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Transparency in the Cyber Wine World . . .

As many of you know, I actively post and share my thoughts on wine and other things on many wine boards across the Net. I really enjoy doing so and feel it is a great way for me to not only share my knowledge but increase my knowledge by interacting with those that either a) have a lot more experience with wine than me and/or b) discuss concepts with those that may share differing viewpoints.

This latter group is an incredibly important section of the wine world I love to interact with. I am not an island in this wine world – I have developed my own thoughts and beliefs based on my education and my own experiences, but I am the first to admit that I am in no way an ‘expert’ about ANYTHING in the wine world. I have a LOT to learn , and cherish every day, as it gives me opportunities to do so.

That said, it has come to my attention that a handful of wineries have yielded their ‘powers’ to knock folks off their mailing lists / allocation lists based on what these folks have written about the winery on wine boards. On the surface, I am appalled that any business in this day and age would kick someone out simply because they had a bad experience with a wine, and I need to be careful to make generalizations here.

IF someone simply did not like a wine they had purchased or shared with friends and wrote about it in a non-inflammatory manner, there should be no repercussions in my mind. This is simply a situation of someone stating their opinion, and it’s okay to not like a wine – heck, I’ve had PLENTY of folks take issues with some of my wines!!!

That said, if someone not only has something negative to say, but does it either a) in an inflammatory mode or b) takes personal potshots, then the winery is put in a much more difficult situation. The winery could do one of the following: a) kick the person off the list without any notice (which has happened recently); b) Contact the person directly and discuss the matter and then decide what to do; c) Go on the wine board themselves and get in a ‘discussion’ with the person and see if a resolution can be reached; or d) ignore it entirely.

Just remember that you are visible on wine boards, and what you say is read by a lot of different people both within and outside the wine industry. Therefore, I always use caution before posting anything . . .and I hope all of you do as well!

I’m curious as to what YOU would do if you owned a winery and someone went on to erobertparker.com., wineberserkers.com., winespectator.com, wine.woot.com, or one of the many other wine boards or wine blogs out there and dissed your wine/company . . .

Looking forward to hearing your responses . . .

Cheers!

7 responses to “Transparency in the Cyber Wine World . . .”

  1. jason hagen says:

    ooops … don’t remove me from the “commenting” list because of my typos.

    Must proof read!

  2. jason hagen says:

    I am no longer a customer of the winery in question, not because they removed someone from the list, that was not going to buy anyway but because of the unnecessary email they sent. By the way, I read the comments by the past customer and they were hardly harsh. I guess this winery can doesn’t care what people think since they just got a 98 from Parker … and won’t have any problem selling.

  3. Hi Larry,

    Thanks for inviting us to comment. I’m the nerd of the group, so I had some thoughts on this matter.

    I would say the medium has some effect on this argument. Individuals on the Internet tend to run a little fast & loose on their commentary. Constructive criticism should always be welcomed by a winery, but this type of criticism is generally less likely to be found online. We’re lucky that winos tend to be more sophisticated, but we all know there’s a few bad grapes in every bunch.

    Trying to appease an irrational online critic publicly may exacerbate the problem. (Nerdspeak: Some people really are just trolls trying to bait others into flame wars. A troll that isn’t fed will move on to other victims.) I fully understand ignoring or booting a less than reasonable critic.

    However, if the winery finds it necessary to make public comment on a legitimate complaint, it should be done once and then provide contact information for private communications. Opening up a line of communication demonstrates that the opinion is valued and that the company is listening. This alone may defuse a complaint.

    If the matter can’t be resolved privately, then the business relationship can be dissolved. Any further discussion of the matter publicly falls under trolling.

    Jesse

  4. Michael says:

    As opposed to someone who purchases a bottle in the hopes it meets their expectations, I only buy what pleases my palate. Therefore, everything I post on my blog are wines that I find appealing (and cost me money). Then again, I could open up a wine after a tasting and something could be missing. I’ll make a note of it, but I will never openly criticize a wine for its “faults” knowing that someone else will taste something completely different. And I don’t blog for a living either. Blogging keeps me sane from my day job, so I am in no position to criticize anyone.

    If you find something wrong with a wine, bring it to the winery’s attention first and then decide if you want to add a note on a blog or some other online forum. Frankly, it may not be worth the time. Just move on. Lesson: watch what you post knowing full well that dozens if not hundreds of other people will see it.

    With that said, I love your wines Larry! And no, he didn’t pay me to say that. I have a job that pays me very well. Great post!

  5. Mark says:

    That is something I really struggle with, running a wine club and export business, as well as trying to blog about my experiences leaves me in a strange position. One thing I try to do is to simply be honest. I’ve given some bad reviews, but I’m only trying wines that I’ve heard good things about or seen good scores for.

    More centrally, if I tell my readers(and potential customers) that I will be tasting a X, Y and Z wineries tomorrow….should I only write about the 1-2 I’ll be using for my club? To me, that doesn’t help the consumer reading my blog.

    It’s a hard line to toe though.

  6. Larry Chandler says:

    I agree with the above comment that a winery should contact the customer to see if the issue could be resolved amicably. But if someone really doesn’t like a wine, and chooses to say so publicly, they probably wouldn’t buy it again anyway and drop off the list themselves.

    Wineries and wine shops do prefer selling wine to good customers, and if business is good they can afford to do so, at least in the short run.

    But you never know how someone will react to being bumped off a list, even if they diss your wine. A dissatisfied customer can possibly make things worse by going even more public with the dispute, and that can lead to a public relations nightmare.

    Any good business should try to understand and accommodate customers. And perhaps the customer has a legitimate beef. Wines can be corked, or otherwise damaged. A particular vintage can be significantly less good than another. It makes no sense to turn a complaint into a clash of egos.

  7. Kevin says:

    I think that the winery can sell to whoever they want. If they find a negative comment anywhere, I’d hope they would reach out to that customer and open a dialogue. Personally, if I tasted a wine that I didn’t care for, I might write about it, but in a manner that was constructive. I’d express my opinion, but emphasize it was an opinion. Reviewing wine is a very tricky business and even the best palates are still just one individual opinion.

    It is no different than being the people who give out book, movie and record deals. I mean, look at the amazing amount of crap Hollywood produces every year. Somebody thought it would make money in the very least, otherwise they would never have agreed to make the movie. Same goes for books. How many people rejected Ms. Rowling and are now kicking themselves? Elvis? Whoa, that was quite a tangent.

    If I was the winery, I’d contact the person and discuss it privately. I’d also save all correspondence in case it turned ugly. If the person was inflammatory, I’d probably ask them to resign from the list, since I’d rather sell to someone new or someone else who does like the wine and would be glad to have a bigger allocation.

    I have no qualms with reviews that are negative, but I think they should be civil. I also think the winery is making a mistake by automatically dismissing someone from their list, since it comes across as elitist and petty.

    Good question…good debate…and I’ve been trying to follow it wherever I can.