This evening I was reading a post on Beyond the Bottle, another blog covering the Pacific Northwest wine industry, and I was compelled to share it here on The Oregon Wine Blog. In the post, "Breaking the Unspoken Code" Thad analyzes what I would call a positive bias trend within the wine press. Essentially, the argument is that many leading wine reviewers write inflated reviews to continue the "gravy train" -- free wine provided by the industry to writers for review. Check out Thad's excellent post for more in-depth thoughts regarding that issue.
I certainly acknowledge that a positive reviewing bias exists in the wine press, in fact, it is an issue we have struggled with here but for different reasons. Many of us have a propensity to only purchase wines that we have tasted and enjoyed, otherwise it would be a waste of limited resources that could be used to purchase more good wine. The staff here are still in the "up-and-coming" stage of life, not "already arrived" status after all. These are the wines that get reviewed here for the most part, although Micheal has made a point of reviewing some wine that he didn't enjoy as much. Additionally, its just a heck of a lot more fun to review a great bottle of wine than it is to review suckiness.
The title of this post is "A point well taken" because I think we can take away a lesson in transparency from Thad's post. Now, The Oregon Wine Blog certainly isn't classified as leading reviewer and we pay full retail price for a lot of our wine, but there are some exceptions. We've developed great relationships with some local wineries that at times result in a free bottle here or there, an industry discount, or a special tasting--and I am a small shareholder in a publicly-traded Oregon winery (small enough where all the wine purchases in the world wouldn't positively influence my financial situation).
There is nothing inherently wrong with forming postive relationships and participating in the industry--the ability to do so is one of the things that make the Pacific Northwest wine scene such a great place. I am confident that these relationships and perks, which are minor in the scheme of things, haven't influenced our content (we'd buy / review the same without the discount). As a writer and editor, I strongly believe that the notion of transparency gives validity to our journalized experiences. The sheer nature of this type of media encourages personal opinions, but I don't want you to think that a mystical gravy train shapes our reality. In the future we'll take a page out of Beyond the Bottle's book and disclose sourcing information to allow our readers to make informed decisions about our work. We don't make any money off of this venture and surely wouldn't complain if a free case of wine showed up at *our* doorstep.