Tag Archives: wine writing

Winebits 156: Wine headaches, wine writing, sweet wine

? No, it’s not the sulfites: Finally, an answer to one of the most dread questions in the wine business: “I get these headaches from red wine, and I’m told they’re from sulfites. Is that true?” No, of course, has always been the answer, and now scientists have a better explanation why (assuming the headache isn’t hangover induced). It’s a substance called glycoproteins, and it looks to be the culprit behind wine headaches, according to a report in the monthly Journal of Proteome Research.

? Wine writers are cranky: No, not shocking news, but it’s part of the third Wine Writers Survey (link opens a PDF), conducted by wine publicist Tom Wark, who runs the top-rated Fermentation blog. The findings are a mixed bag, and I’m not sure the methodology is as rigorous as it could have been, but it’s interesting to read nonetheless. Wark focuses on the blogger vs. traditional media angle, which I’ve never thought was the real point. Rather, the focus should be on professionals — those of us who do it for a living, whether in print or in the cyber-ether — as opposed to those who do it as sidelight. To me, that’s the most interesting comparison, because that’s been the biggest change over the past decade or so. It’s not that technology has changed, but that changing technology has allowed people to write about wine who would not have been able to write about wine before. And, frankly, all those so-called amateurs are what drives so many in the wine business crazy. (And a tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice for sending this my way.)

? Sweet wine, better palate? Or so suggests a study conducted in conjunction with the Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi this year. It found that physiology plays a major role in determining wine preferences, and that sweet wine drinkers are often the most sensitive tasters, “shattering” the myth that sweet wine consumers don ?t taste as well as those who love “better” wines. A nicely written piece by my old pal Paul Franson.

Birthday week 2010

Wc 2010 A colorful graphic as we start Birthday Week. The chart shows where we started almost three years ago (I didn't keep stats for the first six weeks of the blog's history), and where we are today. All told, the number of visitors has increased 1,640 percent from that first January, and we're up 44 percent so far this year.

Which, basically, is why I'm still here. You're reading this; if you weren't, I wouldn't be doing this. So thank you, because this truly does beat working for a living.

A few notes from the first three years of the blog. On Thursday, I'll count down the top posts of the past 12 months:

? You like wine reviews — a lot. More than half of the top 10 posts each year have been wine reviews.

? Red wine beats white wine every time. No white wine review has ever made the annual top 10. I have absolutely no idea why this is, since the reviews are split almost 50-50 between white and red (and no sparkling or rose has ever made the top 10, either). Any thoughts about why? Leave a comment.

? Save for my series of Costco posts, which discussed whether the national chain was buying wine based on scores, you don't care much for the non-review items. Which is too bad, since those are the ones that I usually enjoy writing the most.

? Your focus has shifted as the blog has become more popular. A Texas wine post made the top 10 in 2008, but no regional wine story has made the top 10 since.

Robert Parker and the Vintners Hall of Fame

The news this week that Robert Parker was not elected to the Vintners Hall of Fame was not surprising. Too many of us who write about wine hold a grudge the way Scrooge McDuck holds onto his cash — and we’re just as silly about it. Or, as wine guru Doug Frost, who voted for Parker, said: “I’m sure jealously had something to do with it. It has been fun and easy to bash Parker for years.”

Parker invented the 100-point scoring system, which gives every wine a score from 1 to 100, with the higher the score the better. As such, he is the most important person in the wine business, and may well be the most important person in the history of the wine business. The 100-point system, for better or worse, has changed changed the way the wine world works. It has been copied by almost every influential wine critic and publication in one form or another, and retailers use it to sell cases and cases and cases of wine (often without regard to quality). Perhaps most importantly, winemakers not only covet a Parker score, but make their wines in a style that Parker likes so they can get a Parker score, a process that’s called “Parker-izing” them.

In this, keeping Parker out of the Vintners Hall is like keeping Babe Ruth out of the baseball Hall of Fame because you don’t like home runs. But Parker’s not in. Why this happened and what it says about the wine business after the jump:

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A few more words about wine availability

A regular visitor to the blog sent me an email this week, the gist of which was “I have trouble finding the wines you write about.”

Sigh.

As previously noted, the bane of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s existence is availability. In fact, it’s the bane of almost every wine writer’s existence, and I’ve even had winery officials tell me that it drives them crazy, too.

It’s always difficult, unless you’re writing for readers in one small part of one city, to negotiate the availability maze. Given my audience these days, which takes in people from around the world, it’s that much more difficult. All anyone can do, and what I try to do, is to write about wines that are “generally available,” and to note when wines have limited availability. Unfortunately, the term “generally available” seems to mean less and less these days. (Why that is — the recession, consolidation among producers, the vagaries of the three-tier system — is a subject for another day.)

I always ask, when I like a wine, if it has general U.S. distribution. If it doesn’t, I usually don’t write about it. In this sense, I am at the mercy of the winery, importer or distributor. That’s why I always link to the winery, importer, or distributor Web sites in the review. If you can’t find it locally, send the company in the link an email and ask them if there is a local distributor. If there is, you should be able to get a retailer in your area to order it for you.