Tag Archives: wine writing

writing about wine

The cyber-ether loves the Wine Curmudgeon blog

wine curmudgeon blogTwo rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet

Good news for those of us who love cheap wine. Two website rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet for 2018.

Amsterdam Diary (and no, I don’t know why it ranks wine blogs) says the site is among the top 90 on the Internet, while Feedspot puts the blog among the top 100 sites.

This is a big deal, and not just because I like to boast about the Wine Curmudgeon blog. First, that I made these lists speaks to the need for credible, well-written information about the wine most of us drink. Which, of course, many in the wine business prefers we don’t know, since they want to sell us crummy, overpriced wine.

Second, I made the same lists as sites with more money, employees, and ad revenue, including the Wine Spectator, VinePair and Wine Folly. Here, of course, I do everything myself. That says a lot about how much you appreciate what I do — and is one of the reasons I keep writing the blog.

Five wine stories you never need to read again

wine storiesYou don’t need to read these five wine stories again, because they don’t say anything anyone needs to know to enjoy wine

Wine writing can be repetitive and boring, and it’s just not because all too many of us write entirely too much about scores and toasty and oaky. It’s because certain stories appear over and over and over that always sound the same and that never offer information that matters to most of us.

In other words, five wine stories you don’t need to read:

It was a great vintage: Vintage stories have been meaningless for years, and not just because post-modern winemaking technology has made vintage irrelevant for 95 percent of the wine in the world. It’s because every vintage story, regardless of what happened during the harvest, quotes someone as saying it was a terrific vintage. It might have been challenging or it might have been smaller than expected, but it was terrific. I saw this the other day with a couple of stories about this year’s Texas harvest: One story gushed about a bumper crop, while the other talked about lower yields but high quality.

Wine is good (or bad) for you: Regular visitors here know I’ve banned health stories from the blog almost from the beginning, mostly because almost all of them are silly. Wine, like just about everything we put in our body, is neither good nor bad. It’s how much we use. If we drink in moderation, there seem to be health benefits. If we don’t drink in moderation, there are no health benefits. You don’t need a PhD or MD to know that.

Corks are the ideal wine closure: One day, perhaps, someone will do a scientific study about the efficacy of corks. Until then, there is no reason to read any cork story. Most of the studies are paid for by the cork industry, so what would you expect the results to be? Let’s not forget that cigarette makers once claimed smoking was good for us, and they had the experts to prove it.

Such and such is the hot new grape varietal: Typically, these stories originate on the East Coast and quote high-end sommeliers talking about a wine made in such small quantities that no one except high-end sommeliers can buy it. The original hot new grape was gruner veltliner, and you can see how that turned out. When’s the last time you saw gruner on a store shelf? In the last couple of years, we’ve gone though Greek grapes like assyrtiko; the current favorite is the country of Georgia and its saperavi. The point is not quality, because some of the wines are terrific (if overpriced). Rather, it’s availability. How can a wine be the next big thing if there isn’t any to buy?

Such and such is the hot new wine region: When I started doing this, the hot new wine region in California was Paso Robles. So guess what a recent story identified as the hot new wine region in California? Paso Robles, of course. Some of this is the way the news business works, where each new generation of editors and reporters figure they’ve discovered something because no one else in their peer group knows about it. But most of it is just laziness.

Warren Winiarski donates $3.3 million to honor wine writers

Warren Winiarski

That’s Warren on the far left. Now I know why he put up with three wine writers — myself, Mike Dunne, and Dave Buchanan (from the right) in close quarters for three days.

Warren Winiarski’s foundation wants to build the most comprehensive collection of wine writers’ work in the world

Warren Winiarski is more than an iconic figure in the history of U.S. wine. He’s a smart guy, too.

“My hope for this gift is that it will create a powerful resource for people who want to see how writers helped develop the wine industry itself and how they influenced the aesthetics of wine,” he told the University of California-Davis media office. “Wine writers didn’t write just about the regions or types of wine. They gave winemakers the tools they needed to make wines better.”

It means a lot that the man whose cabernet sauvignon won the Judgment of Paris appreciates what we cyber-stained wretches have done over the past 40 years. In this, Winiarski’s foundation has donated $3.3 million to UC-Davis to “build the most comprehensive collection of wine writers’ work in the world” at the school’s already well-regarded library.

Just let me know where to send a copy of the cheap wine book and the original $10 Hall of Fame. And, of course, all the writing we did for Drink Local.

I’ve known Warren for several years – judged with him, visited vineyards with him, been on panels with him. We’ve even shared a moment or two about my beloved Cubs, whom Warren suffered with when he was a boy in Chicago. So I knew there was more to his life than making great wine.

Hence, I should not be surprised by this gift. How else does one get better without legitimate criticism? That kind of perspective is invaluable, and that Warren understands that is just one more reason why he became the winemaker that he became.

So call me pleased. And happy. And maybe a little surprised. I get so cranky dealing with the wine business every day that my perspective is not always what it should be. So thank you, Warren – not only for acknowledging the role of those of us who type, but reminding me why I love wine in the first place.

Silly wine descriptions

Why didn’t you say so? What those silly wine descriptions really mean

Silly wine descriptions

Look closely, and you can see the gentian and the buddleia.

Those silly wine descriptions weren’t really about wine, but Star Wars and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Last week’s post about silly wine descriptions, courtesy of John Tilson at the Underground Wine Letter, elicited any number of comments – some of which I can actually reproduce here.

Tilson found three truly silly wine reviews, one of which included this line: “texturally silken, supremely elegant effort transparently and kaleidoscopically combines moss, wet stone, gentian, buddleia, coriander, pepper, piquant yet rich nut oils and a saline clam broth savor. …”

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought it was a bit excessive. My email offered a variety of interpretations, and I followed those up with several other possible explanations:

• “Wasn’t Buddleia the hero of the Gentian Sector in the second Star Wars prequel?” asked Dave McIntyre, the Washington Post wine critic.

