Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why I Write About Wine

The only wines that I personally feel I have any expertise with are those that I make myself. I can tell you what I made them from and how, and am I usually the first and only person to study them well enough to provide detailed tasting notes including what might be wrong with them. This is likewise true for the other fermented beverages I also make.

So when I write about wine, and specifically those for which I am strictly the consumer, I typically write about my experiences and how well (or not) the wines “worked” for me in the settings I tasted them in. I do taste many wines on their own, but I also endeavor to pair many with food and share other with friends to see how they might perform socially. I try wines of all stripes and don’t discriminate. I do throw a slanted eye towards wines that have a lot of hype about them, but only because hype creates expectations and expectations skew naked enjoyment. I don’t make up scores or assign ratings and I don’t try to be something more than I am with over the top reviews filled with jargon and descriptors that nobody else is going to make sense of. I likewise don’t care much for scores and ratings from others, but I do listen when people talk about their own experience.

Wine and experience with it as a consumer is personal. Decorating one’s experience with all sorts of seemingly objective and authoritative information in an attempt to increase its perceived value is a fool’s game in my opinion. But wine writers who blast out wine reviews on a daily basis are a dime a dozen, so I guess that message is not as well traveled as it could be.

So why do I write about wine? Because I enjoy it. Honestly, I write a lot less than when I got started several years ago, but that isn’t because I enjoy it less, it’s because I needed to find balance between naked enjoyment (as evidenced in picture below where I am stuffing my face and giving the thumbs up) and a slightly different version that involves notes, research and writing time as is illustrated in the picture at the top of this post. I’m still tweaking that balance, and this effort in itself has its own nuances to offer.

Writing helps me review my own experiences (those I choose to write about) and learn more about what I was sensing and savoring in those moments. Sharing experiences by posting them in a blog is a reason to write, but not because I want people to think anything of me, more because I am hoping that readers might be inspired to seek out worthy experiences of their own; tangents off of what they take away from my scribbling perhaps.

And I’m not talking about linear inspiration like, “hey that wine sounds great and I want to try it too!” I’m talking about things like “He’s making mead flavored with pineapple sage. What the hell is pineapple sage? He says it smells a bit like tropical fruit layered on top of sage with a bit of a field green bent. I’ve got to find some of that and see what I could do with it!” That is actually going to happen by the way. But maybe that’s not your style. How about “After recent trips to the Finger Lakes Jason has shared his enjoyment of the variations in the last three vintages of Rieslings. I wonder what how differently they really are.”  When I’ve done it well, it’s about the experience and not the specifics of any one wine or producer. And if I truly get it right it’s you in a new story that was inspired by something I experienced.

I don’t chase after samples and am not the most active guy on social media working all the connections and taking part in all the virtual tastings. I don’t attempt to get out to all the local events and be part of all the groups for wine lovers and wine writers. When I come across opportunities I deliberately choose to get involved, or not, and why I might make a specific choice is usually a spot decision based on the potential that I might have fun. Actually, it’s pretty much random. That keeps it exciting!

What I do though is think about my experiences. I try to see them as a collection of different moments that as a whole are meaningful because I really lived them. I don’t need to be known for what I’ve done and shared. I’d rather remain relatively unknown, but be exceedingly authentic, enthusiastic, energetic, fun loving and someone others enjoy interacting with. To me that is real and those are the people I want to be with anyway, so for me it just makes sense to do the same.

I’d love it if thoughtfulness and individuality were sought after by the wine industry over site traffic, the size of your social media network and how "active" you are, but then again wine is a business and the visibility of the people engaged by the industry is expected to correlate to the potential for a return on investment. I don’t have a problem with that, I just don’t need to be as tightly woven into it as so many writers and bloggers want to be. For me it is not a business and it is not work, it is fun. It is living and with only those rules I choose to impose on myself and where I answer to nobody beyond me and my family for what I choose to do in this space.

That’s why I write about wine.



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