Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

As he often does, wine scribe Joe Roberts wrote something relevant the other day. He explained that for those considering how they might make a name for themselves, for their writing and for their wine knowledge through publishing, this person should strongly consider SPECIALIZING.

By this, Joe simply means it’s much easier to get the attention of potential readers if your authority and wine writing revolves around a specific subject within the wine niche, rather than trying to publish information that broadly falls under the larger subject heading of “Wine”. In other words, the writer looking to gain an audience for his wine thoughts and ideas is more likely to achieve a larger audience by writing regularly and authoritatively on “Zinfandel”, than just on “wine”.

I’ve heard this advice before. I’ve been in seminars where this advice is given. I’ve given this advice myself. But what you rarely hear is advice on exactly what niche wine subject is ripe for owning by a smart, new writer dreaming of success as an author or blogger. What you don’t hear is someone pointing out a subject area that has largely been ignored, but that is also ripe for extensive examination and exploration because it’s a fairly large niche. Identifying that kind of subject matter would be a gift to the wine loving writer that wants to make their mark.

This is what I’m going to do right now.
Read on …

The critic.

The critic.

 

Influential critics have long played an important role in our discovery of many of life’s pleasures but are noticeably absent from others. Ardent fans of the movies, theater, literature and other areas of interest often look to familiar and trusted critics for guidance in unearthing new products and adventures as they emerge.

We tend to identify with a critic’s personal preferences and subjective direction on a range of important topics and use these “critiques” as suggestions, rather than point-driven rules, in steering the way to what might be appealing to us.

So why has the wine critic’s role taken on such a different and more rigid path in the appreciation, marketing and consequent production of wine by “awarding” completely objective scores behind a subjective facade?

A critic should be a reliable source of information for those interested, by conveying seasoned personal opinions through a review. But when a point score (without published derivation or computation) is attached, the review assumes the appearance of objectivity but remains couched in the more familiar subjective style.

Certainly there are expert reviewers and writers voicing their experienced personal opinions on what’s new in the market, but have you ever seen a dress with a 96-point rating or a perfume bearing an 85-point score? I doubt it. Yet the opinion makers in these industries do get their fair share of media time and space with detailed descriptions and observations that followers can accept or reject within their own frame of reference.

I guess this all leads to the basic question: “Is the critic’s role one of opinion or judgment?” And it’s often this question, phrased in different ways, that becomes the subject of many discussions I’ve had with others in and out of the wine industry.

 

Read on …

 

What everybody else hear them say!

What everybody else hear them say!

 

I am about to commit heresy right here in the CGCW blog. It won’t be the first time, and it probably will not be the last, but it is necessary to set the record straight. I have found out something about wine blogs, and it pains me to admit it.

We are talking to ourselves.

Now, don’t go and get all huffy, because I don’t mean that no one is reading our wonderful words, our Monday Manifestos, Wednesday Warblings and everything that comes in between, before and after. You, dear readers, are the reason we continue this blog in spite of the fact that it is not what we thought we had bargained for.

You see, we thought, in our infinite wisdom, that there was an enormous, like tens and tens of thousands, of hungry wine enthusiasts searching the internet for nuggets of wisdom. And, we therefore presumed that our pearls, our keen insights were going to attract those tens of thousands of unrequited wine word readers. Turns out that it is not so.

We get a nice, tidy readership every day, and we sometimes get comments—which we enjoy. But the readership, and especially the commenters, here and on virtually every other wine blog is pretty thin relative to what some folks would have the world believe. And while the several thousand folks who come by once in a while are very much appreciated, the folks who keep the comments section going are few and far between.

 

Read on …

I am.

Wanker [from Wiktionary}:  (UK, Australia, New Zealand, slang, pejorative) An idiot, a stupid, annoying or ineffectual person who shows off too much, a poser or poseur; someone who is overly self-satisfied.

The Brits and their island relatives south of the equator love the word “wank” which in addition to the above meaning has so many other colorful implications. In the context of wine, it shows up in this article, in yesterday’s Sydney [Australian] Morning Herald, in which the writer, Nick Bhasin, was swirling and sniffing wine at an office party when one of his co-workers said to him, “It’s hard to do that and not look like a wanker.”

