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The World of The World of Fine Wine Magazine

Vinted on October 18, 2010 under wine publications

I receive quite a bit of wine for which I pay nothing.  I have never bothered to measure the volume of influx of wine samples to my door, but it is high enough that whenever the doorbell rings in the afternoon, my toddler daughter now exclaims “more boxes of wine, daddy!”

Generally this volume of samples means two things for me:

  1. I cannot dream of complaining about the situation, even though it largely results in my basement storage space being taken up with shipping materials full bottles of wine that aren’t necessarily very good; and
  2. Whenever I receive a sample of something that isn’t actually a bottle of wine, I take notice immediately.

So naturally, the sample copy of Issue 29 of the UK-based publication The World of Fine Wine I received recently really stood out, as did the letter of introduction from its editor, Neil Beckett (and not just because it was printed on A4 paper).  Here’s what Neil wrote to me (I’m hoping he doesn’t mind me reproducing it here):

“Some of my team here are followers of your site and we hoped you might like to see what we do in a rather more old-fashioned medium…”

That medium of course being a printed magazine, though calling The World of Fine Wine a magazine is a bit like calling the Bible a doorstop.  It’s a gorgeous example of print, with stunning art reproductions and photography, and its 200+ pages put it more into the coffee-table-book species than what we in the U.S. customarily think of when asked to picture a wine magazine in our mind’s eyes.  It also costs £30 per issue – or, roughly $170 for four issues.  Ouch!…

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Whence Cometh Napa Cabernet?

Vinted on February 15, 2010 under California wine, commentary, wine publications

Today I’ll be starting my week-long Napa excursion (the itinerary of which I’d hoped to have posted today, but since all those West Coast hippies are so damn laid back, as of the time of this writing my schedule still isn’t totally finalized… if I’d been dealing with uptight, anally-retentive East Coast types I would have had this all nailed down within 15 minute intervals weeks ago).

This got me thinking about Napa Cabernet, of which I plan to have tasted so much by the time I leave Napa that I will probably need emergency dental work to deal with the teeth stains as soon as I land back in Philly.

And since I’m heading out there for a writers symposium, it got me thinking about the origin of “Napa Cabernet” – not in terms of the wine, but in terms of the words.  I’m a sucker for words and I own more than my fair share of dictionaries and etymological resources.  I’m geeky that way.

You’d think that this would be pretty easy, right?  A bit of Google searching, or a trip to the handy-dandy unabridged dictionary, and we’d be all set, right?  Surely there isn’t much to the origin of such words, the kind that are so nearly ubiquitous that they instantly call up various mental and sensory images for wine lovers worldwide, right?

Not so fast, Buck-O.  As it turns out, the etymology of both “Napa” and “Cabernet” is far from being etched indelibly in stone…

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The $97.18 Wine List

Vinted on February 4, 2010 under commentary, wine publications

In its December 2009 issue, the fine wine industry mag Sommelier Journal decided to take an interesting and unique angle on the ‘year end wine recap.’

Instead of compiling a year-end best-of list, Editor David Vogels asked a hand-selected group (consisting primarily of wine directors, sommeliers and other wine pros) to contribute what they thought to be the most memorable wine they’d tasted in 2009.  The only restrictions: the wine had to be available in the U.S., and the contributor shouldn’t be commercially representing the wine in any way.

It’s a novel and very entertaining way to recap another year in vino.  The result is presented in the December issue as a 40 selection wine list (along with tasting notes), divvied into Sparkling, White, Rose, Red, and Dessert categories.

The prices of the chosen wines tells us some interesting things about how wine pros view the wine world.  The average price of a wine on that list?

$97.18.

Holy crap!..

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Wine Satan or Wine Savior? An Interview With Wine Trials Author Robin Goldstein

Vinted on January 25, 2010 under best of, book reviews, interviews, wine books, wine publications

Depending on who you ask, Wine Trials author Robin Goldstein is either the wine world’s Satan, or the wine consumer’s Savior.

Whether you feel that Goldstein’s powers are being used for good or evil, you can’t say that he harbors a fear of shaking things up.  Goldstein became a polarizing figure in the wine world in 2008, when he ruffled the feathers of Wine Spectator by creating a fictitious restaurant whose wine list included some of their lowest-scoring Italian wines in the past two decades, and subsequently won their restaurant Award of Excellence.  The aftermath caused one of the most heated debates of the year in the wine world.

Goldstein also coauthored The Wine Trials, the first edition of which is the bestselling wine guide (for inexpensive wines, anyway) in the world.  The premise of the Wine Trials was simple: compare everyday wines to more expensive equivalents in blind tastings, and see which ones the average person preferred.  As it turns out, most wine consumers – to a statistically significant degree – enjoy the less expensive options; more feathers ruffled!

Goldstein has a new website, BlindTaste.com, and the 2010 edition of the Wine Trials has recently been released.  I tore through my review copy of The Wine Trials, and I found the first 50 pages (which describe the approach and science behind the book, and hint at its future implications on the wine industry) to be some of the most profound reading on wine appreciation that I have ever come across.  The Wine Trials doesn’t just poke at wine’s sacred cows – it skewers them, grills them, and serves them up with an inexpensive Spanish red (Lan Rioja Crianza in this case, which took the Wine of the Year honors in the 2010 Wine Trials).  A similar take on beer, The Beer Trials, is set to be released this Spring.

Robin kindly agreed to answer a few questions for our readers.  I’ll warn you that you should be prepared for a quick and opinionated mind – and you might want to pad the walls of your wine world, because that world is about to get turned squarely onto its ear…

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