Oustanding Mike Steinberger Piece on the Current State of Wine....

Someone once noted that the reason conflict was so violent among academics was because it meant so little. This piece sort of rings the same bell.
Best, Jim

Monkey bait

It’s interesting to see Steinberger writing in Wine-Searcher. I also observe that he gives Parker props, rising above past disagreements.


Surely, nobody would want any part of the bad old days described in Mike’s article, but given the choice, I have to book passage on your time machine, Keith. As evidenced by his recent writings, Mike has tired of the natural wine debate, as have many, many others. If he wants to point the “narcissism of small differences” gun at that debate, fine. But to suggest that the gun could or should be pointed at indiscriminate use of new oak and Cabernet- and Pinot Noir-based wines with port-like burn on the palate is simply not reality. Something for everybody these days is surely true, but so is the “too much of nothing” (to quote the title of the old Dylan song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary) that wine reviewers have foisted upon us. If this is indeed the golden age of winemaking, then why in the hell are so many people trying to track down old wines all over the globe and paying insane prices for them? And not just Friends of Rudy…even those of more modest means are looking to score such of the classic bottles of yore as their means permit. And why are so many wine drinkers, including shocking numbers of newbies, seeking traditionally made wines instead of those that are the product of all of the brave new technology that Mike celebrates in his piece? The piece is well-written, as is always the case with Mike’s stuff, but it misses the mark for me…

Because we’re bored (and not just with wine). And because we can.

I didn’t get the sense that Mike was making a statement about traditional vs. modern styled wine. More that modern technology, hygiene and attention to detail is allowing all styles of wine to be made better.

MS seems to have a little too much of the "one big, happy family " thing going on.

Anyone who would pick 2014 lacks imagination. But that doesn’t diminish Mike’s point that overall quality and values have never been better than today.

Interesting thought experiment, but it seems that the answer would have more to do with the pricing history of your favorite wines rather than the relative quality of 2014 vs. some other time.

I see it differently. I see picking “other” as living in the past, and wishing for an era that has gone by. Sure wine prices are high, and some wonderful things have changed/gone away, but there is huge wealth of great wine now. Celebrate the present, rather than bemoaning the loss of an idealized past.

Depends on the wine, but, in many cases, perhaps simply because they are hoping the wines might be ready to drink before they, the buyers, are off to a better place? champagne.gif


Interesting hypothesis that got me thinking. Thanks for that.

For me the answer would clearly be 2014. For one, I drink primarily California wine…California Pinot Noir, Zin, Syrah in particular (not Cab so much). I certainly think that the general availability of those wines is far greater now, the quality is generally higher, the style range broader,and the pricing not that much higher comparatively than at any time in the past.

When I do drink other wines…I find myself gravitating to the Loire, Austria, Germany, Alsace (to a lesser extent) and the Northern Rhone. The selection of those wines that is available now at the average store is far greater than it was at anytime in the past and the prices really haven’t changed dramatically.

So, for my drinking, it is 2014 without doubt. Of course, as I read your question I also looked in my wallet and there isn’t a single bill to be had (just a bunch of receipts)…so, given that status, it wouldn’t really matter what time I found myself in.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines


Can I ask…what old wines are you specifically talking about with people tracking down old wines all over the globe? My mind immediately goes to Bordeaux, but then I go online and see that I can find bottles of the 1986 First-Growths (one of my favorite vintages) at significantly less than the 2009 wines. I can find 1985 DRC wines (also one of my favorite vintages) at the same price as 2010s. I know I am missing some areas where what you say is undoubtedly true…but the areas that I first went to, in my mind, that didn’t seem to be the case. Maybe they need to be older than my examples?

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines


And how can we explain that the wine consumption is declining in Europe, especially in France, Spain and Italy?

Piemonte, red Burgundy and older California, to name three. And the buying activity is driven by many factors, I suspect. One is certainly ludicrous current pricing versus what older bottles can be had for, as you pointed out. And the pricing on current releases is driven by absurd amounts of disposable wealth in certain corners of the world. Buying mature wine to drink now is another driver. Seeking out pre-Parkerized, traditionally made wines is yet another. And probably seeking out older wines where a changing of the generational guard, ownership or winemaking style has not had the positive results that Mike suggests that one usually finds today.

What an odd reaction.
I don’t see anyone bemoaning the loss of an idealized past and I don’t see how recognizing what we’ve lost is incompatible with celebrating the present. It’s the actual, non-idealized past that’s the subject of interest here, and it’s not like one needs to go back very far into some nostalgic days of yore for it to be worthwhile. I’d be pretty thrilled with 2004.

It’s only odd in your head.

The irony of this thread devolving into a spat! Wine nerds are awesome.



Things are so good, in fact, that we’ve been reduced to beating the crap out of each other over what amounts to the fine print.

Bueker is present. Spat happens.

But seriously, if you think about it, there can be legitimate differences of opinion about several of the points in the article, as there can with anything written or spoken. The irony arises only if you swallow what Mike Steinberger wrote whole. I certainly do not. You cannot really dismiss central and important wine issues with purely rhetorical devices like “the narcissism of small differences”. And Mike himself has beaten plenty of crap out of plenty of people over “fine print” over the years, and to good effect, too. However, one thing is sure…Steinberger has offered dramatic improvement over the quality of the drivel posted by the Wine-Searcher staff writers, most of which gets shredded here regularly…