• Because I’m a Star Trek fan: Wasn’t saline clam broth savor something like gagh, one of the Klingon dishes that Riker enjoyed in The Next Generation episode, “A Matter of Honor”?

• Or perhaps it was this diner’s favorite nibble in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life?

• Women’s makeup similar to the $1,115 Guerlain Black Orchid, only made with moss, wet stone, coriander, pepper, and piquant yet rich nut oils, instead of the “sensoriality and efficacy” that is the “strength and power of the Black Orchid?”

• The texturally silken and kaleidoscopically weed-infused of plot of 1993’s “Dazed and Confused?”

• And, from the Italian Wine Guy, whose education was obviously much more classical: “ In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ a stately pleasure dome decree:/ Where Alph, the sacred river, ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea of gentian, buddleia and moss. …”


The fourth do-it-yourself wine review

do it yourself

Drinky appreciates white wine with fresh stone fruit and citrus aromas and flavors.

How else to combat the foolishness in so many wine reviews? Hence, the fourth  do-it-yourself wine review.

The fourth do-it-yourself wine review gives you a chance to play wine snob, wine geek, and wine know it all, just like so many who do it professionally. Why deprive yourself of writing: “The strawberry, rhubarb, blueberry and cranberry flavors are juicy and fresh, with plenty of purity and oomph, offering a firm backbone. Dried herb, fresh earthy loam and spice notes linger, but the fruit continues to sing out on the finish.”

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

And, as always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him.

In the glass, this white wine:

I smelled the wine, and:

I tasted the wine, and:

All in all, I’d say the wine:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The first do-it-yourself wine review
The second do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2017

These six posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2017

Anyone can do a top 10 list, but only the Wine Curmudgeon can do year-end top 10 list that is different from everyone else’s. Hence these six posts, which I thought were among the best I wrote in 2016 – the third time I have done this exercise.

Note that these aren’t necessarily the best-read posts; Google, rather than my brilliance as a writer, determines that. Rather, these are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both. But they didn’t get the attention they deserved.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2017:

What do we call legalized marijuana, now that it is for in sale in one form or another in more than half the states? This post combined a bit of humor with the reminder that legal weed is going to hurt wine, even if no one in the wine business wants to worry about it. In fact, several people canceled their email subscriptions to the blog shortly after they received the post.

• The annual Halloween post usually does poorly, but this year’s did even worse. Frankly, it was some of my best writing, and it featured Dr. Who. What wasn’t there to like, what with the Doctor and cheap wine?

• We finally have nutritional labels for booze, so why not for wine? What more needs to be done to convince the wine business to take this step to bring their product into the 21st century?

• My on-going struggles with the post-modern PR business may not seem like something you should care about, but wine drinkers are the biggest losers when critics shill for crummy wine. And we’re expected to do that all the time. And, to add insult to injury, a couple of months after this post ran, a PR flack sent me an email that contained almost everything I complained about in the post – including how much he enjoyed reading the blog.

• The wine business turns a blind eye to the neo-Prohibitionists who want to make drinking more difficult, and that includes legal, perfectly acceptable two glasses of wine with dinner drinking. Hence, this reminder from Iran, where Prohibition has been the law for decades, and how banning booze doesn’t work – even when the penalty for drinking is death.

• Finally, the idea that accessing the Internet for sites like mine may become a thing of the past. This is the only political piece I wrote in 10 years, and it was almost completely ignored. Net neutrality – the idea that everyone should be able to access everything in the cyber-ether without paying extra or suffering speed reductions or restrictions – is as important as a free press. But the FCC thinks otherwise; the regulator has abdicated its duty to protect consumers to help companies like AT&T get even richer. This is so horrendous a decision that I can see a time in the near future when I have to give up the blog because I can’t pay for the special access that Internet operators will demand from websites and content providers. Because, if I don’t pay, you’ll try to get the site and your cursor will just spin and spin and spin, and what’s the point of a website no one can access?

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2016
Favorite posts of 2015

Winebits 520: Cheap wine, wine writing, holiday wine

cheap wineThis week’s wine news: Another advocate for cheap wine, plus why wine writing can be so awful and the holidays are worth $1 billion to the wine business

Welcome to the club: Mike Madaio, whose credits include several Winestream Media outlets, asks, “Is it Wrong to Love Inexpensive Wine?” in Palate Press. That he has to ask speaks to how much wine has changed since the end of the recession. The answer, of course, is no, but we’re approaching the place where those of us who advocate wine that doesn’t cost a monthly car payment are seen as the problem. So it’s a pleasure to see Madaio write: “Big names and trophy bottles just aren’t what excites me about wine. Instead, I’m the guy endlessly motivated to find drinkable, memorable stuff for the lowest price possible.”

How bad can it get? Bad enough, as this piece from something called SheFinds.com demonstrates. It’s not so much that the writing is bad, even though it is (“you’re” instead of “your” in the first sentence). It’s that so many casual wine drinkers get information from sites like this, and the information is – to put it nicely – useless, starting with the headline: “You Can Get Wine At Trader Joe’s For Under $20.” No kidding. You can also get wine for less than $20 at every place that sells wine in the U.S. The article looks like it was cut and pasted from a Trader Joe’s handout, which is hardly the sort of objective wine writing that wine drinkers need.

Very important: How crucial are the holidays to the wine business? More than $1 billion worth of crucial in 2016, according to this graphic using Nielsen data from Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight. Nielsen also notes that sparkling wine sales increased 272 percent during the two-week period, while table wine sales were up 47 percent.