blogging as performance art

Monday, September 06, 2010

My post entitled ‘Critical Path’ brought some interesting comments, which tied into a remark from a friend at a weekend dinner party. It had to do with the distinction between performance art and what I’ll call fixed art (for lack of a better term). Fixed art is something permanent – a painting, a book, a record. Performance art is something malleable, something that changes with each new audience.

Often the two are intertwined, yet separate. A play is fixed, a theatrical performance is not. A recording is fixed, but every time a song is performed it’s new and different. But for writers, performance art, and the audience interaction that it generates, has been limited to the occasional reading or poetry slam. With blogging, it moves much closer to performance, because there is feedback. It may not be the instant, emotional buzz type of feedback that a performer gets when he or she really nails a song, a dance, or a character. But it’s waay better than the vast nothingness into which writing has traditionally been tossed.

I like the transparency that blogging demands, but I like it most when it pushes the dialogue ahead. Example – this comment posted on my Critical Path entry:

“As a winemaker of very esoteric wines (i.e. I do not make red Bordeaux or Chardonnay), I feel slightly nudged to mention that one issue I have with the wine press is the silent treatment. I have occasionally given wines for review and never heard anything. The obvious reason for this is because that writer did not find the wine of a quality level to review. I have even had press make kind comments and then print nothing. Is it wrong to ask for the (free) advice about the status of a critical opinion? Sometimes a wine that is created for an attribute, shows as a fault to someone. I am not referring to faulty wines, but how would a Sancerre show in a California Sauvignon Blanc tasting, or a Gigondas show in a Washington state Rhône blend tasting? Do you dislike those queries?”

I love a query such as this that asks good questions and gives me a chance to further the dialogue. I don’t know who this poster is, or where he or she makes wines, but speaking strictly for myself, I can say that every WA, OR and Idaho wine that is submitted to me for review in the Wine Enthusiast will be tasted, written up, and scored. However, if a wine is faulty enough to fall below 80 points, those notes are for internal use only. In such instances, I would always answer a query from the winery as to why the review didn’t run.

I can’t imagine that I’ve ever made kind comments and then not run a review. Sometimes there is an unfortunate time lag between the date that a review is entered (by me) and the date it is made public (by the magazine’s editors). And certainly, over many years and thousands of reviews, there are some that slip through the cracks. But my intention is to review everything that comes to me from wineries here in the Northwest, or wineries using grapes from Northwest vineyards.

As for the second half of the question. A “wine that is created for an attribute [that] shows as a fault to someone” is a little dodgy. Professional reviewers should know what is a fault – a chemical shortcoming – and what is “an attribute.” With something such at brettanomyces it is open to personal interpretation. Some find it an attribute (though I would balk at calling it “terroir” as is sometimes done); some find it a flaw. Some draw the line here, some there. For me it’s generally a flaw, but there are instances where it can add a reasonably attractive nuance – I had one such wine last night in fact, a 2002 Bourgeuil that opened up quite nicely in the glass.

Putting an old world wine in a new world tasting should never be a cause for criticism, but there is no doubt that it changes the dynamic in a blind tasting. In that instance, it’s an opportunity for education, not criticism.

NOTE: With Labor Day now upon us, I am going to make every effort to return to regular blogging. Most likely M-W-F entries rather than daily, as we are in the process of selling a home and moving, and I am also quite actively promoting sales of my book, which has just been released. As always, I appreciate the time given to this blog by those of you who follow it regularly, and I will strive to keep it interesting and mutually informative.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Paul,
I enjoy reading your blog. Sometimes it makes me chuckle...

" I can say that every WA, OR and Idaho wine that is submitted to me for review in the Wine Enthusiast will be tasted, written up, and scored. However, if a wine is faulty enough to fall below 80 points, those notes are for internal use only. In such instances, I would always answer a query from the winery as to why the review didn’t run."...
"But my intention is to review everything that comes to me from wineries here in the Northwest, or wineries using grapes from Northwest vineyards."

As a new winery I had to chuckle at this...I submitted samples to you after reading a similar article last year. When I asked about the samples I got your standard lecture about being busy and how I shouldn't expect a response. Never heard what you thought. Never saw a review. Based on many, many retailer reviews I can safely say it wasn't due to being a sub-80 pointer.

PaulG said...

Anonymous, I stand by what I wrote. Without knowing which winery you may be, I cannot address your specific situation. I am sorry you got my "standard lecture" (don't actually have one, I respond individually to all e-mails). I am forbidden by the rules of my employer from answering questions about specific reviews before they are published. The timing of your question may have been such that I could not give you the answer you asked for. There are many occasions where the magazine publishes reviews only online, not in print. There are also occasions where those reviews are posted up quite awhile after they have left my hands. The timing of all that, unfortunately, I cannot control. However, if you submitted wines more than 6 months ago and have seen no reviews, I will be more than willing to track them down for you, as I would for any NW winery. That is what I wrote, that is what I do.

Anonymous said...

Paul,
I'm not trying to get into an argument with you here. I enjoy your site.
This is directly from the email you sent me when I inquired about my samples:
"Thank you for sending the wine. Given the vastly increased number of wines and wineries, and the very limited space available in the publications for whom I write, not every wine will get reviewed."
I've read very similar blogs on this very site. Just calling them as I see them. You're very busy. I understand. Don't over promise.

PaulG said...

No argument, Anon, just striving for clarity. Again, not knowing your winery, I am shooting in the dark. But just to be totally transparent, there are wines that do not get reviewed. These are wines that are 1) back vintages or 2) mailing list only or 3) such limited production (1 or 2 barrels) that by the time a review ran they would be long gone. I think what I was trying to communicate in my e-mail to you is that the magazine will not print every review. And yes, from time to time, something will slip thru the cracks. But the commitment remains, as long as I have the gig, I will taste and review 99+ percent of everything sent to me. I am sorry that your wines, apparently, fell into the other 1%. Still not sure why or how, but feel free to send me an email offline and we'll track it down.

Post a Comment

Your comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted ASAP. Thanks!