What’s wrong with wine writing: Views from around the web

My post on the sorry state of wine writing was not, it seems, a shot in the dark. Many people feel this way. My post not only elicited a variety of comments here, but in emails and elsewhere. Along the way, I turned up a variety of writers with similar sentiments.

Among those:

? Tim Elliott at Winecast, who wrote: ?Too often, I default to the same sort of clinical reviews you see in the Wine Spectator and other wine pubs. Terse notes on color, aromas and flavors topped off with a rating on some scale. For almost 5 years now, that ?s been what I ?ve been doing. But I ?ve had enough. ?

? Ryan Opaz at WineBlogAtlas, who wrote: ?This is what I see in the wine blog-o-sphere, and while the exceptions are growing, there are still too many websites and blogs that have more in common with wine industry rags than with the new world of which they published in. ?

? Derek Lavallee, a wine critic for The Hill: ?Whether inspired by a sincere but strenuous attempt to describe that which is inherently subjective, or an egotistical outlet for frustrated poets using wine as their muse, most wine-speak typically results in alienation of the reader. ?

? The ever knowledgeable George Rose, writing for Dan Berger ?s Vintage Experiences: ?Much of what passes for wine writing seems more like a stuffy BBC period piece. I keep expecting Dame Judy Dench to pop out from behind the bushes and recite in proper English: ?I like Viognier to show a green-straw color, peachy-dried apricot nose ?

? And Mike Wangbickler, who reprinted Rose ?s essay on his blog, Caveman Wines: ?Why do we as wine writers, bloggers, and wine marketers insist on talking over the heads of our customers

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Podcast downloading problems

If you try to download or stream one of the Winecast podcasts, you may receive an error message — "account is out of bandwidth." This is apparently a problem with my online storage provider, and they should be working to fix it. I'll keep you posted.

Expensive wine, April edition: Chateau de Fonbel 2005

image This red Bordeaux (mostly merlot) is an excellent example of modern French winemaking. The Fonbel, a grand cru from St. Emilion on the right bank, combines traditional Bordeaux strengths, like balance and aging ability, with more intense fruit than many right bank Bordeauxs have.

Isn ?t the intense fruit (mostly blackberry) a problem, given that Bordeaux is supposed to be more subtle? I don ?t think so. For one thing, this is the celebrated 2005 vintage, where fruit shows itself more intensely. For another, the back of the wine, and especially the tannins, show that the Fonbel will age nicely for four or five years. In that time, the wine should round off and become less fruity and more interesting.

Suggested retail is about $30 ? if not a great value, then a fair one, and especially if you let it age. Serve this with lamb or steak frites.

For more expensive wine reviews:

Wine of the week: La Ferme de Gicon 2006

Le Ferme de Gicon 2006 The Wine Curmudgeon has just one question: How can a wine of this quality, at this price, have existed for so long without me knowing about it?

The Gicon is a red blend from the Cote du Rhone (grenache, syrah, and mourvedre) made using carbonic maceration, the same fermentation process that produces Beaujolais nouveau. This makes the  Gicon more accessible, not a bad approach for inexpensive Rhone wines, since they tend to be green or tannic. It also holds the price down ? about $9, in this case.

The Gicon is a solid, steady, dependable Cote du Rhone, the kind of wine that everyone who loves wine wishes more producers made. It ?s not showy or spectacular, but it's not supposed to be. Look for a bit of cherry fruit and some spice, and drink it with most simple red meat dishes ? burgers, meat loaf, and even roast chicken.

Tuesday winebits 73: Texas viticulture degree, older wine drinkers, Europeans cutting back

? Texas Tech adds degree program: The Lubbock university has added a degree specialization in viticulture and enology, plus classes offering everything from grape growing to wine production and retailing. Texas Tech is the first university in the state, and one of only a few in the country, with this kind of undergraduate program.

? Respect for older wine drinkers? Marketers who usually overlook everyone older than 35 are missing a bet with wine drinkers aged 50 and older, says the Datamonitor research firm. It noted that that an increasingly large "senior" population is worth targeting because they are willing to spend their money on products they perceive as value-added.

? Euros drinking less wine: The wine industry has for the first time recorded a worldwide decline in consumption and sales — particularly in European countries that are traditionally the largest producers and consumers of wine, such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Great Britain. The British, for example, drank 1.8 percent less wine in 2008.

Wine review: Torre Oria Cava Brut Rosado NV

Torre Oria Cava Brut Rosado NV The Wine Curmudgeon has been known to get into spirited discussions with retailers about Spanish sparkling wine, or cava. I like Cristalino very much ? it ?s cheap, consistent and well made. Many retailers, on the other hand, don ?t get as excited about it. I tend to think that ?s because Cristalino is not only ubiquitous, but doesn ?t offer them much in the way of margins.

So when we have these discussions, the retailer usually offers me an alternative to Cristalino. Over the weekend, it was the Torre Oria rose (about $14) and I was impressed. Torre Oria is a well-regarded producer, and this is a better quality wine than the Cristalino, with more interest ? the fruitiness isn ?t quite as simple and there ?s more of a finish. Whether it ?s 75 percent better than Cristalino ($14-$8=$6, divided by $8) I ?ll leave up to you.

Serve this chilled before dinner or with chicken or seafood. I had it with grilled Cornish hen ? a fine pairing.

The end of zinfandel as we know it

I have been writing an annual zinfandel column for about as long as I have had a publication or blog to write one for. The Wine Curmudgeon has always championed zinfandel as America ?s national wine ? cheap, well-made red wine that is food friendly and a lot more interesting than Australian shiraz or cute label merlot.

Sadly, however, I ?m giving up the cause. I can ?t find enough zinfandel to recommend anymore. Today, too many zinfandels are pricey, high alcohol bombshells that have more in common with port than with table wine. And, from what I ?ve been told, those wines have permanently replaced the ones that I liked. I mentioned my dilemma to one well-known zinfandel maker, and he wasn ?t even aware there used to be another style.

The final straw came this week, when I pulled a variety of zinfandels out of the wine closet in a last, desperate attempt to find some to write about. None was less than 14.5 percent alcohol and most were higher than 15 percent. And, unbelievably, each cost $18 or more. What was most disappointing though, is that they were as tannic as cabernet sauvignon, hot (which means you could taste the alcohol), unbalanced, and almost devoid of the tell-tale zinfandel fruit.

So, so long, my friend. We had fun, didn ?t we?

For more on zinfandel: