Tag Archives: wine writing

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.

Winebits 515: Birthday Week 2017 — welcome, Gen X and Millennials

Birthday week wine news: Gen X and Millennials have learned to love the blog, plus way more posts than any one Curmudgeon should have to write

Younger and younger:  Almost half of the blog’s visitors between November 2016 and November 2017 were younger than 44, more than a third were 25-44, and only one out of five were Baby Boomers. In other words, the blog has finally become relevant to the next two generations of wine drinkers. I’ve been working on this for several years, and am very glad to see it. Maybe the Gen X and Millennials can save us from the tyranny of scores and winespeak. Plus, the blog is even less male — 53 percent this year, compared to 55 percent last year.

Almost 3,000 posts: I don’t think about it much, given that writing for publication every day is the norm in the newspaper business, where I started. But that’s a lot of writing, especially since I teach and write 50 or more freelance pieces year. Still, as I have said since 1991, when I got out of the newspaper business: It beats working for a living. No matter how many times I pound the keyboard or scream at the walls when I get stuck, I never have to attend a meeting. Ever.

Linux still at one percent: There was a brief dustup among Linux geeks last month when a consultancy reported that Linux’s share of the worldwide desktop computer market in September reached almost seven percent. It’s usually one percent, and the consultancy immediately said it had made a mistake but wasn’t quite sure where. I’m here to report that it remained about one percent on the blog, so my statistics are more accurate than a company that gets paid to study these things. No, I don’t know what that means.

most popular posts 2016

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2017

most popular posts 2017The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2017

How people find the blog and what they read here has changed significantly over the past 12 months, and that change is mind boggling.

For the first five or six years of the blog’s existence, I wrote posts and people read them because I wrote them. They mostly knew who I was, and came to the blog for that reason. It’s a newspaper mindset – you read the newspaper to find the news, and you read the Wine Curmudgeon to find quality cheap wine and a more than occasional rant.

Not any more. This is a change that started – though I didn’t really notice – a couple of years ago. Today, a much, much younger audience (and more on that tomorrow) searches the Internet for information about wine. They don’t know who I am or what I do; rather, their search terms are source neutral. They arrive here not because I’m a brilliant writer or a cheap wine genius, but because I’m almost the only person in the cyber-ether who writes about what they’re searching for. So Google – my arch-enemy – sends them to the blog.

Case in point: For the first time in blog history, the $10 Hall of Fame was not among the top 10 best read posts. The 2017 version was 18th, accounting for less than one percent of the blog’s visitors. This is inconceivable; the Hall of Fame is my reason for being, and almost everything I do revolves around it. But the vast majority of people who visited the blog between November 2016 and November 2017 didn’t know that. So they didn’t read it.

Instead, they read about what they were searching for – it’s still cheap wine, but nothing I ever imagined. And a lot of people did, for traffic was up substantially (78 percent if I can believe the Clicky analytics).

The most popular posts from 2017, plus several other notes, are after the jump: Continue reading