be desired. The main shortcoming is that I focused entirely on the speeches and I totally ignored the most important part of every conference: ambiance and audience.
So let me take a short moment to say it was a blast.
The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is a grand old building with a huge subterranean portion that kept us warm while Paris was blanketed in snow. It’s also full of hilarious chandeliers and lustres made of various bones, antlers and minerals. Awesome place.
The food was delicious. Seriously good. Probably tied with the Grenache Symposium in that respect (although the GS lasted a few days so they probably still sit in first place). And the wines at the tasting that night were interesting too.
Vinternet got a good group of people together. It looked like there were a solid 60-70 people there from various parts of the wine business. A lot of producers, which I liked.
Tragically, the interprofession was not very present and I think that these big picture organizational types are the ones who could have profited the most from the conference. In other cases, you have folks like the Vignerons du Luberon, cooperateurs in that part of France. They loved the presentations but when you ask them how these ideas will be implemented at the cave, they smile knowingly. Their boss will shoot these web ideas down instantly. Sad that the boss couldn’t be there. We might have converted him or galvanized him but the point is there would have been an exchange.
But let’s not get all depressed. There were some folks there with more instrumental organizational roles. The national level of les Vignerons Indépendants were present and charming. I liked their style and they were much more receptive than some of the VI folks who I have met on the departmental level here in Aude.
The Languedoc was well-represented. At various points throughout the day I discovered I was sitting next to somebody from the region. I finally got to see Olivier Lebaron (from Terre de Vin / Vitisphere) IRL. And I met the directeur from Anne de Joyeuse who also had a wine involved in the live tasting that night. And of course, I’ve already mentioned Midi-Vin’s coverage of the conference.
Other posts that touch on vin 2.0:
- Vindicateur – Is wine criticism turning into stand up comedy?
- Musigny – I don’t know who this is (maybe Grégoire Japiot?) but it seems they streamed the whole conference on their iPhone!!
- Wise Queen – something