Tag Archives: wine writing

Wine Curmudgeon blog ranked 29th among Internet wine sites

Internet wine sites

The WC is No. 29 — suck on that, premiumization.

British retailer’s top 101 Internet wine sites list says WC can really pound that keyboard

The Wine Curmudgeon blog is ranked 29th among wine sites on the Internet, according to a survey by a British wine retailer. Yes, I know there are many ways to interpret that, and most aren’t printable here.

But given all that has happened to the blog over the past 18 months, including declining visitor counts, less love than ever from our overlords at Google, and the increasing difficulty in finding cheap wine worth drinking, it’s worth mentioning that our cause is still making an impression in the cyber-ether.

Hence, the details about Corking Wines’ Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020. There I am, at No. 29, between Great British Wine and The Wine Stalker, and just two spots behind the Indian Sommelier. But I’m also two spots ahead of The Wine Ninjas, so that’s something.

Jonathan Doubtfire, a marketing executive for Corking Wines, an on-line wine retailer in York, emailed that the rankings are based on “a number of factors. … We started off using a tool that estimates traffic, readership levels, etc. Then the wider team got involved and we reviewed each site on the shortlist, in order to establish the final order on there.”

Using site numbers is typical for these kinds of lists, which usually include various social media metrics (and yes, one has to use the word “metrics” when one writes a sentence like that). Given that I haven’t used social media in almost a decade, I suppose my performance is that much more impressive. And the selectors liked one of my wine tariff posts, which is surprising since it’s not traditional wine writing, but consumer journalism. Which, of course, is about as anti-wine writing as possible.

The sites on the list are most of the usual suspects, though it’s more international than this list (where I am merely No. 44). Also shocking: No Wine Spectator or VinePair, which are usually among the top handful of sites on most lists. But Jancis Robinson (No. 4) and Wine Folly (No. 1) are ranked here, and those are more or less the same kinds of sites as the Spectator and VinePair.

Does this ranking mean anything? Hopefully. Maybe it means there is still an audience for quality cheap wine, despite all of the indications otherwise. Because there are days when I have my doubts.

But if I did this for awards or rankings, I would have quit long ago. I do this because I love wine and want others to know they can enjoy it without deep pockets or wine foolishness. It’s about professionalism and writing for the people who come to the site, and not to impress anyone in the wine business with how smart or wonderful I am. Because how will that help anyone learn to love wine?

Ask the WC 24: Wine tariff, grape harvest, wine blogging

wine tariffThis edition of Ask the WC: Could the wine tariff go away? Plus, how is California handling its harvest in the middle of the pandemic, and what’s going on with wine blogs these days?

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.

Hello, most cranky one:
Your post about the wine tariff not going up implied we could have some good news, like it might end soon. Or am I being too optimistic?.
Hoping for the best

Dear Hoping:
I’m cautiously optimistic about being cautiously optimistic about the tariff going away, but probably later rather than sooner. One top U.S. importer told me this week that it was incredibly significant that the Trump Administration didn’t extend the tariff to other alcohol and food products or increase it on existing items. That’s because it had been threatening to do just that, and just days before last week’s announcement. So maybe someone in Washington finally understands how much the tariff is hurting the alcohol business and the economy at a time when we need all the help we can get. Having said that, the importer and I agreed that trying to make sense of Washington these days is almost impossible. Hence, two cautiously optimistics.

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
Will the California grape harvest be normal this year? I mean normal in that the Covid thing won’t make it more difficult.
Wondering

Dear Wondering:
Everyone I’ve talked to says the harvest should proceed as planned, despite the pandemic. There might be some regional shortages of labor, but most California grapes are harvested with machines so labor isn’t as important as it used to be. But, given the way this thing strikes suddenly, all could change overnight if one of the wine regions sees a surge in infections. And none of this takes into account possible wildfire complications.

Hello, WC:
What’s the state of your wine blogging these days? Didn’t you say you were hurting at the start of Covid 19?
Inquiring mind

Dear Inquiring:
My traffic has slumped this summer, but who knows why? It usually decreases this time of year, and I have had some technical problems on the blog’s back end that probably didn’t help, either. And we all know how fickle our overlords at Google can be in driving traffic to the blog. My best guess is that the pandemic, the election, and all the rest over the past six months have given people other things to do than to check out wine blogs, sports blogs, and all the rest. But not to worry: I renewed the blog’s hosting for another year, so I’m not going anywhere for a least another year.

Photo: Ryan McGuire, via Librestock, using a Creative Commons license

podcast

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.

