Category:Podcasts

Winecast 46: Richard Hemming, MW, and why wine writing isn’t necessarily objective

richard hemming
Richard Hemming, MW

“Why should [consumers] trust us? They shouldn’t, necessarily,” says Singapore-based wine writer

Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, wrote one of the most amazing blog posts I’ve ever read: Wine writers can’t be objective given the incestuous nature of the wine business, and consumers need to know that this prevents us from always being objective.

It’s one thing for me to write that, which I’ve been doing as long as there has been a blog. But if Hemming, firmly part of the Winestream Media — initials after his name, consulting work, and articles for important magazines and websites — writes this, it speaks to how messed up wine writing is.

Hemming doesn’t disagree. But he also doesn’t see a solution, since it’s difficult to make a living as a wine writer. So we have to depend on the kindness of strangers, with all of the compromises that entails. In this, Hemming notes, there’s a difference between a compromise, like not writing something that would offend a source, and corruption, such as taking money for a positive review.

Needless to say, I don’t agree. But Hemming’s point is well taken, and he hits on one of the key questions facing post-modern journalism, wine or otherwise: What’s going to replace the ad-supported model that paid for newspaper and magazine reporting in the second half of the 20th century? Because, so far, it isn’t the Internet.

The other thing worth noting? The post was easily the best read on Hemming’s blog, and most of the comments — from wine writers, of course — agreed with him.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 15 1/2 minutes long and takes up 9 megabytes. Quality is good to very good; I still haven’t figured out how to get the most out of Zoom.

Winecast 45: DCanter’s Michael Warner and wine retail trends during the duration

Michael Warner
Michael Warner of DCanter

Our wine purchases during the duration? Cheap and cheerful, says this Washington, D.C. retailer

Michael Warner, the co-founder of DCanter, a neighborhood wine shop in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has seen all the reports about wine buying during the duration: More expensive wine to treat ourselves, lots of this and some of that, and even boxed wine. But he thinks he has seen something significant at this shop, which has more affluent demographics than most.

“Cheap and cheerful,” says Warner, whose store is seven years old. “People are buying less expensive wine. They’re not entertaining, which is when they would buy more expensive wine.”

In this, he says, his customers are buying more vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese fizzy wine, as well as half bottles. That’s because those who live alone want wine for dinner, but don’t want to waste it, and that’s what half bottles are for.

We also talked about:

• That wine delivery and Internet sales have become as important as the studies suggest. Dcanter sold more wine on-line in the first two days of D.C.’s stay at home order than it did in the previous three years.

• The need to update delivery and on-line ordering regulations to reflect the 21st century. DCanter’s customers who live in Maryland,  just a couple of miles away, can’t get delivery. But those in Virginia, also a couple of miles away, can. How much sense does that make?

• The obstructions in the wine supply chain thanks to the pandemic, and that it is becoming more difficult to find imported wine.

• Wine retail websites, and how too many of them look and work like they were put up during GeoCities’ heyday.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 minutes long and takes up 4 1/2 megabytes and was recorded on Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

Winecast 44: Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Clara Klein
Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Stuck at home? Then there’s nothing wrong with $12 white Bordeaux, fast food, and pantry staples, says Clara Klein

Clara Klein, the lead sommelier at Sunday Vinyl in Denver, bought a house in October. Six months later, she was unemployed, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, the reason for this podcast — Clara offers smart, insightful perspective on wine and the restaurant business during the duration. I’ve known Clara for a couple of years from judging the Colorado Governor’s Cup, and she understands that not all wine costs $100 or needs to be Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. How many people in her line of work are willing to admit that?

Clara is also a passionate supporter of local restaurants, local jobs, and local food. And her plea for federal aid to help save local is one of the best I have read or heard. If four out of five restaurants close because of the pandemic, do we really want the one restaurant left to be a national chain?

The good news is that she has plenty of inexpensive wine at home, and she and husband Ian Palazzola (laid off from Denver’s Acorn) have been able to cook, drink wine, and spend time together. Which, she says, doesn’t happen much. Finally, a mea culpa: Sunday Vinyl is in Denver, despite my saying it was in Boulder twice.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 11 minutes long and takes up 4 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; we’re back with  Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

Photo courtesy of 5280, using a Creative Commons license

Winecast 43: Rob McMillan and what happens when all this is over

rob mcmillan
Rob McMillan: There are going be better quality grapes in cheap wine, even as wine prices decline.

“What’s going to happen to demand? People are still going to drink”

The good news? Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank, perhaps the foremost financial analyst in the wine business, says wine can survive the coronavirus pandemic. The bad news? It’s not going to be a lot of fun during the duration.

The highlights of our conversation:

• Expect to see weaker wineries fail, as well as some grape growers who don’t have producers to buy their grapes. In this, there probably won’t be bankruptcies or foreclosures as much as there will distress sales. There are always people wiling to buy wineries, says McMillan, even in a recession, and prime vineyard prices probably won’t decline all that much.

• Wine prices were expected to fall before the pandemic hit the U.S., and the stay at home orders and layoffs will only hasten the process. In this, though, since there are too many grapes, expect to see better quality grapes going into cheap wine. One rumor? That a major $3 producer snapped up Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon at bargain prices.

• Look for more producers to try to sell their wines at mass retailers and supermarkets. The loss of tasting room business needs to be made up somehow, and retail wine sales haven’t slumped as much as some thought.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up 11 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; it’s my first podcast with Zoom.