Next week, I’ll have a bevy of Texas-related posts on the blog, part of DrinkLocalWine.com’s second annual Regional Wine Week. I have a podcast or two lined up, reviews of Texas wines, and maybe even an Oprah Winfrey spotting, in which she tastes Texas wine.
We have a nifty lineup of wine bloggers and writers lined up for regional wine week, including a post about Hawaiian wine. It’s worth checking out, starting Monday.
Each year, The Wine Curmudgeon does four or five events that are not typical events for most wine writers. This year, I spoke to a wine festival in Wichita Falls, where the Saturday night tasting was held in the county ag center, and at a music festival 60 miles from San Antonio that's held in a campground. I did a Wine 101 talk at Grapefest in Grapevine, Texas, home of the People's Choice wine competition – no so-called experts allowed. And, for the third year in a row, I’m doing a series of Wine 101 talks at the State Fair of Texas.
In most of these settings, the people who attend don't know much about wine and might not be able to tell a cabernet from a chardonnay. But that's OK, since that probably holds true for most Americans. It's also why I speak to these groups. The wine world already has more than enough people who want to preach to the very small choir that is the wine world, and I didn't get to be The Wine Curmudgeon by being like the rest of the wine world.
This letter ran in a South African newspaper, and it says everything that needs to be said (and, in this case, South Africa is no different from the rest of the world). The best part is that it’s not the Wine Curmudgeon whining; it’s someone who pays their hard-earned money for wine and is mostly ignored by the people who make it and the people who write about it. One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, the wine business will figure this out.
Among the highlights:
• “Your wine columnist continues to opine in his quaint, elitist style, as if anyone who can’t afford a bottle at R150 (US$21), or was it R1500-plus (US$210), is beneath him. Many wine writers give the impression that nothing below a certain price point will ever contaminate their nostrils, let alone their lips.”
• “Let’s get real here. Between boxed ‘carafe quality’ and auction wines there is a whole array of, shall I call them ‘sumptuous, luscious, mouth-filling, affordable wines’?”
• “Apart from the Sunday Times wine fundi, who has the confidence and knowledge to recommend wines from as little as R25 (US$3.50) a bottle, most of the other writers deserve to be put back in their elitist boxes.”
The Wine Curmudgeon’s relationship with South African wine has always been lukewarm. Many people I respect keep insisting that it is the world’s next great wine region, but save for a couple of sauvignon blancs and an occasional chenin blanc, I have not been impressed. Equally as important, most of the cheap wine that I have had from South Africa has been ordinary at best.
Which is why I’m happy to report that the Goats du Roam rose ($10, purchased) is a knockout -- $10 Hall of Fame quality wine. What more does one need from a $10 wine? It has a screw top, it’s dry with a bit of strawberry fruit, and there is not a flaw to be found. In this, it may be the best use of pinotage, the native South African grape, that I have ever tasted. Serve it chilled on its own, or with shellfish, roast chicken or gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.
Editorial note: The Federal Trade Commission has issued new rules for bloggers and product reviews. It’s mostly aimed at sites that take money to review items, which I don’t. As noted in my annual honesty policy, no one pays me to review their wine. I accept samples from wineries, but I also buy wine myself for review. In addition, the ads on the site come from a third party and aren’t related to what I write. Still, because I believe in transparency, I’ll go the FTC one better. Starting today, each review will note whether the wine is a sample or purchased.
• So you want open a winery? This primer, from the Bergman Euro-National wine real estate brokerage, is as good as anything I have ever seen. The most important point? Start with lots and lots and lots of money, since an acre of quality California land begins at around $100,000 and it will cost you $6,000 an acre to run the vineyard.
• Wine industry salaries: And you’ll have to count on paying your employees more, according to a survey from the magazine Wine Business Monthly. Winemaker salaries increased 3.5 percent and vice presidents of sales positions were up 6.3 percent over the past year – despite the recession. Overall salaries increased by 4.1 percent in 2009.
• Working for a winery: Want to know what it’s like? Then check out the Share the Crush Fantasy blog, written by Folie a Deux intern Lori Carter. She writes about her experiences working during harvest and grape crushing, which is not, in any way, shape or form, fun. Or, as Lori writes about one of her tasks: “I hook up the intake hose to a bin with a screen to catch skins and seeds and an outtake hose to an empty tank. From here, I drain the tank through the screen and send the juice it to the empty tank. Did I forget to mention that we are dealing with 1000 gallons of juice running through the filter?”
The Wine Curmudgeon has always enjoyed Gourmet magazine, and not just because it had good recipes. One of the most pleasant experiences I have had in my 20-some years of freelancing came when I sold a story to the magazine: The Not so Thin Man: Food and the Detective Novel. (The link is a bit iffy – my Web site is having technical problems.)
Freelancers always -- and I mean always – complain about editors, the editing process and anything that has to do with getting a story in print. To hear us tell it, there are three evils in the world, and magazine editors are first and second. I’m as bad as anyone, and I’ve got the whining to prove it.
But that didn’t happen with Gourmet. It paid promptly, and if the story got held for six months, at least the editors kept me apprised of what was going on. Most importantly, it’s a better story for the editing process. Few writers like to admit that editing can improve their work, because we’re perfect and our prose is untouchable. But the Gourmet editors were tops, using a sure hand and good sense. It was a fine story when I wrote it, and it is a great story now.