Winebits 647: Responsible drinking, wine sales, wine writing

responsible drinkingThis week’s wine news: We’re not boozing it up during the duration, plus what comes next as the country opens up and a wine writer discusses wine writing and objectivity

Not overindulging: You couldn’t tell from many of the medical warnings we’ve heard over the past couple of months, but a survey last week found that we’re not drinking more than normal during the coronavirus pandemic. Responsiblity.org, a group funded by some of the biggest alcohol companies int the world, says more than six out of 10 Americans are drinking the same or less as before the pandemic – and that includes 11 percent of us who say they’ve stopped drinking entirely. These studies can be unreliable, and that it was paid for by liquor companies gives another reason to wonder. Having said that, the numbers – 35 percent drinking the same, 28 percent less – jive with similar surveys from Nielsen.

What will it take? Nielsen reports that alcohol sales will have to continue to grow more than 20 percent to offset losses from closed restaurants during the pandemic. Which isn’t very good news for the wine business, if the Responsibility.org survey is correct. That means, as restaurants open at less than capacity, or don’t open at all, we’ll have to buy more from retail to make up the difference from what we bought in restaurants.

Hardly objective: Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, caused a stink in the cyber-ether last week when he wrote that most wine writers aren’t particularly objective and do consumers a disservice. “the wine media is frequently compromised by the close-knit nature of the trade. … The quick answer is money.” The industry has it, whether in samples or trips, and wine writers take those perks. It would be one thing for me to write this – which I do regularly – but that someone with initials after the name put this in print is mind-boggling. I’m trying to set up a podcast with Hemming to talk about this; as soon as we figure out a way to handle the time difference between Singapore and Dallas, I’ll post the podcast.

wine critics

The sixth do-it-yourself wine review

do-it-yourself wine review

I’m really going to have to practice if I ever hope to write as well as this.

The blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review — what better way to enjoy the duration than to poke fun at wine?

Technology keeps threatening to make wine reviews obsolete, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still revel in the snobbish gibberish that has made them infamous. Hence, the blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review.

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.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him. This year, the format is a little different — reviews of four wines. A special tip of the WC’s fedora to those who contributed classic lines.

This French red blend:

This California cabernet sauvignon:

This Italian Prosecco:

This $50 rose:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The fifth do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review

wine critics

The do-it-yourself “Wine during the duration” post

do-it-yourself wine

“Let me finish this glass, and I’ll see if I can find that Boston doctor thing. It has to be around here somewhere.”

What better way to idle away the hours than with a do-it-yourself “wine during the duration” post?

The blog’s annual do-it-yourself posts are some of its most popular: the do-it-yourself wine New Year’s resolutions and wine review. They allow us to skewer wine’s pomposity and, if I’ve done a good job, offer a few giggles. So why not a do-it-yourself  “wine during the duration” post?

So take a look at these suggestions for spending your time with wine during the duration. Use the drop-down menus, click the answer, and choose your favorite line. And keep in mind that some people think drinking wine during the duration, including a certain Boston doctor, will kill us sooner rather than later.

Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so. As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the do-it-yourself idea from him.

The first thing I did after I had to stay at home was to:

My duration buying patterns have changed:

My duration drinking patterns have changed:

The biggest wine problem I’ve had during the duration has been:

All in all, I’d say wine during the duration:

Six days without wine

winespeakHow does a wine writer get by if he goes six days without wine?

How is this for irony? A day or so after last week’s wine blogging and coronavirus post, I got sick, and that meant no wine for six days.

The illness was nothing serious, just a variation on a theme that I’ve been enduring since grade school. It’s not really strep throat and it’s not exactly the flu; more of a cold and sore throat that last a week to 10 days and where the only thing one can do is wait it out.

So, of course, that meant no wine for the worst six days, which is hardly ideal for someone who makes their living drinking wine. Still, given how crappy I felt, I didn’t notice the absence. That’s more or less what happens every time I get this. In fact, one of the ways I know I feel better is that I want a glass of wine instead of the salt water I have been gargling every two hours.

My illness-induced abstinence made me ponder (though, to be honest, I didn’t do much pondering at the time given how crappy I felt):

• I didn’t want wine because I was sick. So how does that work during Dry January? I understand the motivation for people who are alcoholics, but if you’re not an addict, where does the impetus come from? The link above describes it as “reassessing your relationship with alcohol.” That phrase raises a variety of psychological and metaphysical questions that rarely come up when Dry January is discussed, as well as the U.S.’ seemingly ever-lasting temperance legacy.

• The only good thing about being too sick to drink wine is that one doesn’t have to worry about which wine to drink with dinner. When your meals are turkey vegetable soup for four days in a row, pairing doesn’t matter much.

• Second irony? The last glass of wine I had before I got sick was an oxidized, not-very-Beaujolais-like Beaujolais at one of Dallas’ more trendy French-style bistros. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Finally, I felt too crappy to care enough to to look at the blog numbers. Which is just as well, since they no longer resemble one of the best read wine blogs in the cyber-ether, but sit about where they were a decade ago. The drop in visitors I noted in the coronavirus post has accelerated, and if I was the kind of person who worried about metrics, I would be worrying.