Josh Hermsmeyer

The Why & What of Amateur Wine Writing

by Tim Elliott on June 1, 2009

Aerating 2005 Bordeaux
Image by nasv via Flickr

Josh Hermsmeyer, the guy behind the must read Pinotblogger site, has issued a challenge to all wine bloggers and will reward the winner with a prize of up to $1,000 depending upon how many respond to his call. In a nutshell, he is asking us to answer two questions:

  • Why are you passionate about wine/what motivates you to blog about it?
  • Is it appropriate for a wine reviewer to prescribe the ways in which a wine should be made or is their job chiefly to review what’s in the bottle?

Times being what they are, I will attempt to answer these somewhat provocative questions and perhaps give you some more insight into what makes amateur wine writers tick. Or at least how I come at this craft.

So the first question is pretty straightforward. I blog and podcast about wine because I can and like to do so. Like a lot of wine bloggers, I was the guy everyone asked for wine tips so I found it easier to just write them down and record reviews. Now I just point people here for my picks as opposed to trying to remember them at will. My podcasting got me into blogging due to the same software being used (WordPress). It was easy to blog so I did so soon after I started to podcast in late 2004. I got into podcasting after something clicked with me in September of 2004 when I first discovered the genre. At the time there was something like 25 podcasts but no one was doing anything about wine so Winecast was born. Over the years the podcast has ebbed and flowed but I still will be posting shows and continuing until I don’t find it enjoyable. So I guess I do this because I love wine and like sharing what little I know about it. I had much the same answer a couple years back but with a slightly different spin.

The second question is a bit more complicated. I think Josh is asking this in response to Robert Parker‘s recent statements about wine bloggers (or shall I say “blobbers”?). Mr. Parker has long been accused of influencing winemaking styles in order to garner higher scores which many times leads to more demand and higher prices. The biggest beneficiaries of his ratings has been the classified growths of Bordeaux but some Cali cult wines and Aussie Shiraz has benefited, too. And I don’t blame any producers for making such changes in order to get the scores. It helps sell their wine but is also something that I hope we will get away from in the next decade as Mr. Parker retires and drinks down his cellar.

Wine writers of any level should tell the story of the wine they are reviewing and not dictate what that story should be. Sometimes this is a terroir story, sometimes it’s not. For a review to communicate the essence of the wine, as much context as possible is required. I’ve not delivered on this ideal as much as I would have liked in the past but hope to help invent the new language of wine reviews going forward. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying new things to communicate how a wine moves me. Wine is a living being that is in constant change. Those of us who write about it should respect this and attempt to bring all the nuances displayed in the glass into our writing.

Unless it’s plonk, of course ;-)

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Do Critics Still Determine Wine Styles?

by Tim Elliott on March 14, 2009

Josh's T-shirtBy way of Josh Hermsmeyer, I found Tina Caputo’s fantastic self-produced short film, “Robert Parker’s Bitch.” The basic premise is that wines today are big, bold, and over-oaked designed, ‘…to taste and spit,” and not savored with food. The question on the table is if Robert Parker and Jim Laube largely determine today’s wine styles or are winemakers trying to reflect the terroir of their region?

While both sides are presented via interviews with winemakers, industry commentators and winery owners, it’s clear what side of the argument the filmmaker is on. But it’s great to see such a controversial issue presented with such transparency.

Bravo, Tina!