Whining About Wine: Your Feedback Matters

Gentle reader, I must warn you that I am about to whine about wine – and not because I intend to go on and on about how some wine tastes like blossoming toe cheese with a hint of lavender.  While reading an article about wines from Spain yesterday, I became increasingly annoyed with the errors spread throughout the piece, and I asked myself, aloud, “Who allowed this to go to print?” The example it provides should bring home to all of us the importance of checking with more than one source before we write something, yes, but also to the point that even the best writers need good editors.  And when writing and editing does not come up to snuff, your feedback as a reader matters deeply to me personally, as well as to bloggers and reporters in general.

This is not to say that I believe there was any malice on the part of the writer in the article linked to above. To the contrary: I am quite sure the author meant well in writing his piece. On top of which, any time someone draws attention to the food and wine of Catalonia, where the maternal half of my family hails from, I am naturally very pleased.

However when an article begins like this, I smell trouble:

What do Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Portugal all have in common? At one time or another, each of these wine-producing countries was considered the little darling of wine values. There’s now a new country in town — Spain. While there is nothing new about Spain producing wine, it is now gaining a reputation on the world wine stage as making very good wines at very reasonable prices.

The author is right that there is nothing new about Spain producing wine. However to state that Spain “is now gaining” fame for making reasonably-priced wine, as if this was a new phenomenon, is incorrect. Perhaps if this article had been written twenty years ago, that sense of up-and-coming might have been the case. However, Spain has been well-known for many years now in this country and elsewhere as producing good, reasonably-priced wines – indeed, it was known for this long before several of the countries in the list provided by the author were known as being able to produce the same.

The writer then goes on to recommend a particular label of sparkling wine by producers Juve y Camps, stating that this product “from the Cava region should definitely be on your list.” Unfortunately, there is no “Cava” region in Catalonia, where the wine in question is produced. “Cava” is simply the Catalan word for “cave”, which is where Catalan sparkling wines are traditionally matured.

Most Catalan sparkling wines hail from the area around the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in the Alt Penedès wine region of Catalonia. Penedès is second only perhaps to the Rioja region, in terms of the sales volume of Iberian-made wines. And as it happens, a reading of the Juve y Camps label in question reveals that, yes, it is from Sant Sadurní.

“One does not often hear about wines from the Coast Brava section of Spain,” the author goes on to state, before describing another Catalan wine. This is probably because the section in question is known as the “Costa Brava”, meaning the “Wild Coast”, and not the “Coast Brava”, which sounds like a new brand of deodorant soap. Starting out a sentence with either a semi-translation or a sloppy editing job is really not the way to inspire confidence in print, whatever follows.

The reviewer goes on to explain that the wine label “Turo Negre is Catalonian for the ‘black hill’.” While it is a debatable point, the word “Catalonian” is a word which is increasingly falling out of favor, both in journalism and publishing, in favor of the word “Catalan”. That aside, as a general rule “Catalan”, rather than “Catalonian”, is used to describe the language of the people of Catalonia.

The point of all this nit-picking is not to malign the intent of the author, who clearly enjoys what he does and wants to share what he has learned with others: would that we all might have such an enjoyable project on which to work. Rather, it is to point out that you cannot believe everything that you read, not only in politics, but also when it comes to product reviews. Even great movie, automobile, and wine reviewers can make mistakes, and it sometimes falls to an editor to catch those mistakes.

However in turning the mirror on oneself, the truth is that those of us who blog can be guilty of the same types of errors as those listed in the preceding paragraphs. Bloggers often work as the sole researchers, writers and editors of the pieces they publish.  As self-contained units, the likelihood of committing errors in reporting or analysis can be just as great, if not greater, than those who write for a newspaper, magazine, or group publication employing professional staff to help with such matters.

If you care about the accuracy of what you write, and I certainly do, then the receipt of feedback to correct an obvious error in a blog post is never viewed as an affront.  Disagreeing with my opinions is one thing, but I would rather be told, “You got the date wrong,” or “You forgot this important point,” on a post I have written, than be allowed to go my merry way in ignorance.  Feedback that seeks to correct an error is only whining if there is nothing constructive to be gained from correcting the error in the first place.

One of the cellars of the Codorníu winery,
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Catalonia

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One thought on “Whining About Wine: Your Feedback Matters

  1. All you have to do in order to see the difference in reporting is to go to your library, and pull a microfilm roll from the newspaper morgue from 30 or more years ago. And as far as the new media, there are some who actually report, who go to meetings and quote people correctly, who do their homework, and some newspaper “journalists” who write articles about meetings that they didn’t even attend, based on their assumptions on how it will all go.

    Spain a new “good but affordable” wine making region? I’ve heard all my life how good Spanish wine is, and I’ve never been disappointed. My preference is Spanish white wine. For whatever reason, Spanish white wine has more variety than anyone else’s white wine, where “white wine” usually means one flavor. My favorite was a bottle from somewhere in northern Spain, and the soil contributed to the pear taste; there was no pear juice infusion, at least according to the woman who was there for the Saturday tasting at the wine store. Its name is lost to history. Used to be, I had a spiral notebook where I’d glue the label to a page, then write what I thought of it, along with the comments of whoever was also in on the drinking, plus the date, price, where bought, etc. I figured I paid $10-50 for the bottle, so I may as well remember what was good and what disappointed. But at one get-together, my 2nd grade looking art project got found, which ended up in my getting the third degree in needing to turn in my man card and put on a skirt. I regained my straight man credentials when I tossed it into the garbage can, secure in the knowledge that no girl will dump me for doubting my manhood if she ever found the sissy book since it is no more. Looking back, it seems as fey as a Liberace cape, though at the time I thought it was a high minded effort.

    Heck, back in 1990 (when there was still a USSR, before the Internet; yeah, way back) my unit spent a week in Lloret de Mar. Before we left, I found a wine store, and stocked up on half a dozen or so bottles of whatever the storekeeper said was good. Spanish wine was “da bomb” even then. Every bottle was as good as the last, and I saved the final bottle for a special occasion, which turned out to be the opening of a Sergeant’s restaurant. Well, when I reached into the dorm fridge, I found the seal missing, but the cork intact. Muckraker time. The special occasion became a Sunday hang-out party in someone’s room where the Usual Suspects also were. I came in with the bottle, pulled the cork, announced how special they were and this is why I decided to open my final bottle of Spanish wine, upended the bottle to my closed lips to hear X yell, “You’re drinking Y’s p***!!!” Stupid? Maybe, but how else was I going to flush out who did it? Walk in and say, “OK, who f’ed with my wine?” That gets you nowhere. I double dog dare a modern day reporter to do anything as close as that to get to the accurate picture of the story he or she is covering.

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