Tag Archives: wine writing

Winebits 627: Happy New Year 2020 edition

legal weed

This week’s wine news: Beaujolais legend Georges Duboeuf dies, plus the Italian Wine Guy critiques wine writing, and Canada’s legal weed bubble bursts

An icon dies: Georges Duboeuf, one of the icons of French wine, died on Saturday. He was 86. Dubouef, known as the Pope of Beaujolais, almost single-handedly made the release of Beaujolais Nouveau an international event every November. Said one of his competitors: He “was responsible for “raising the Beaujolais flag all over the world. He had a nose, an intuition, [he was] a step ahead of everyone.”

• “A pitiful thing:” Alfonso Cevola, the Italian Wine Guy, doesn’t mince words in assessing the state of wine writing: “Wine writing has become a pitiful thing. There are so many bad articles about wine, misspelled, written from a perspective that sounds more like someone is pushing a (p.r.) agenda rather than trying to educate the readers. …But real writing, real good writing?” Cevoola writes this as someone who has been around wine writing for decades, both as a retailer and wholesaler and as a successful wine writing. So his opinion is worth pondering.

Not so fast: Legal weed in Canada was going to make everyone rich when it debuted a year ago – and the wine business was more than a little worried about how it would hurt sales. Turns out, hardly at all, reports the BBC, with Canadians sill buying pot from the “black market.” Or, as we used to say, “you know, the guy down the street, who knows your friend.” Says the story: “Statistics Canada estimates that about 75% of cannabis users still use illegal cannabis,” since the guy down the street is cheaper and more convenient. Which, in retrospect, seems quite obvious.

Photo: “Wine Train – The restaurant” by micurs is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2019

favorite posts of 2019

Don’t work so hard. No one is reading these posts, anyway.

These six posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2019

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s fifth annual year-end top 10 list — not the most-read posts on the blog, which anyone can do. These are among the best posts I wrote in 2019 and that didn’t get enough attention the first time around.

Again, these aren’t the best-read posts; Google takes care of that. Barefoot wine, anyone? These are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2018:

• I wrote two wine video parodies this year, and neither did as well as they should have. I know why: Wine is not supposed to be funny; it’s supposed to be $40 worth of serious. Besides, how is Google going to send someone to a post about Bogey, Casablanca, and saving cheap wine? But how can anyone pass up the “Shaft” parody?

• The WC gets all hip and with it, writing a distracted boyfriend meme post. Who else can combine Gen X and Millennial humor with a wine rant?

Premiumization, overpriced wine, and consolidation are nothing new for wine. In 1947, one wine critic lamented the lack of quality cheap wine; another wrote in the early 1970s that California was focused too much on expensive wine and not enough on wine people could afford to drink.

Sweet Chianti, anyone? Because smooth. Because soft. And because women don’t want to drink dry red wine. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

• A study revealed that most wine producers may care more about status and image than quality. Maybe this news was so obvious in the second decade of the 21st century that no one needed to read about that kind of study.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2018
Favorite posts of 2017
Favorite posts of 2016

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2019

popular posts 2019

Looks like it’s time to crank out another Barefoot epic.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2019

The blog is truly part of the Internet as we celebrate its 12th annual Birthday Week.

This means two things: Its reason for being is not necessarily cheap wine, but whatever Google sends its way when someone searches for a wine, a wine term, or wine news. Only the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame made the top 10 list this year. In the old days, two, three and even four Halls of Fame were among the 10 most popular sites.

Second, that the blog is truly international — Beijing was the top city for visitors, with 3.6 percent, easily ahead of Chicago and New York, while Guangzhou (1.1%) was eighth. The U.S. remains the top country, but its share declined by about one-quarter, while China moved up to second from fourth last year.

Meanwhile, traffic was down a couple of percentage points. I think. The blog still got approximately 600,000 visitors between November 2018 and November 2019, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be more precise without paying for a sophisticated third-party app. Google Analytics, for example, says I got about one visitor a month.

What else happened between 2018 and 2019?

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

• A different Barefoot wine post took the No. 1 spot this year, Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular. This 2016 post replaced the long time No. 1, Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap?, written in 2010. It dropped to third. And there were three Barefoot posts in the top four.

