Don Kavanagh of Wine-Searcher talks about the challenges of journalistic integrity in wine publications and offers resources for vino drinkers to find the right, affordable wine.
Publish Date: Jan 15, 2021
has been on fire with making wine searcher an editorial force and adding things that I feel like our surely needed in the wine industry. I do feel like you said you told you, teased me and said that there would be some things in your background that would lead into why you're able to do this. But you're not in the echo chamber. Can you be? And and maybe we should explain what the Echo chamber is. I mean, you and I can talk about that a little bit, but wine has a really set way that they've done things for a really long time, and you're not doing that. Well, I mean, why bother? I mean, it's literally if people want that kind of wine journalism, there are plenty of places out there that can offer it to them. Uh, by that kind of wine journalism, what I mean is, it's not actually journalism. It's opinion dressed up as fact. In many cases on, in most cases it's not even a genuine opinion. It's a received opinion that was given to them by somebody else. It's part of the problem I have with formalized wine, education and qualifications so forth. I mean, I'm talking me wrong. I love the people. Wanna learn about why I think it's brilliant, But I think the fetishization off certain wine qualifications really, really disturbs me because all they're doing is perpetuating the same bullshit that they're the people who taught them were taught. Somebody initially decided, and it would have been one person. This is what classes is cast as good wine. All good. All good. One must be like this. It must taste like this. It must come from here. And it must be made with these graves. Um, really? That's tripe. That's absolute rubbish. Is anybody who drinks? One will tell you the great ones from everywhere I've I mean, these days, it's hard to find bad boy. You know, it's it's actually harder to find bad one, the good one these days. Unless, of course, you're like natural wine Way could get into that. Um, I'm not exactly sure that's true because you guys don't have. You don't have a lot of native grapes there, so it could be There could be some challenging wines. We have a little bit more of more of that here. There's some wines that are less good here. I've had some of non vinifera wines. Myth, non for grapes. And yes, yes, they're the challenging is a very nice way of putting it. But but But really, these days, if a wine is on sale in a shop, are in a you know in a supermarket are in a fine wine store, it will be well made. Yes, that's right. You don't have to like it, but it's it's likely at least drinkable, depending on your taste. And there's some problems with labeling and hype around certain things. I mean, it just depends on your taste. There's some things that are undrinkable to me that are perfectly drinkable, toe others. But the interesting thing, though, is as we're talking about the opinion dressed up as journalism, there's another element to this. To which you forwarded me that article about by Richard Hemming, a master of wine. Why wine writers don't hold the trade to account. I loved that you gave that to me. I will post it in the show notes, but it's basically an admission of this absolute nonsense that goes on in the wine industry. People don't report things because they're beholden to the trade. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Give you example from before I was even that winesearcher when I when I was editing the hospitality magazine here, it was called were City Wine Tastings. And for this to make money because all magazines or publications need to earn money, we would charge producers $250 to have a bottle shot of their wine featured in the tasting on. Mostly, we're happy with that. But then you got the stage where he started to realize that it was very hard to say This is a poor wine. Are this is ah, badly put together wine. You know, you couldn't really say that if you charge in the money for it. And so you have the terrible dichotomy that E can't actually say what's true here because we need the money on. But it's kind of like that with a lot of wine writers, These there's your phone people who flatly refused Thio say anything bad about our picker, you know? Ah, wine body of random, you know, Napa Valley event are the C I V c and champagne Are the consorts, your Chianti Classico or whatever? I'm not I'm not saying that any of those people are doing anything wrong, but I'm just saying that people feel beholden to these organizations because these organizations are frequently paying for them to go and have this lovely lifestyle where they fly to Tuscany are they fly to Napa on there, put up on their wined and dined, and they're taking her into all these beautiful restaurants and wineries on their drinking all these fantastic wines on Then when they go home and they say, Well, it was a bit crap, really there Never get invited back. I'm sorry, but wine, spectator, wine enthusiast, food and wine. Jancis Robinson D cancer. They all do this all every single one of them, does it. In fact, Richard Hemming said he didn't publish the article for Jancis Robinson. He was told not to basically not to do this, to bring to the four that there may have been some issues with this whole. You know, Rudy Kurniawan and wine forgery and all this all this nonsense. So here's my question to you. Is there any other wine resource that you read? Is there anything that you read that you feel you can trust? dust. There's quite a few things I like. Tom works for mental block. I think that's magnificent. You know, people like Jim booed. Um, he's doing doing the Lord's work in In the low are you know, there are lots of people who I read I respect. I love their writing styles don't always agree with what they always say. Of course, off. You know, the Ron Washington of this world. Look, it's an engaging thing and it catches my I'll read it. Really, I have a lot of because I try to keep up with as broad a spectrum of wine writing is possible. I tend Thio have these aggregators. So, you know, like Louis perdio put together on the wine industry network and so forth. That's really where I find most things that are of interest to me. Those guys, you know, there did a great work on Luis Paredes, particularly. I think he does what He actually does a lot of genuine journalism himself as well. His roundups, I think, are very helpful. Yeah, let's get back Thio what you dio. So when you are thinking about what you want to publish, what's your end audiences? It trade. Is it consumer? Who is? Who are you thinking of when you're publishing this article? Or is it just good journalism because you have a journalism background? I mean, that's your Your Your idea, I think, is that journalism should be reporting on the truth, right? What should be reporting on what's happening? It's not necessarily on the truth, because truth tends to be very rarely objective, especially these days on. I vividly remember what a nearly chief reporter of mine at the first newspaper work for here in New Zealand said I came back with this beautifully nuanced piece about a land dispute that basically talked absolutely every shade of opinion there. Waas about it was quoted in the story, and he ripped it up and said, Listen, it's like this If one person says it's raining and the other says it isn't raining, I don't want you to tell me in a story what each of these people are saying. I want you to open the window and see if it's raining on. That is always stood by me. That, to me is, is the dispassionate observer saying, Well, this is what's happening. This is what we can see happening. And that's kind of what we do, because we got so much data at our fingertips. Mostly when I'm pontificating and I do frequently pontificating my stories, I will be seeing things like borders. Prices are starting to stagnate. Are people falling out of love with the super rich wines of the You know, the crew classes are people getting fed up of having to for $20,000 for a bottle of DRC, for example? But I will back it up with our figures. Yes, and that's really helpful. Yeah. So on DWI, look, honestly, we offer these figures to people as well, if if other.