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Guess What? You’re White! – American Winemaking’s Diversity Crisis

Vinted on July 1, 2009 binned in commentary, winemaking

Will a lack of diversity hurt the winemaking industry in the future?

Hey wine lovers and winemakers – Let me tell you a little about you.

Chances are, you’re white.  Or, I should say, chances are you’re not black – especially if you’re a winemaker in the U.S.

In fact, if you’re an American winery owner, there is a 99.9% chance that you’re not black, because African American winery owners represent roughly 1/1000th of the total number of wineries in the U.S.  That’s a staggering misalignment with the diversity of the American population.  If American winemakers held a dance party tomorrow, it would be a clinic in the world’s worst overbite-sporting dance floor moves, because it would be lilywhite.

Based on the numbers above, it’s not a stretch to say that the state of African American representation in winemaking is pathetic.

And frankly, given the racial divides that have been crossed in recent years, the American winemaking community should consider that an embarrassment.

It’s an embarrassment nearly on the same level of the U.S. space program, which spends billions sending people into Earth orbit (using a craft that is run by three 286 CPUs) to conduct experiments, circle the Earth a few times and come back – which one could argue is a huge waste of money and people potential when there is so much more we could be doing in terms of space exploration than basically duplicating what Sputnik did in 1957.

As for why we’re in this situation, I blame the winemakers – black, white, and every color in-between…

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Will Work for Wine (Alice Feiring & Who Really Killed Wine Writing)

Vinted on June 16, 2009 binned in commentary, wine blogging

It’s no secret that writing, as a paid vocation – whether about wine or any other subject – is a becoming a bit of an endangered species.

Never has this situation been so acute as it has in today’s economy, which is utterly dreadful for all of us except for maybe the 4 people out there who enjoy having twice the responsibility for 33% less pay than a few years ago.  And those 4 people need a Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kick to the side of the head.

Much has been written about the impact of this gloomy state of affairs on the world of wine and wine writing, and from what I’ve seen, Steve Heimoff summed it up best in an article that appeared on his blog on June 5th (emphasis is mine):

“…if there are fewer and fewer paying magazines and websites, and more and more wine writers doing bad writing, then simple logic dictates that the economic future of wine writing is pretty dismal, in the long term.  People used to make a living as milkmen, gas streetlamp lighters, town criers and all sorts of other jobs that no longer exist. Could “wine writer” be as anachronistic as those someday?”

Last week, Alice Feiring – another writer who, like Steve, paid her wine writing dues coming up through traditional media and now also publishes content on a (very good) blog – seemed to have taken this gloomy view one step further (or is that farther?… ah, whatever) into the bleak and murky depths of wine writing despair.

She quit

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Will Whore for Wine: An Interview with The Wine Whore

Vinted on June 3, 2009 binned in commentary, interviews, wine blogging

Back in April I wrote about my perception of the intended audience of wine blogs and wine writing, which at times seemed (to me) to be other writers and bloggers instead of wine consumers.  In that article, I also postulated that some of that “inbred writing” was a good thing, because it meant that a good portion of wine bloggers were in fact wine consumers who were sharing their experiences on-line with other wine-blogging consumers, and that this would ultimately have a positive impact on the wine industry as a whole.

I also offered up one example of such an uber-consumer, The Wine Whore:

“Take someone like The Wine Whore, whose blog unabashedly exists solely on the premise that it will feature a wine review in exchange for receiving a sample (no guarantee it will be positive, thankfully).  A lot of people (especially wine writers) will probably hate that idea. I love that idea.”

Reaction to The Wine Whore blog has been mixed, especially within the wine blogging community itself.  Some view the premise as an affront to wine writing.  Others think the idea is a well-needed smack-in-the-face to an industry that too often takes itself far too seriously.  I sit squarely in the latter camp.  Usually.

I caught up with Randy Watson, the man behind The Wine Whore, to see how the blog was getting along nearly six months into its young life.  In summary: pretty well, despite its detractors.  Randy’s twitter account numbers nearly 6,000 followers, and he has a sizeable friend base on facebook as well – and no, they’re not all wineries and PR folks…

Check out the interview with Randy below, and share your thoughts on whether or not The Wine Whore is a bane, or a thing of beauty…

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Postcard from Germany: A House Divided

Vinted on May 27, 2009 binned in best of, commentary, german wine, on the road

High-end Mosel wine producers are (slowly) battling for the identity – and the future – of German Riesling.

“We don’t aim to produce perfection,” Annegret Reh-Gartner told me over lunch at Schloss Marienlay, a beautiful estate on the Ruwer in Germany’s famed Mosel region.

Annegret is the driving force behind Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, a Mosel wine icon with roots dating back to 1349, and now one of only a handful of producers with vineyard holdings on the Mosel as well as its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer.  She is welcoming and open, the only things that hint at her family’s wealth (her father is probably one of the richest people in all of Germany, and their family holds several expensive vineyard areas in the region) are her keen sense of style and the impressive stone building housing our lunch table.

We aim to produce personalities.  You need soul.”

She states her views on Mosel wine matter-of-factly, with a surety that comes from clearly having considered the matter deeply.  Despite being affable, warm, and small, she cuts an imposing figure when talking about the state of Mosel Riesling, even when seated.  When she mentions the future of Mosel wine, her voice never raises but it does quicken.

“We can’t limit ourselves to super, well-balanced wines with residual sugar.  We have to catch mice with bacon.”  By mice, Annegret means the modern German wine consumer – Wine drinkers in Germany have rebelled against the explosion of cheap, bad, cloyingly sweet wines that plagued the reputation of German wines for decades.  But instead of seeking out good, well-balanced wines from quality estates, those consumers have nearly abandoned sweet wines from Germany altogether, and are voting with their wallets in favor of bone-dry Rieslings…
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