In Matt Kramer’s column on WineSpectator.com, posted on Nov 3rd (LINK TO POST), he speaks of a growing phenomenon that he labels “Wine Democracy,” or the emergence of a more egalitarian approach to wine criticism as a whole.
Where in the past, only those with access to some “journalistic real estate in a newspaper or magazine” had a voice in the wine world – the rest of us were more passive consumers of the opinions of these few critics and taste makers. Now, via social media and the blogosphere, everyone can be a critic. And while there are certainly tiers of influence, the audience for wine opinion is doubtlessly more varied and diverse than it used to be; and that audience contains many who also feel free to give opinion (like yours truly).
But there is more to this phenomenon than technological innovation. There is also a cultural evolution process that is unfolding, and egalitarianism is part of where many people are finding themselves in terms of values. The old ways of looking to “experts” to define opinion and then following that opinion without much questioning, is fading fast. Now, a values system variously labeled “postmodernism,” Cultural Creative,” and Green (in Spiral Dynamics) has emerged and is becoming more and more prevalent.
Some of the key values of this level of cultural development are:
- a high value for egalitarianism – anti-hierarchical.
- all voices must be heard on any issue before a decision is made.
- all (or almost all) opinions have equal validity.
- feelings are more important than outcome – it is important that everyone feel good about what is decided.
Here is a link to some information about this phenomenon (LINK). You can see some of these values expressed in the column, but like most people, Kramer is apparently unaware of the cultural evolutionary models (as most people are), so instead of seeing a naturally unfolding way of being human, he sees people being different and, for the most part, wrong.
A quote from Mr. Kramer: “These determined detectors of snobbery and elitism are like old-fashioned anti-communists: they’re sure that subversive snobs and elitists are lurking everywhere.
“In today’s wine democracy, equality of opportunity (to express oneself) too often is steamrollered into a much more simplistic ‘equality.’ All wines are equally good because all opinions are equally valid. Any deviation from that is seen as, well, you know.”
What Mr. Kramer is describing is something that is not going away. In fact, it will grow as more and more people evolve culturally toward this level of being. In the meanwhile, get used to people turning away from the few “experts” and finding ways to not only form their own opinions, but to express them as well. Not all of these opinions will be of equal value, as the post by Mr. Kramer points out, but the days of a wide audience of consumers following a few select wine critics are over.
It’s the times; they’re a changin’. As always, your comments are welcome.