Tag Archives: Steve Heimhoff

The Debate about Wine Competitions and Millennials

I’ve seen a few interesting blog posts the last few days.  The first was by Steve Heimhoff (http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2010/05/05/this-ones-too-easy/#comments) regarding the news that a Millennial Wine Competition has been formed for this June.  Steve does not appear to be in support of the competition. The second was a response from Leah Hennessy defending the competition (http://millennier.com/2010/05/06/an-open-letter-to-mr-steve-heimoff-regarding-his-millennial-wine-competition-post/).

For the record, I am a judge in this competition.  As a Millennial professional in the wine industry, I am very excited to be involved.  I feel that we as a generation tend to trend towards different tastes than previous generations however this is not unusual, nor is it limited to wine.  According to recent surveys (whose sites I can’t find at the moment…sorry to the documentation police) our generation in France is trending away from wine as a social drink primarily because wine is seen as an older generation’s drink.  In the US the opposite trend has been seen as Leah sited in her blog.  This competition has been designed to try and discover what that taste is.  It of course will be the combined tastes of the panel of judges however it is valid in the fact that this is the first competition of its kind.  On this point I think Steve was a bit harsh, but he is entitled to his opinion.  Goodness knows if one doesn’t stir up a little controversy, then who would read a blog in the first place.

I do agree with what I feel was the underlying point of Steve’s post.  I took this to be that there are too many wine competitions in general. This point was absolutely right.  The more competitions there are the less and less the awards given actually mean.  I do not think that this applies to this particular competition because it is trying to delve down into a specific target audience as opposed to every county fair wine competition in the country.  There are very reputable wine competitions.  The problem is that the vast majority of consumers don’t know how to tell the really highly coveted medals from the rest.  A winery isn’t going to tell you if it entered the prestigious international competitions or the one down the street.  They typically will tell you that their wine is award winning.

As a winemaker, I must say it feels good to win ANY awards. It justifies in your mind the fact that you are doing a good job and this has been certified by an independent authority.   When I won my first Gold medal it felt AWESOME and I really didn’t care what competition gave it to me.  However, let’s face it; the competitions exist so that you can claim your wine has won awards to try and differentiate it from the winery down the road.  Steve’s point is that when EVERYONE wins awards they all become meaningless because everyone has them.

Talking again about the Millennial Wine Competition, I’m excited and really interested to see what comes out of it.  If the same wines that always win the awards win these as well then we can think about lumping this competition in with all the others.  However, maybe we’ll see something really different, a trend that may buck the status quo.  That would be very interesting and exciting not just as a Millennial but as a winemaker and as someone trying to sell wine to my generation.  I say lets see what happens before we start combining this competition with all the others…

To check out the competition in question go to www.nextgenwinecomp.info

Getting started…

I figure that March 1st is the best date for me to start writing a blog.  The 2009 harvest work is winding down and people are beginning to turn their attention to 2010 harvest.  I recently read a blog posted by Steve Heimhoff (http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2010/03/11/what-i-tell-winemakers/)stating that winemakers needed to blog more about what they do on a daily basis.  I agree, however I think most people would be bored to tears if they had to read what we do on a daily basis.  Today I attended two management meetings, worked on a report, ate lunch while researching the Leyda Valley in Chile for an upcoming winemaking dinner, and wrote 3 outlines for my MW exam.  My case in point, it wasn’t a very exciting day in the life of a winemaker.

March 1st also has significance as being the three month point from the first day of the above mentioned MW exam widely known to be an extremely intense and demanding course of studies.  I think it would have been interesting to have blogged about my experiences leading up to these next three months however I did not have the forethought (or the time for that matter) to do so.  At this point in the program I find myself being elated one moment at the point of reaching some new revelation and scared out of my mind the next, one small step away from breathing slowly into a paper bag.  I’m not sure if that’s common at this point but it helps to think it might be.  In three months I will undertake the culmination of the last 5 years of study (including the two WSET certifications and the MW program thus far).  I’m excited, relieved, and nervous all at the same time. At this point my life has become consumed by the desire to finish this program.  I’ve put everything else in life on hold.  It has become a common thought of mine during the past year to say “I’ll do that after the MW” or “It will have to wait until after the MW”.  Fortunately I have a very supportive husband, family, friends, and company without which I would not have come this far already.

But I digress…

The initial thought for this particular blog however is my ever increasing frustration with wine scores. I appreciate their simplicity and ease of understandability by the general wine consumer however as a winemaker it continuously bothers me that the endless worry during the growing season, the extreme care during harvest, and the long aging process to create our best possible wine can be whittled down so quickly to two numerical digits.  Don’t get me wrong, I get as excited as the next person when a wine that I’ve been involved with gets a high score however it does leave me feeling a bit shallow at the end of the day. This is nothing against the wine critics that use scores because goodness knows they taste enough wine to need such a system, but it seems so simple a method that perhaps it is too simplistic to really encompass all that is good in a wine.  I also, not being a mathematically inclined person, don’t prefer to think in numbers but in styles or personalities of different wines.  So…the idea for my website came about.

There are several things I’d like you (who ever you may be) to keep in mind.
1)    I am a winemaker, not a wine reviewer, even though I will post my tasting notes and my personal opinion about a wine on the site.
2)    I am not endorsing or disapproving of any wine in general.  I am merely posting my opinion.  Yours is welcome to differ.  After all that is what wine is about, right?  If we all liked the same wines there wouldn’t be so many to taste in the first place.
3)    You (being whoever is reading my ramblings and notes) are more than welcome to comment be it agreement or disagreement.  All I ask is that everyone remain civil and look at things from every point of view.
4)    I will try and respond to as many comments as I can and answer questions to the best of my ability.  Keep in mind that I don’t know everything and am not likely to know everything in my lifetime.  I will share what I do know and will try and point you in the right direction when I don’t.

Finally, I want to say thank you.  If you have stayed with me this long there might be a chance that you’ll come back next time I write.  I hope you will.  Until then Happy Frost season from CA!