The Internet is a beautiful and scary thing.

From self-diagnosing mystery pains on WebMD to literary blogs shining a light on indie publishers, our virtual environment is chock-full of information for and from any perspective. Reddit (a forum I can’t bring myself to participate in for a variety of reasons) to Wiki-anything, it’s digital soapbox time for everyone from the professional to propagandist.

Because I’m writing this, I’m contributing to the noise. But, it’s for a good reason – as I’m sure everyone else believes of their inclination to do the blog-thing.

A few weeks ago, my beloved BC wine industry (participants, professionals, tourism, and such) was painted in a not-so-positive light under the guise of helping our region (really, the lawmakers) spring for wine law reform.

We blog for a variety of reasons: to have a voice when we can’t find a way to contribute our two cents in any other forum; to educate and inform from another opinion or perspective; to share and tell stories; <insert your own reason here>. Today, I’m using my blog platform for one reason: to help share some information that might have been missing (or misrepresented) in that not-so-positive post about BC wine and our “retarded” wine culture.

In no particular order, and intentionally designed with no links to the original post I’m addressing here (I won’t draw traffic to the scene of an accident – but go ahead and search for it on Google if you must), I present some observations, opinions, and facts as I know them as response.

  • Emerging wine regions might not always be “easy to get to” by some standards, but neither are some of the more established wine regions. As for Penticton (British Columbia), it has a regional airport (YYF) that connects to larger, international ports.
  • If you’re leery of a new, unproven wine region – don’t visit it. If you’re excited about a new, unproven wine region – please come by and we’ll show you around.
  • A smaller producing region that can barely supply its local market is not a bad thing, nor is it an excuse to dismiss it among its peers. In any industry.
  • Why should you “spend precious time learning and writing about fairly good wines from a small region that hardly makes enough for the local market, let alone export, when my readers are never going to have a chance to sample the wines for themselves?” If I have to answer that for you, you might not understand the error in the question. That’s quite like asking why I should read about Spain if I won’t have an opportunity to visit. One quick answer: I think it might have something to do with exposing ourselves to various cultures in the hopes of better understanding our world and its people – we’re better people for it.
  • Please, get the facts straight. Alleging impropriety or payoffs – on an entire region – is just not cool. Plus, it makes the alleger look shifty – like they have an axe to grind (whether or not there’s an axe to grind is none of my/our business).
  • Anyone can have a poor experience in any city, at any time. One can “run into that much wine (or any other) ignorance” in any region’s most “sophisticated city”. My not-so-awesome experience staying near the Space Needle in Seattle didn’t negatively affect my view of the lovely experience I had in that city, and being entirely overlooked at one of Portland’s more renowned pubs – for 35 minutes upon arrival – didn’t deter me from finding an alternative to better my fledgling relationship with craft beers (nor did the generic recommendations I received from concierges at three of the city’s top hotels). Don’t abdicate personal responsibility for your good time in a new and different city. It’s not there to babysit you. Pick up your smartphone, or use the computer provided at the business desk of the hotel, and get online.
  • Small town doesn’t always mean hick, backwards, or banjos. (okay, sometimes banjos but only the rockin’ kind not the other kind)
  • Remember that leery-of-a-new-wine-region comment? If it’s newer to the scene,  please don’t expect the region to have its shit entirely together in spreading the good word. Good-word-spreading takes time – and more than a good marketing campaign. It takes people visiting the region and becoming brave cheerleaders for it.
  • So the products (wine) of this smaller, newer region aren’t readily available everywhere. Big deal. Readers can read for a perspective of an experience or in lieu of their being able to have the actual experience themselves – not always so they can add something to their shopping list. (see my previous comment about visiting Spain)
  • Sampling wines in British Columbia during educational classes – like WSET – does and can happen when the classes take place at licensed facilities. This is why WSET et al aren’t held at real estate offices, but at more appropriate locations. I was just at one: people (gasp!) tasted wine and spirits. I know – shocking.
  • Not visiting a region because of something the governing bodies have instilled as legislation might not be the best route to help resolve some of the problems. The people you hurt from a “boycott” are the folks trying to advocate for change. We are not the laws which govern us. We can only fight to change those laws if we have the resources to do it; governments are large and have big scary legal departments.
  • Disclosure is vital – kind of like a fabulous 8-day visit to a locale for which one may end up writing a “highly favourable” piece. If one were to be hosted by the region, it meant one paid little if anything to be there for eight days. Hello, bias. It’s okay to have it – just please identify it for clarity sake.