I never had any preconceptions about wine wankiness when I was coming up. When I moved to San Francisco and fell into the wine culture, we all swirled and sniffed, held the wine against a white tablecloth to see how clear it was, “chewed” it as if it were meat, thoughtfully appreciated its finish, and then, afterward, talked about it with the excited animation of a cadre of Giants fans debating Tim Lincecum’s abilities as a pitcher. (If you live here and hang out in sports bars, you know what I mean.)

In other words, I’ve always been comfortable being a wine wanker and being in the presence of wine wankers, although, even for me, there’s a limit. You can be wanky (or wonky) about wine without losing common sense and normal ways of talking.

Read on …

 

 

As a member of the “Wine Media” – I hear about medals won by wine all the time – in fact, I have been to a number of events where the wines were judged and awarded medals. My questions for consumers are:


– Does anyone in the general wine-drinking public care about these medals – most of which are from competitions many have never even heard of?
– When was the last time you purchased a wine simply based off of the medals it won in a competition?
– If you did make that kind of purchase, did you find your experience of the wine to collaborate with the medal(s) it earned i.e., gold. silver or bronze etc?
Example, you go into a winery tasting room here in Washington State and you’ll see notes about the wine or hear from the tasting room staff, things like: “This won a double-gold at the Tri-State Fair Wine Competition”. Call me a little naive here (really, go ahead, I promise I’ve been called worse) but how many of your typical “wine consumers” here in Washington State have either heard about or even care about that competition?

Read on …

 

One of the coolest aspects of wine (aside from helping us feel classy as we get buzzed) is that it draws from a history rich in tradition and historical significance (hell, some historians even think that fermentation might have been one of the factors contributing to the advent of civilization in the first place).

But not all traditions and customs are built to last forever, and wine has its fair share of those that have probably outlived their usefulness (kind of like the Iowa Straw Poll). Here are a few of those wine traditions that need to die, along with smarter alternatives to follow instead.

 

Smelling the cork
You can glean a surprising amount of information from a wine cork, but not much from sniffing it. Corks are traditionally presented so that you can examine them for branding, helping to guard against fraud. Do you know anyone who can sniff out a brand? Probably not. And while a cork sniffy-sniff may tell you if a wine has succumbed to some sort of fault, you’ll smell the same stuff anyway once you get your nose in the glass (which looks way less douchebaggy).

Smarter alternative: Look at the cork instead of shoving it up your nostril; if it shows clear signs of leakage or compromise, then you might have a bad bottle on your hands. Also, you can play some nifty bar tricks with it.

 

Examining a wine’s legs
A wine’s “legs” (called “tears” by the French, presumably because that made them feel more effete) are the rivulets or streaks of liquid that run down the inside of the glass after you’ve swirled the wine or taken a sip.

Read on …

Wine choices, are they real?

Wine choices, are they real?

 

Do you feel overwhelmed when shopping for wine? The sheer magnitude of choices is daunting. There are wallabies and penguins and rabbits, oh my! Do you prefer to go Barefoot or wear Flip Flops, nosh on Layer Cakes or Cupcakes, ride Red Bicyclettes or Red Trucks? The wine shelf is a cornucopia of variety.

And it’s a lie. Sort of.
A recent study out of Michigan State University found that more than 50 percent of the wine sold in the United States is produced, licensed or exclusively imported by three companies: E. & J. Gallo, the Wine Group and Constellation Brands. The top five firms — add Treasury Wine Estates and Trinchero Family Estates to the list — account for more than 200 distinct brands. Many are inexpensive wines with cute names, such as Cupcake and Pinot Evil (the Wine Group), or Barefoot (Gallo). The brand names sometimes suggest a desire to confuse consumers rather than stake a market claim: Now & Zen is a Wine Group brand, but Zen of Zin is Constellation.

All of that inspires a question: So what? Do we care who makes the wine, as long as it’s good, drinkable juice?

