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News / 01/30/2015 / 562

A NEW PHENOMENON ON WINE SCENE - VULGARIZATION

Wine fly

Before you start reading these lines, I suggest that you take a glass of wine - I think this artice will turn out a bit lengthy, so if you get weary of it after a while, there will be a glass of wine to provide refreshment and to help you get through the rest of the article... I certainly feel more enthusiastic to write about wine regions of Serbia, about wines that had caught my attention, about wineries and winemakers who are essential for the wine scene, than to waste energy while writing about these phenomena that trivialize all the efforts invested into affirmation of Serbia's wine-making.

Wine scene of Serbia is proportional to the size of our wine industry:  for a few times already, I could hear malicious comments like " a small swamp full of crocodiles" and the like ... And every time such remarks put a smile on my face. Mainly because we, the Serbs in general, always think of ourselves as being unique, that the whole universe revolves around us, so the same goes in terms of local wine scene. We reckon that we are the sole proprietors of the phenomenon called wine scene, i.e. an entire community of people who are more or less acquainted with wines and constitute wine scene of a country. Together with wineries, they draw public attention to wines and wineries and popularize wine culture. However, this micro-universe, collectively called the wine scene, exists in every country of the world, not only in our country. And everyone in that chain of interrelated stakeholders plays its role - some more vital, some less ...

In the era of online media and social networks,  the professions known under the names of wine journalist, critic, blogger, judge, social media manager, etc simply boomed across the globe. But the local wine magazine Wine & Fine keeps calling these in a compulsive-obsessive manner in each issue of the magazine -  "a quasi expert", thus reducing all these to only one name. And let me also mention here my favorite term which puts a smile on my face when I hear it - a wine fly. Internet has brought about global democratization and freedom of speech, so anyone with some knowledge of modern technologies (or who knows what a post is and who Johann Gutenberg is ) got the opportunity to share with others his/her own judgment about wines that he/she tasted. There are various profiles among them: very professional people who struggle to share their expertise with others or fail to encourage followers to explore the world of wine, those less professional  whose passion and direct approach simply make the greatest opponents of alcohol fall in love with wine. There are also those whose talent for writing and persuasive descriptions achieve more than those oenologists who reduce wine to a presence or absence of chemical compounds. And all of them are equally needed on the wine scene in order to foster further development and prevent stagnation because each of them has its own circle of followers and fans to communicate with.

De gustibus non est disputandum. Simply, wine is a unique product because it has its subjective, hard-to-describe emotional dimension beside chemical and physical properties. I am absolutely convinced that having as many different voices as possible to deal with the topic of wine is beneficial because it prevents single-mindedness and manipulation whilst the audience is given a choice. Simply, it is the principle of buffet - place everything in front of wine lovers and let them choose. Robert Parker himself is the most controversial figure of today- equal numbers see him as the wine god incarnated in human form, as well as the mere American manipulator. Simply, everyone chooses to read texts which he/she considers trustworthy, so the wine lover will select those wine flies that he/she trusts and considers as wine expert. And that is the most important criterion.

You must have already figured out that this article is my reaction to the latest issue of Wine & Fine magazine and the central topic about the "so-called wine experts" that I have been reading continuously about starting from the issue number 7, all the way to the latest issue number 15. I still fail to figure out who are those significant (and therefore most probably highly influential) circles when this magazine has been mentioning them in each issue but still I can't read who they are. For that reason, this seems to me the sort of tabloid scandal writings created by the best masters of scandal crafts who have brought to life Kim, Paris and similar "celebrities" aimed at nothing more than just improving sales and increasing circulation. Simply, vulgarization has moved from Serbia's showbiz to all other spheres of the society and here it finally landed in the winemaking realm. The wine magazine Wine & Fine slowly but surely is sinking into the ranks of yellow press such as Skandal, Kurir and alike. We have already noticed half-naked starlets on the cover with a bottle of sparkling wine from Serbia as well as images of starlets in the wine cellar who describe in the text how to avoid being seduced by the owner of the winery, and a bunch of articles with the sole purpose to stir up and quickly get more readers by provoking scandal.

The Wine & Fine magazine's insisting on the topic of quasi-wine experts is really fascinating because the magazine issues 7 and 8 contain articles and an interview with Mr. Savo Kesar, who was even a contributor and published his articles there. I just do not understand what this profile of wine expert is working in the editorial board of Wine & Fine.  I see it as a proof that the team behind this magazine doesn't distinguish between experts and quasi-experts, so any further discussions on this topic become moot. The ones who fail to identify (quasi) experts in their ranks have no authority to behave like the Inquisition and classify the wine scene onto quasi-experts and experts.

