Most people have heard of the Slow Food movement, but how many are familiar with Slow Wine?
The fact is that Slow Wine has been hiding in plain sight: For several decades, they co-published with Gambero Rosso, generally regarded throughout the world as the leading authority on the Italian wine. Since 2011, the Slow Wine Guide has been an independent publication devoted to many of the same goals as the Slow Food movement---authenticity, respect for the land, and a revolt against the homogenization of taste.
This last point is particularly important, at least here in the U.S., where a recent study revealed that more than half of the wine market was controlled by three giant companies. To be sure, there are some benefits to this situation. Wine quality has improved enormously over the past two or three decades, but many mass-market wines now bear an eerie resemblance to each other. The Italians are determined to plot a different course.
The Slow Wine Guide takes a radical approach to wine criticism. Rather than being evaluated on the 100-point scale that Americans have grown to love, the 400 estates in the English version of the Guide are judged by criteria such as sensory perception, sustainable agriculture practices and value for money. The winery profiles include biographies of the principals and an overview of their vineyard sites, along with reviews of the property’s top wines. It’s a far cry from giving a wine 91 points, tossing around a few superlatives and calling it a day.
Will this approach work in America? Apparently so, judging by the popularity of the Slow Wine Guide in a short period of time. Many consumers seem to be hungering for real information about the wines they are thinking of buying, rather than puffery inspired by advertising. This last point is crucial: The Slow Wine Guide accepts no advertising, and evaluates wine solely on its merits.
Despite its traditional approach, the Guide is available as a mobile app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch in addition to the paperback version. Mobile users have access to all 3,000 wines reviewed, as well as a list of 750 restaurants and retailers where the wine may be purchased.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to iconicspirits.net.