Tag Archives: wine writing

Top British wine critic: Don’t trust the Wine Curmudgeon

Wine Curmudgeon

“Hmmm.. what should I write to ruin wine today?”

British wine critic Jamie Goode warns wine drinkers against people like the Wine Curmudgeon

The WC can’t be trusted. Or so says British wine critic Jamie Goode, one of the most respected voices in the wine world. Writes Goode: “Beware the consumer wine champion.” His cry has electroned its way way through the cyber-ether to hurrahs and huzzahs, and one U.S. blogger even called Goode’s stand “courageous.”

Who knew I was the problem bedeviling the wine business? I could have sworn it was overpriced, crappy wine. But no, writes Goode. His argument: That wine critics who do what I do are frauds, and that it’s wrong for us to say that any wine that someone likes is OK to drink. We’re full of “faux outrage” at the wine business and we have an insidious, unspoken goal — to foist simple, sweet wines on the consumer instead instead of interesting, complex ones.

Which I do all the time, of course, evilly twirling my mustache. (And I guess Goode didn’t see this rant.).

Goode doesn’t mention me by name, and I assume he has no idea who I am; we travel in completely different wine worlds. But his description of the threat to the future of wine is spot on with what I have done for 11 years on the blog. Hence this post, since I consider myself part of the solution — the problem is with those who insist that wine should be difficult to understand and require its users to practice medieval alchemy to drink it correctly. Besides, the closest I come to belonging to any international cabal is my enthusiasm for Linux. And we know how much good that has done.

I have no idea why someone as well-spoken and as intelligent as Goode would write this, which is more like the sort of blather that appears every so often in the Wine Spectator. I argue for interesting, complex wines all the time. I just want them to be fairly priced and to come without reams of winespeak. And it would be nice if they were generally available.

Goode even says wine critics shouldn’t review mass-produced wines, since restaurant reviewers don’t write about McDonald’s. Which doesn’t explain why movie critics review poorly-made slasher films and car magazines review pickup trucks.

A friend, who sent me the link to Goode’s post, said it was probably a dog whistle, and likely had more to do with internal British wine politics than anything I’ve written. And he may be right.

Still, it’s worth repeating the philosophy that has helped the blog earn its place in the wine world: First, I love wine and I want to share my passion with everyone who finds it confusing and who is afraid of it. Second, there is only one wine rule: Drink whatever you want — just be willing to try something different.

Have we reached the end of wine criticism?

wine criticism

“I’m tired of toasty and oaky. Where’s that damned thesaurus?”

Wine drinkers have little use for wine criticism. Do they know something the wine business doesn’t?

The Internet was supposed to revolutionize wine criticism, making it more accessible, more open, and more democratic. So what has happened in the 11 years I’ve been writing the blog, as we celebrate Birthday week 2018?

Just the opposite – wine criticism has become more button down than ever, a continually increasing jumble of scores and winespeak where every wine, regardless of quality, seems to get 88 or 90 points. Which raises the question: Have we reached the end of wine criticism?

More, after the jump: Continue reading

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2018

most popular posts 2018The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2018

The blog enjoyed the best year in its 11-year history between November 2017 and November 2018, with some 600,000 visitors in one form or another. You can be impressed; that I did that with my nickel and dime operation speaks to how desperate wine drinkers are for intelligent, well-written, and unbiased information in the post-modern wine world. Of which you can read more on Thursday in my annual state of the wine industry rant and essay.

The key here is “in one form or another.” Some two-thirds of blog readers never visit the blog anymore, but access it through the daily email or an RSS feed. This is a tremendous change. As recently as a couple of years ago, those figures were reversed. This skewed some of the top post numbers in 2018, since people who don’t come to the blog aren’t counted in the same way as people who do. Internet analytics are even murkier than the three-tier system.

Nevertheless, if the way people use the Internet changes, the blog will change with them.

What else happened between 2017 and 2018?

• Blog readers continue to get younger (maybe half younger than 40) and the number of women continues to increase (perhaps as many as 2 1/2 out of five). Again, murky counting.

• The Barefoot wine value post, written in 2009, was No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year. And it wasn’t even close, with almost one-third more hits than the No. 2 post. I have accepted this as the blog’s fate, and will just update the top of  the post with links to more current Barefoot reviews.

• More than three-quarters of the blog’s actual visitors arrived via searching, the highest ever. The most common search term? Barefoot wine, of course.

The most popular posts from 2018 — as well as a couple of other highlights — are after the jump: Continue reading

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. …”