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You don’t need a wine writer to know which way the wine flows.

You don’t need a wine writer to know which way the wine flows.

 Social media is helping democratise the world of wine, allowing the opinionated sommelier or winemaker with a story, or an interesting wine, easy access to, a young tuned in, turned on, increasingly knowledgeable post Decanter audience.

The 2015 natural wine fair was a huge success, record numbers maxed out the sprawling venue, according to an email from Isabelle Legeron the event organiser. Clearly, enthusiasm for the Natural Wine phenomenon and perhaps even the anti-establishment attitudes it embodies continues to grow, conversely so does the reactionary bitterness of some established wine writers. Andrew Jefford a contributing editor to Decanter magazine is, I think, one of these mean minded fellows.

A few years back he was vicious in his condemnation of what he termed, “the charlatanry” of Natural wine. In the latest Decanter he targets not just alternative cuvées but also social media and its love of wine. His indignation is directed at “fashionable topics”, these include the popularity of pinot noir, as well as Biodynamic wine making, the use of egg shaped and other unconventional fermentation vats, along with zero sulphur natural wines and even the health driven return to popularity of wines with lower alcohol.  All of these and more are dismissed as illogical fetishes driven by chance.

Chateau le PuyThe world of wine used to be” happily fashion proof”, he suggests.

Really!  

Normally Wine is considered fashionable, maybe even the preserve of snobbish fashionistas. There were of course times when wine fell out of fashion; so, for most of the first half of the 20th century middle class diners in the UK abandoned wine on the dining table, in favour of whiskey in the drawing room. Decanter, founded in 1975, grew out of the post war fine wine and good food revival which began to take off in the 1960s and is ongoing.  Amateur enthusiasts and trade figures - at the time the main source of contemporary wine writing - were replaced by a new generation of opinionated professional writers. The new guys promoted high cost wines from Bordeaux and other well-funded regions, helping to create a worldwide demand for a relatively small number of soundly financed increasingly expensive wines. The vast majority of winemakers and drinkers unable to afford the production and promotion costs or the prices ended up excluded.

Time forever marches on; now we arrive at the latest Decanter edition wherein professional wine writer Andrew Jefford damns social media for facilitating “opinionated wine makers” as well as creating  a “dictatorship of the herd”. “Some topics are fashionable; others aren’t”….. As far as regions are concerned its “Jura hot, Bordeaux not”. He whines.  

The July Decanter with Jefford’s social media moan comes accompanied by a second high quality mag of one hundred and twenty pages entirely devoted to just one region... Bordeaux . This impressive high quality, free with Decanter publication is brim full of 0007positive prose as well as a lot of recommendations for Bordeaux wines, interspersed with numerous paid for ads from the region, many full page. The combined content of both mags is two hundred and fifty eight pages, not one of which is devoted to the Jura region. Though several in the main mag also cover Bordeaux.  

Small unfashionable regions like Jura get very little coverage in the mainstream wine press.  They lack the big advertising budgets needed to pay for space and do not have high value resources to lavish on leading wine writers.  Social media gives neglected regions, their wine makers and supporters a low cost affordable method of communication, shattering the wine writing dictatorship of the mainstream media.

Writing in the same edition as Jefford, Elin McCoy a New York based journalist refers to the decline in demand for Bordeaux wines and the rise of Jura in New York restaurants. This, she writes, is down to the growing influence of the sommelier, who has turned against Bordeaux and embraced the wines of Jura and other regions. “Hip drinkers seeking the cool and affordable”, have lost interest in Bordeaux wines is her conclusion.

Social media is helping democratise the world of wine, allowing the opinionated sommelier or winemaker with a story, or an interesting wine, easy access to and interactive communication with a young tuned in, turned on, increasingly knowledgeable post Decanter audience.  The dictatorship of the professional wine writer has been overturned, the enthusiasts are back.

We are in the middle of a wine spring. Vive le Vin.