In each issue, the magazine Wine & Fine objects because wine media in Serbia dare to appraise and describe wines. Yet, it is the first and only wine magazine that I ever had a chance to skim through that leaves empty fields next to wine descriptions and invites readers to enter their reviews (isn't the purpose of  wine critics and wine magazines to present wine desriptions and reviews which will serve as recommendations to readers and  guide them through the world of wine?!?). If we talk about wine flies, it certainly is not the way to gain  readers' confidence and trust. The reputation is not earned by the fact that in each issue of the magazine, wines depicted on adverts are also written about in the articles. A quick look through the last 8 issues of the magazine reveals that wineries from Fruška Gora constitute the target group of the magazine, because each issue contains articles (and paid adverts) about Fruška Gora wineries. A half of the magazine issues contain articles about wineries from Burgundy (whilst all issues contain adverts of these wineries). Also, all issues repeat the topic of Šumadija wineries (particularly Aleksandrović Winery). At the same time the article praises the "champagne" of Šumadija, and such error cannot be forgiven to the editor of a wine magazine, unless he even cared to read the articles before they went to the printing press. And the confusion over the boundaries of viticultural regions, given that the article about wineries of Šumadija region contains also wineries belonging to the region of Three Moravas ... And finally, given the current wave of EU grants related to cross-border cooperation which stimulates Croatian wineries to export their wines beyond borders of the Union (and taking huge sums of money for the purpose of marketing promotions), we find in each issue special theme presentation of wineries from Ilok (issue No.7), Erdut (issue No. 9), Baranja (issue No.10), and again Ilok (issue no. 11). Interestingly enough, a large number of wineries and wine regions of Serbia are completely marginalized. With due respect for journalistic skills and knowledge of the editorial team in this wine magazine, the editorial concept of the magazine and such contents do not seem overly convincing to me. Simply, the correlation between the adverts and PR texts in the service of advertising is too high. I do not trust ratings given by experts who praise certain wines, but who took money from the winery to do so. I would rather say that individual figures of Djordje Pešić and Ljubica Radan stand out from the entire "pay-and-go" concept of the magazine, and I am always happy to read their articles again later on , so I think  these two can be used in a better way as authors to revitalize the magazine with useful information and avoid sour impression of commissioned PR articles paid by the wineries.

If the editor wants to truly scandalize and stir the wine public, appal readers with editor's opinions and bombastic metaphors or waste creative energy and time on irrelevant topics, then he should better deal with truly scandalous topics that are significant for the Serbian wine scene: why none of the experts from Serbia ever cared to do DNA analysis of Jagoda grape variety, so we are now waiting for Swiss geneticists to do it, why Radmilovac keeps ampelographic collection instead of selecting the best clones of local varieties in order to help winemakers, why winemakers from Sremski Karlovci still haven't started to collaborate and opened a joint exhibition space in the center of the small town that will attract thousands of tourists who annually pass through the city. These are topics that wine scene wants to read, which currently can not be found on the pages of the magazine Wine & Fine.

My opinion about wine knowledge of Wine & Fine editor is not affected by the fact that in each issue of the magazie there are topics that have to do with personal unresolved relations with the editor of a rival magazine having almost the same name. Personally, I will never underestimate the small group of people who regularly read my articles on a website vinopedia.rs and push them to read only my articles, because all others are "quasi experts". Simply, I know that people who happen to read articles on vinopedia have enough critical spirit to assess the content of the articles , so they will enrich their knowledge about wines if  they find useful information elsewhere ... And I must praise synergy and fellow journalist relationship that exists on the local wine scene (I have to say that online media are still far ahead of printed magazines in this regard - my best regards to Nenad, Dušan, Perica, Basarić). We are all aware that wine audience is hungry (and thirsty) of information about wines, they like to explore wines, to discover the fascinating world of wine. Wine audience reads what they want and deem worthwhile. That is the essence of democracy, although it appears that those who remember well other social systems from the past have difficulty to understand it. Here I take my personal point of view, because I enjoy reading texts and articles of other colleagues who write on the subject of wine and give their opinion about the wine scene in Serbia. I have no fear to give my opinion, without hiding behind general statements or having no courage to name the person I'm talking about. So this time I'm not writing about "a quasi expert from Serbia" ... I'm talking specifically about everything I like or do not like (completely subjective judgment) and the principle applies to my descriptions and evaluation of wines. And obviously, theres is a circle of people who trust this principle (and me) , and therefore they continue to read articles on vinopedia and want to taste recommended wines ...

Some of you might think that I am having a conflict of interest given that my articles are also published in the "rival" magazine Vino & Fino (although I'd rather call it a primordial Cain & Abel counterpart of the above-mentioned magazine)... However, I am presenting here only my own views and still remain liberal-minded author and editor of the website vinopedia.rs as well as freelance contributor to Vino & Fino (Serbia), Vince (Hungary), Meininger's Wine Business International (Germany), Winerist ... and all others in the future who find valuable information for their readers in my writings and thereby contribute to further development of wine culture in Serbia (including the magazine Wine & Fine provided that they give up this vulgarization trend and turning into a cheap yellow press). And equally important, it is also essential that the editorial concept of the magazine fits into my vision of wine journalism and topics that the magazine deals with.

That is why I propose to the editor of the magazine Wine & Fine to escape from this autistic environment. The world around us is not bad and evil, and this particularly applies to the world of wine. Wine brings together people who exude serenity, enthusiasm, optimism. Winemakers and wine audience are astute enough to recognize and decide who to believe and who to ignore. So, bring back onto the pages of the magazine Wine & Fine those topics that we want to read and articles that we will be coming back to. Allow us to learn new things from Đorđe and Ljubica. What you are now offering to us is  cheap instant entertainment for the masses and paid advertisements. With a glass of wine, I do not want to read a wine version of  Kurir, Svet or Skandal.  




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Tomislav Ivanović

Awarded wine writer, wine critic and contributor to selected wine magazines. WSET3-certified author and editor-in-chief of www.vinopedia.rs. Member of Vojvodina Sommelier Association. Juror in national and international wine competitions. Lecturing about wines of Serbia and the Balkans. Local partner of Wine Mosaic organization. Co-founder of International Prokupac Day.

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