Where have I been? And why am I back?

Some of you know me. Those that do realize the tumultuous few months it's been, particularly as it pertains to the old professional life.

I didn't intend to stop writing about wine; it just happened. Then again, how many events happen to us that really were expected?

Nevertheless, I was nudged to peck the keyboard again by my brother-in-law and by a more unseemly force. During a recent vacation, I passed the idle time by reading A Very Good Year by Mike Weiss, which traces a vintage of Ferrari-Carano's Fume Blanc from vine to table.

While I won't give away the conclusion, it again reinforced something that had been nagging at me for some time: Wine Spectator is full of shit.

Read their wine reviews. How does anyone make sense of that silliness? What relevance is there for us who are not sommeliers, who merely desire for a worthwhile drink from time to time? Where is the thought that maybe, just maybe, you can pay less than $20 for a damn good bottle of wine?

Yes, they do their top values list or what have you. But it's such a small selection of what they review, and they're reviewing to a different standard.

I do agree that varietal characteristics should be of some importance. If you buy a sauv, there should be some sort of representation of that grape in the bottle. I readily admit that I fall short in these areas, particularly as it relates to the less-popular whites and most reds.

But the most important question is never answered: Is it a good drink? Is it worth buying again?

My answers are subjective, just as Spectator's numbers are. But I like to think I'm representative of some segment of the population that thinks, you know what? I don't much care about fig and honeysuckle and whatever inane terms they use to describe a wine. I just want something enjoyable. (Plus I don't ask for a fee for the privilege of reading what I think.)

Wine doesn't have to be as hard as certain places make it. You either like it or you don't, and we're not going to agree on every grade or every synopsis.

So here's the difference: I don't portray myself as an authority. I'm one man with an idea of what he likes and what he doesn't. I try to give as full a picture of the wine as I can in terms that anyone can understand. But it's just one person's opinion.

You could get into the conflict-of-interest argument, as the book does. I buy my own wine. No one is clamoring for me to sample their product. Frankly, I hope it never gets to that point; I'm sick of most sports enough as it is. I'd hate to tire of wine too.

I think my problem with WS is more of a conflict of perception. Let me make this clear: They are wine experts. They know of what they speak.

But their magazine and the way it carries itself is very off-putting. It glorifies the Grand Crus and French first-growths that most of us will never have the means to get our hands on, whether monetarily or simply as a matter of availability. In every edition I've bought, I see long articles about charity events or wine auctions that, again, are beyond the reach of most of us.

It sells an image, a lifestyle that mirrors that of the products it reviews: Wine is luxurious, for people in the know, for the affluent, a way to distinguish one's self from the riffraff of Bud Light drinkers.

It is my firm belief that wine need not be that way.

And that's why I'm here. Wine can be discussed in layman's terms; it is not the province of the rich or knowledgeable. Wine can be good even if it doesn't adhere to strict interpretations. Wine can be a good way to blow off some steam.

I'm confident Wine Spectator does not subscribe to this line of thinking. Which explains why I will not be subscribing to them.

I'll be back tomorrow to detail some of my offseason exploits and write about a few wines I've had recently.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Stormy said...

Welcome back!!!

Anonymous said...


You don't have to demonize Wine Spectator to make your (otherwise very good) points. We agree with you that wine is for everyone, and we review thousands of wines each year that retail for less than $20. We also publish many articles trying to educate and entertain readers about the world of wine and the people in it. Yes, some wine is expensive, and so are some of the great restaurants in the world. Is that a reason to ignore them? We try to cover the whole world of wine. We hope you'll see us as an ally, not an enemy.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

Anonymous said...

A thought from a biased observer. When the economy improves and the market is there, maybe the time has arrived for two different wine magazines - be it by Wine Spectator or others. One could continue following the more affluent side of the wine community and more expensive wines. The other could continue to cover the wine world, but cover it in a way that caters to those with fewer expendable dollars and less-affluent palates. Cater the new magazine as Hustle captured - to those who love wine and know what they like and don't like but can't imagine living in a world with first vintage French wine or $5000 per plate charity events. Just a thought... Hustle's Wife

Kates said...

Amen! Those of us who live a pauper's life deserve a good, affordable vino. I'm sure my poor carpenter friend, Jesus, would agree. Cheers!