• The most common search term was “Wine Curmudgeon,” followed by “residual sugar in wine.” Apparently, Google has associated the site with my efforts to label sweet red wine as sweet, instead of pretending it’s dry.

The most popular posts from 2019 — as well as a couple of other highlights — are after the jump: Continue reading

The problems that come with running an internationally known wine blog

wine blog

“Which one of you is going to write the sponsored post for the .. cough.. cough.. escort agency?”

Where else would one have to fend off payola, college term paper scammers, and whores?

Running an internationally known wine blog may not bring much in the way of fortune, but it does demonstrate the perils of fame – even the limited sort of fame that comes with writing about cheap wine.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been barraged (well, sort of) with requests to “partner with” a variety of not inexpensive products. This happens because the blog’s demographics, despite its subject matter, are mostly as upscale as the wine blogs and websites that don’t write about cheap wine. Plus, my visitors seem to be a little younger than the other sites, and we all know how desperate the wine business is to get younger.

For example:

• A company that makes wine refrigerators wanted to give me one of their products. The catch? I had to write nice things about the $700 unit and include various links to make sure Google got the hint. I thought this might work as a giveaway for Birthday Week next month – the company would get its blog post, one of the blog’s readers would get the fridge, and I wouldn’t have to worry about ethics. Not surprisingly, the company wasn’t interested.

• A bunch of spammers wanted the blog’s readers to buy college term papers, essays, and assignments written by someone other than the students – what the New York Times has called “Cheating, Inc.” I assume, given the recent college pay to play scandals, that the spammers figured the blog’s demographics translated into parents and grandparents willing to shell out the hundreds of dollars these papers cost. Ah, plagiarism as a growth industry. …

• My favorite pitch? For whores. Who knew I spent all those years honing my craft so a “content development specialist” at a “California-based premium escort agency that caters to all your needs” could ask to write a guest post? I even had topics to choose from, including “10 Reasons Business Men Hire Escorts.” Why do I think I know the reasons, that there aren’t 10, and that we don’t need to run a guest post to figure that out?

Photo courtesy of Greentech Media, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 610: Local wine, wine writing, wine taxes

local wineThis week’s wine news: Local wine and the chambourcin grape get a video shout out from the Winestream Media. Plus, tips about sounding less snotty when you write and wine taxes in Ireland – which aren’t pretty.

Bring on the chambourcin: Madeline Puckette at Wine Folly offers a refreshing perspective on hybird grapes like chambourcin, complete with video: “So, instead of poo-pooing that so-called ‘foxy’ bottle of Marquette or Chambourcin, maybe give it a whirl. It might actually be good!” The point, of course, is not whether the grapes are good or bad, according to some critic’s perspective, but whether the winemaker can turn the grapes into a quality bottle of wine. Which, as I have tasted many times over the years, can be done. And it’s worth noting that I’ve had crummy bottles of wine made with so-called real grapes like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.

Better wine writing: One of the Wine Curmudgeon’s crusades over the blog’s history is making wine writing easier to understand – less winespeak and more English, if nothing else. This post from Lifehacker’s Meghan Moravcik Walbert isn’t about wine writing specifically, but her suggestions apply: “[F]ancy words that make you sound like an ass are all around you. And it’s time you know so you can stop using them.” Written as only a cranky ex-newspaper employee would write, and oh so true. Her list of banned words includes “curate,” which makes me cringe, and “synergy,” which she reminds us “isn’t a real thing.”

Very high taxes: The Irish pay some of the highest taxes on wine in the world – 54 percent of a standard €9 bottle of wine is tax. That works out to about US$3.50 a bottle on a $6 bottle of wine, a staggering sum – and one the neo-Prohibitionists would no doubt gladly agree to. Interestingly, despite the tax burden, the Irish drink about twice as much per capita as we do in the states. And our tax burden is just one-quarter to one-third of the Irish, depending on where you live,

Photo: “drinking wine” by “Boots McKenzie” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Winebits 608: Wine writing, weed sommeliers, driver-less tractors

wine writing

Kingman Ag Services’ driver-less tractor

This week’s wine news: The Italian Wine Guy ponders wine writing, plus cannabis sommeliers and driver-less tractors for the vineyard.

