Earlier this week, Steve Heimoff wrote yet another screed lamenting the invention of the interwebs. Apparently, this newfangled internet machine is “destructive.” And it’s why we’re no longer living in “The Golden Age of Wine Writing.”
Heimoff is dead wrong. We’re living in the golden age of wine writing — and things are only getting better.
Consider our access to information. Almost anything you’d want to know or read about is easily available.
Once upon a time, wine consumers were starved for content — they could turn to Hugh Johnson, Gerald Asher, or Jancis Robinson, but that was about it. Today, consumers can choose from thousands of different outlets. Sure, some wine publications have gone out of business, but the vast majority still exist — and they’ve been joined by publications like Eater, Zester Daily, Purple Pages, Palate Press, Vinography, and countless others that literally didn’t exist ten years ago.
The condition of wine writing should be judged by the facts and stories consumers have access to. Today, more people than ever before have access to more content than ever before.
It’s that simple, and it’s awesome.
Just as important, the barriers to entry that once existed are almost entirely gone.
Back when folks like Hugh Johnson and Gerald Asher started their careers, quality wine was rarer and more expensive than it is today. So only those who were wealthy could actually write about wine. Today, clean, interesting, delicious wine is available from across the world — and plenty is quite affordable.
Further, there were only a handful of wine publications — magazines like Decanter, newspapers like the New York Times, etc. So there were only a handful of jobs, and landing one of those jobs often depended on holding a journalism degree or somehow proving you deserved entry into the guild.
Today, anyone, anywhere, can write about wine. There are more publications than ever before and it takes nothing more than an internet connection to be a journalist.
Heimoff is also wrong because, for the first time ever, every wine writer can now reach nearly every human.
Once upon a time, a consumers’ only wine content came from the local newspaper or a subscription to an expensive magazine. Today, consumers can quickly and easily access thousands of publications, videos, podcasts, etc. And thanks to smartphones, consumers can access that content 24/7. Plus, there are more storytelling formats than ever before.
The list goes on.
To quote Matthew Yglesias, Heimoff is guitly of “a blinkered outlook that confuses the interests of producers with those of consumers, confuses inputs with outputs, and neglects the single most important driver of human welfare — productivity. Just as a tiny number of farmers now produce an agricultural bounty that would have amazed our ancestors, today’s readers have access to far more high-quality coverage than they have time to read. Just ask yourself: Is there more or less good material for you to read today than there was 13 years ago? The answer is, clearly, more.”