Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Beef With The NYT

I've got a beef with The New York Times and more specifically its wine and spirits beat writers and columnist. On Monday, January 17th, the New York Times published an article written by Eric Asimov titled Toasting A Vintage, With Few Quibbles on its website. The article focuses on 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir, a vintage unanimously heralded in the wine industry as superb. Fair and concise, it's a great review on the 2008 vintage in Oregon and quite on point. Some of us in certain circles believe that a selection of very important wines were missed. More importantly, the article created a spirited discussion among that same circle. Comments filled Facebook profiles. Here's a look at one of the threads (names are left out for privacy).
"Of course the Belle Ponte is sold out."
"Already had a guy in here looking for it. Sigh."
"Although the NYT tasting panel out weighs my personal opinion, I have tasted most of the wines listed and think it is a grave mistake to leave out the J. Christopher Dundee and Penner-Ash WV."
"I agree. To me, a bit of an inadequate list."
"To leave out the Penner is ridiculous."
 And my personal favorite (no it's not me)
"You need to be proud of the selections you have already selected...NYT, WS, RP etc., means nothing if you have not personally tasted the wines for your clients. What you have on your shelves beats anything the NYT publishes remember that! This is why your client base comes to you. I always find it amazing how people will put so much more trust in what other people write about especially when they come to shops like ours. We are merchants that hand select every wine we sell. We are not liquor warehouses just filling up the space with plonk. My 2-cents!"
""LOL! Feeling a little frisky? My beef with the article is that it was written too late, well after the vintage debut. People walked into our store, newspaper in hand, and it was comical. No, sorry, sold out. Um, sold out there too."
CT retailers (and wholesalers to some degree) have two common complaints about the wine articles written in The New York Times. First, the articles are often behind the times. Case in point, the good retail wine stores knew the 2008 vintage in Oregon was epic over 12 months ago. Using hours of painstaking research and tasting (yes, tasting can be very difficult and painstaking) retailers put their necks on the line, made purchasing decisions and hoped that consumers would heed the warning that these wines are worthy of cellaring and would sell out quickly. For the most part, consumers did heed that warning. Reviews from International Wine Cellar, The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator poured in. The smart retailers looked, well, smart. The Belle Ponte that Mr. Asimov so highly regarded sold out well before Thanksgiving. In fact, most of the wines in the article are no longer available in the market.

Furthermore, Mr. Asimov's article published Monday, January 24th on New York Times website, A Rosé Can Bloom in Winter, Too is not exactly topical either. Sure, I can certainly see the beauty of drinking a rosey on a snowy day in front of the fire. Sign me up. But any retailer worth its salt sold out of the good 2009 roseys 4 months ago. The only thing left in the market place is plonk that no one liked, being closed out and sold to consumers at ridiculous profit margins. For heaven's sake, I just received the first offer for 2010 roseys on Monday. But I digress.

The second common complaint is pricing. It seems writers for the New York Times often forget there's a world and marketplace outside of Manhattan. Pricing for wines and spirits vary from state to state depending on pricing patterns, taxes, distributors, state laws, etc. Often times, a retailer in CT will have to price a published wine one, two, sometimes three dollars higher than what the NYT publishes. That generally draws negative feedback from the consumer. When publishing prices for products, would it not be prudent to check pricing in surrounding markets and level the playing field? Or maybe checking with the winery itself to see how they would like the prices published? I'm just saying.

To those that have known me for a long time, it's no secret I've always had a negative reaction to Mr. Asimov's articles. What will be shocking is I've grown to really enjoy the articles over the last two years. They are well written (unlike my pieces) and packed with information. I even find myself agreeing with 95% of the opinions. But I know I'm not the only one looking for more topicality, relevance and fairness. So how about an article on the drink-ability of 08 Rhone, the emergence of Gruner Veltliner in the United States, the death of the vodka category, the resurgence of gin, what happened to chianti? I guess I found some topics to write about.

1 comment:

  1. How about the rebirth of craft bourbon? Maybe write about the rise of artisanal tequila? On a serious note, maybe he should write about how awesome I am.