How important are wine guides?
“Printed guides are useless today and this year I did not have a single visitor to my winery who found it through a guide”. I have heard this phrase from a couple of producers who in the past had a lot of visitors who would come with a guide in hand, almost always the of Gambero Rosso – Slow Food one, which around the year 2000 sold 92,000 copies of the Italian edition and with those translated into foreign languages sales came close to 150,000. Today the numbers are different but then this is true of all book sales, even it is especially true for guides. And then associations of wine lovers and sommeliers have their own guide of reference which they receive with membership or something like that. Many things have changed including the development of various apps which means that with a smartphone one can have a library of information at their disposal. Does these mean there is no longer a need for guides?
That all depends on what they are like, obviously. Printed guides, no longer having the circulation they once enjoyed, need to be conceived and produced in a different way. They will always need to have a wealth of information, authentic data banks, to serve as a basis for other applications, like apps. Then they need to have reports on the state of wine in Italy written by competent and reliable people who, as in any other sectors, can analyze and offer suggestions for those who do not have the time to study for themselves. They should not exist just to boost wine sales, as some naïve producers may believe, but to inform and offer the elements necessary to allow consumers to form their own opinions. And like Plato’s being, they need to “exist in many ways”, and this applies not only to wines but also the evaluations of them. Guides must inspire people to think for themselves, especially those who believe they have discovered the ‘true path’ or absolute truth, people who believe they can decided what is good and what is bad without taking into account the full reality of the vast and assorted world of wine. It is true that guides do not sell the way they used to and thus some producers will think it trendy to say “I don’t send wine to guides anymore”. At the same time, however, send their wines to international events and competitions, tastings and trade fairs where they can be easily tasted and evaluated. This is why we, in our small way, have decided to ask little or nothing from producers and only if we were unable to taste their wines in some other way.
Thus many producers will be evaluated by us even if they do not send us their wines. And these evaluations will be done well with unbiased competence and attention, the same way a wine lover or consumer would. This is another way to approach compiling a guide, one that is more transparent and authentic. And as long as there is freedom of speech and the right to report, two things guaranteed by our Constitution, we will continue to do what we feel is opportune with calm, without threat and only in the interest of those who read us.
And this even if they do not bring our guide when they visit a winery. And even if we do not sell as many copies as we would like, we can be sure that are sold are in the hands of intelligent people who have a passion for wine. And that’s fine by us.