Talking down: Alfonso Cevola on his Italian Wine Guy blog, describes a conversation with a colleague. The latter, describing post-modern wine writing: “I have often been left with a depleted feeling, as if the writer was talking above me, to a more enlightened, more illuminated crowd. What an awful feeling, for a wine writer to make a wine lover feel bad about wine. But it is happening more and more on a regular basis.” This, of course, is something the Wine Curmudgeon has tried not to do; in fact, not talking down to readers has been my reason for being since I started wine writing in those long ago newspaper print days. Hence, Alfonso’s advice: “Pick your influencers with care. Make them count. Forget about how many ‘followers’ or ‘likes’ they have. Use your power of discernment, for those whom you follow will lead, for better or worse. You decide, not Instagram or Twitter. Not the influencer. It’s up to you.And up is where we want to be.”

How about an MC? That’s master of cannabis to go with Master of Wine and Master of Sommelier. And why not, says a Canadian workplace study looking at employment opportunities in 2030. The CBC reports that the study’s experts “felt it won’t be long before there’s money to be made as an expert on the best varieties of cannabis to consume. Having help to find flavour profiles that suit your personal tastes could make sense as cannabis continues to become more widely available following [Canadian] legalization last year.” Perhaps the best part about the survey? Its authors say there’s not necessarily any data to back it up, but that it’s a “a compelling and playful way to look at how work may evolve.” What a refreshing change of the usual run of studies – wine and health, anyone? – that pass themselves off as legitimate when they may not be.

No driver needed: They’re called autonomous tractors, and one looks like a post-modern armored personnel carrier. But we know them as driver-less tractors. Kingman Ag Services, which farms about 8,000 acres of wine grapes, pistachios, watermelons, cotton, and other crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley, rolled one out this summer. The tractors can be operated near the land, but also at what the story calls “great distances,” further reducing the need for expensive and hard to find farm labor.

Winebits 600: The Wine Curmudgeon has ulterior motives and is trying to destroy the wine business edition

Wine Curmudgeon

“Dude, you’re so not good for the wine business. Why are you trying to destroy it?”

This week’s wine news: The cyber-ether is ablaze in criticism of those of us, including the Wine Curmudgeon, who want people to enjoy drinking wine they can afford to buy. Because, of course, we’re up to no good.

July 3 update: Thank you for the kind words in the comments and your emails. Frankly, I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. The blog’s readers have always supported what I do and are the reason I keep doing it even when too many in the wine business wants me to sign off on selling $12 wine for $25.

Take that, Curmudgeon: Dwight Furrow, writing on the Food and Wine Aesthetics website, wants to know where people like me get off offering wine advice. After all, all we want to do is destroy wine and make money in the process. He links to the Jamie Goode post I wrote about earlier this year, and agrees with Goode that people like me are part of some vast conspiracy that has it in for “wine experts.” We’ll ignore for a moment that I am incapable of evil mustache twirling and that the only conspiracy I believe in is that Microsoft tried to destroy Linux. What Furrow misses, as Goode did, is that wine criticism is seriously flawed, and that responsible, legitimate critics who aren’t so-called cheap wine slime like me (Eric Asimov, for one) think so. So let’s figure out a way to fix the problem instead of pronouncing judgment on everyone else.

And this, too: I’ve been writing about wine and the three-tier system for more than 20 years, but I’ve never seen anything like a recent post in something called Alcohol Law Review. Apparently, those of us who oppose the three-tier system are lying scum who want to make money off the deaths of others. As near as I can tell, if we change the three-tier system in any way, we’ll end up with tourists dying after drinking tainted booze, as happened recently in the Dominican Republic. The enemy here is the same one as in Furrow’s post: “Various economic interests” who want to overthrow the system so they can get fat and rich. Who knew? I thought I just wanted to buy cheap wine more easily.

And don’t forget this one, either: Jamie Goode is back at it, reminding those of us who like cheap that we’re not only wrecking the environment, but that our greed ruins the wine business: “The race to the bottom in terms of price points sucks life out of the wine category. It also sucks out all the profit.” I would argue that the £5 wines he’s talking about are Barefoot and their ilk in the U.S., and the last time I checked, Barefoot owner E&J Gallo was one of the richest and most profitable companies in wine. But what do I know? I’m trying to ruin the wine business and feather my already fat and corrupt nest.