That’s enough for now.

At a recent conference (ahem), I was asked to participate in a panel on “Creating Compelling Content”. During this discussion, I was asked if it was okay to write a negative review. My answer was long, took some turns here and there, but basically came to this point: not really, unless you strongly feel there is no other way to get your point across and it will be beneficial to your audience (primary, secondary, or unintended). I was – in a friendly way – accused of giving a very Canadian answer. There was much laughter from the mainly American audience. Of course, I apologized for my very Canadian reply.

Disclosure: I live in the heart of BC wine country. Sure, many of my friends are producers and advocates for change, and generally can be troublemakers in a good way. I have a bias. But I also have an instinct to call out unfair. I think there’s enough vitriol and negativity online without the rest of us contributing to the icky. I certainly hope this wasn’t icky.

In the spirit of collectively raising the wine-bar everywhere, cheers.

~ Jeannette


Okanagan Writing · June 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

Thank you, Leeann.

Leeann Froese · June 19, 2013 at 11:34 am

Great post Jeannette!

Okanagan Writing · June 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Thanks, Michael. To creating (politely) compelling content.

Michael Wangbickler · June 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

“We are not the laws which govern us.”

Right on, Jeannette! Great post.

I’ll own up to that comment about “giving a very Canadian answer.” You’re some of the most polite people on the earth, and I for one, love you for it!

Okanagan Writing · June 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Thank you for the kind words and thoughtful response, Laurie. Much appreciated.

Laurie L Ross · June 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I was wondering if there would be a BC rebuttal. Of course, in Canadian fashion it was well mannered. Makes me proud to be a dual citizen.

Now that I’m so smart about Uruguay, I liken BC to Uruguay, who keeps most of their wine for themselves. Like BC they are looking to change that. In order to accomplish change they need to first create demand (Marketing 101). Laws will change when there’s an overwhelming reason (great demand) for them to be amended. Tough place to be in but hosting WBC was a good step.

What better way than to graciously host events like WBC or like Uruguay sponsor lunch, provide a eloquent speaker and offer a wine tasting to people who can’t stop blabbing about wine.

In addition, I for one find discovering undiscovered wine thrilling. Its like seeing an almost famous singer at a local bar playing for tips just prior to them signing a big record deal. For those of us who attended WBC, we very well may be saying “I sipped them when”

I found most BC wine representatives transparent about that though there is clearly remarkable BC wine, as with any emerging region there are some wineries still figuring some things out. Honestly, I tasted both but enough remarkable wine to know that the region can be the next big thing. Whoever choose to skipped this WBC missed out.

Thank you BC for welcoming me with great hospitality and sharing your wine. I was enlightened. But then again, I expected no less.

Okanagan Writing · June 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

A strong endorsement – thanks!

ravenoustraveler · June 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I’ll travel pretty much anywhere for great wine, even if it means wrestling it from the hands of the local market. Yum, Okanagan.

Okanagan Writing · June 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Thank you, Alina. Yes – you can share this.

Alina · June 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Fantastic reply! May I share this?

Okanagan Writing · June 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Thanks, Gwen. Your kind words are much appreciated. I’m glad you enjoyed the panel – Marcy and Michael were great folks to be chatting with. I’m a lucky gal.

Gwen · June 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Well said. I also really enjoyed your Creating Compelling Content panel at said conference. And enjoyed the Canadian apology to a very good point.

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