“People should care that so many wines are made by so few companies,” says Phil Howard, the MSU sociologist who wrote the study with several of his graduate students. The brand concentration fits the classic definition of an oligopoly — a market dominated by a handful of large suppliers — and that concentration isn’t apparent on labels, Howard explained in a recent e-mail interview. “Consumers who want to support a competitive market and maintain diverse choices don’t want to unwittingly contribute to dominance by a few firms,” he wrote.
Read on …

 

 

If so, where’s the action?

 

We’ve all heard it said—many of us have probably said it ourselves—that we’re living in a Golden Age for fine wine. But is it true?

I’d say that, yes, it is true—up to a point. It is a Golden Age for fine wine. But not for every producer, and it’s not everywhere, either. And that, in turn, is why not everyone gets in on the golden deal merely by showing up with a credit card. You’ve got to know where to look.

For example, this is not really a golden era for Napa Valley. Oh sure, it’s golden in the financial sense. Don’t cry for Napa’s Evitas. They’re doing just fine, thank you.

But Napa’s golden moment is now past. It occurred back in the 1980s. That was when you saw and felt and tasted an electrifying excitement. New wineries seemingly emerged every day. New concepts in winemaking were explored, exalted and then sometimes discarded, all in the name of a continuing revolution—and revelation.
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(Edel Rodriguez for The Wall Street Journal)

(Edel Rodriguez for The Wall Street Journal)

 

GOOD wines have stories to tell, but sadly, they are at a loss for words. As articulate as a fine wine may be, it is left to humans to supply the translation.

Yet certain words in the lexicon of wine are prisoners of their own connotations, robbed of their meanings because they so readily touch off prejudicial thoughts or emotions. This gives added responsibility not just to writers, but to sommeliers, merchants and anyone else who seeks to make concrete what is essentially elusive, to ensure that they are heard without distortion.

Here are five words often used to describe wine, along with an effort to liberate them from their connotations.

 

BITTER

It is not wine writers but history and human nature that give bitterness its biblically negative meaning. What would many dry red wines be, particularly those from Italy and parts of France, without their element of mild bitterness? Certainly not refreshing. A touch of bitterness can help frame and shape a wine. Along with acidity, it adds snap and zest, tapering off one sip and inviting the next. White wines, too, use mildly bitter flavors to their advantage.

 

We’re conditioned to avoid bitterness and certainly bitterness in wine is a bad thing sometimes. Wood tannins from new oak barrels can be overwhelmingly bitter, and too much bitterness of any kind means a wine is out of balance. But a little bitterness can be desirable, so don’t shrink back at the sound of the word. After all, what’s more refreshing than a cold (bitter) beer? And speaking of cold …

Read on …

 

 

 

Examples of wine tasting notes and how to read them

Dry white wines

Meursault 1998 Louis Latour
Clean, limpid medium yellow with a hint of green, quite rich, a really lovely colour. Touch of new wood on the nose, ripe melony fruit, slightly exotic, stylish and very expressive. Fine, floral, honeysuckle fruit on the palate, with hazelnut overtones, rich and quite buttery, yet good lemony acidity, very elegant but still young. Very good balance, oak and fruit well blended in, an excellent example of grape variety dominated by terroir, great persistence, very good future
•limpid – literally transparent, like clear water, while retaining its colour
•rich – showing ripeness and viscosity, usually from the legs or “tears” that form on the sides of the glass than from depth of colour
•new wood – the vanilla-vanillin aroma of new oak, whether French or American
•melony -signifies ripe, slightly exotic fruit, usually referring to Chardonnay. More exotic fruits could be pineapple, guava
•expressive – expressive of either its grape variety, terroir or both. Stylish + expressive would be a finely turned out wine with character
•floral usual on the nose, but on the palate means the blend of florality and flavour
•honeysuckle/hazelnut – typical expressions of a the Chardonnay grown in Meursault, rounded and attractive
•buttery – the impression of ripeness with a certain fleshiness, often the result of barrel fermentation or barrel ageing

 Read on …