When I founded Italyabroad.com, in 2003, wine was, for many, an unknown subject; a subject that very few people could understand let alone explain; these were the times where wine critics could make or break a winery, they were treated like celebrities. These were the times where winemakers worshipped wine writers; winemakers would have given anything for a 90 plus review or a mention from the likes of Robert Parker, and wine drinkers were eagerly waiting for their Sunday’s wine columns with their wallets ready and there were only a few wine competitions
. These times are now gone. The internet came along, bringing democracy and forcing wine critics to seek alternative sources of income.
With the internet, plenty of pseudo wine experts appeared, they created a website, wordpress wasn’t too expensive, and started posting their reviews online. Some lasted a few months, some a few years and very few are still posting regular reviews. But the result was that all these pseudo experts, writing in plain English, sometime just stating whether they liked or not the wine, suddenly made wine appear familiar, approachable, a world away from what consumers were used to. They transformed the way the wine was perceived; wine became a household name and product, an everyday drink that everyone could enjoy and made consumers felt more at ease with it, the fear of choosing the wrong bottle had gone away. The proletarianisation of wine had arrived.
Fast forward a decade or so, everyone feels entitled to write their wine review, exactly like for restaurants on Tripadvisor, everyone has become a critic, an expert. And there is nothing wrong with writing a review, writing one’s own opinion, the problem is when we base our choices, our wines, on it. If the proletarianization of wine was good, it made wine accessible, allowing a huge number of people to discover and enjoy another drink, I believe it is now going too far. Wine is very subjective and yes ultimately, we must like it, but the fact that someone else liked it, it doesn’t make it more suited to our palate, there are too many variables that can influence the wine drinking experience, variables that experts would have taken into account when writing their expert review.
Becoming a wine expert doesn’t happen overnight, it takes thousands of bottles and experts don’t really drink wine, rarely I do, they taste it. When running our wine tasting events, I always tell our guests the “gym” metaphor, we don’t get fit by going to the gym once a week exactly like we don’t become a wine expert by drinking a bottle or two a week. Whilst the wine has now become a mainstream drink, relying on other wine drinkers’ opinion, doesn’t guarantee we will enjoy the wine.
And the plain English, the making wine more approachable, is now creating confusion and spreading incorrect information amongst wine drinkers. I read plenty of adverts or titles about wine and I am starting to see more and more incorrect information, such as “A baby Amarone” or “Enchanting Amarone-style Primitivo from Puglia” or a sparkling wine from Apulia described as “Italian prosecco” only to mention a few. These titles not only misinform the readers, but also seriously risk undermining the progresses made so far.
At italyabroad.com we have decided to join forces with other wine experts, and created Grapepedia
a website that aims to help wine drinkers to discover their favourite wines using artificial intelligence. We believe in helping wine drinkers to find their own wines whilst providing correct information, because there is only one Amarone, the wine’s style is often referred to as “appassimento
” and a non Prosecco is another sparkling wine produced following the Martinelli method and natural wines are not just “grape juice”. Grapepedia aims to provide a personal wine experience, hope you will join the revolution.