Whiney Spectators

The blogsphere is home to a lot of whining these days, obviously there’s some pretty big things to whine about. Wine blogs are no exception and the winey whining can be a bit much sometimes.Everyone’s favorite thing to whine about often seems to be The Wine Spectator. After all, it’s easy to take potshots at the king of the hill and to pile on every time they’re caught making a mistake. I too have taken this easy route more often than I should. We’re sometimes whiney spectators of The Wine Spectator.

While a lot of negative commentary is made about The Wine Spectator, too few words are devoted to the things they do right - and there are many of them. First and foremost is that The Wine Spectator has been the avenue that countless consumers have taken as they learned about wine. More knowledgeable consumers buy better (and more expensive) wines and that means that more wineries stay in business There can be no doubt that The Wine Spectator has educated more Americans about the joys of wine than any other source. For this alone they deserve respect.

The other thing is that there is some tremendous content in its pages. Matt Kramer is very possibly America’s best wine writer. I emphasize the word “writer” for Kramer is more writer than critic and his commentary on the world of wine is some of the most thoughtful, sensitive and knowledgeable around. There are other excellent writers there too and James Moleworth’s coverage of the Loire and the Rhone should not be missed. Then there is Executive Editor Thomas Matthews courageous defense of his magazine by taking time to comment on blog after blog on issues concerning the Spectator. Considering the somewhat rambunctious nature of blogs and forums, Matthew’s is to be commended for his guts and willingness to publicly stand up for what he believes in a totally uncontrolled, unedited environment.

While I cannot overstate my misgivings about the 100 points scoring system employed by The Wine Spectator (and almost everyone else these days) it cannot be denied that The Wine Spectator has done far more good than bad to the wine world and that many, many thousands of consumers are drinking better wines because of them. Although their acceptance of advertising from the very industry they are reporting on has raised a few eyebrows over the years and is the the source of a lot of snide comments in the back rooms of wineries around the world, I don’t see any alternative means of financing that could have kept a publication like The Wine Spectator in print all these years. I think it is fair to suggest to them that advertising sections that look like editorial content could be more clearly marked than it is now.

I started subscribing to The Wine Spectator when it with a thin, newsletter style publication in the early eighties. Looking at the glitzy, glossy magazine these days with its ads for Acura, Rolex, Vegas casinos and high powered financial firms, it’s hard to believe that simple newsletter evolved into the powerhouse it has become. I guess I feel the same way about the Spectator as I do about the Yankees, there’s a lot about the organization I don’t like, but I sure have enjoyed watching them play over the years.

It’s tough to be on top.