Why I Write Wine Articles

Denman Moody.

I was dining with a Master of Wine one evening when he casually mentioned that he does not have much use for wine writers. I responded that I understood, because most wine writers, like myself, are not writing about wine for Masters of Wine. And my book, The Advanced Oenophile, was not written for Masters of Wine. The purpose of my wine articles (over 350 published nationally and some internationally since 1977) is to help people become oenophiles – even advanced ones. And to a great extent, wine writers – from the early 70s mainly from “Decanter” in London and “Revue du vin de France” in Paris – are responsible for America becoming a wine-drinking nation. Also, in the mid-70s, there were few, if any, wine bottles on the tables at even the best restaurants.  Customers normally had a mixed-drink or a beer before dining, ate their dinner and left. It was not until the advent of the cheap but well-made California jug wines that French and Italian restaurants began pumping their own wines, and the proliferation of American wine writers springing up in newspapers and magazines – “Moody’s Wine Review” started in January 1978 and Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate” began publication about six months later – helped wine finally gain traction!

One reason for my articles is to awaken people to the synergism that can be produced with the right food and wine match.  I’ll never forget serving a crème brulee to my sister and her husband around 1980 with a Chateau d’Yquem – the famous sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux. Their reaction was immediate. They each said it was the best wine they had ever had, even though they thought they didn’t like sweet wines!  Another great match is Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese, and another is brut or extra dry sparkling wine with honey goat cheese on a cracker, or smoked salmon with crème fraiche, capers and a squirt of fresh lemon juice on a cracker. And of course, prime rib with a great Hermitage from the Rhone.

When shopping for wine, many people buy because of the label or because of an advertisement. As a wine writer, I write objective articles about what I consider to be great values. For example, if people want a good wine in the $10 price range, it is hard to beat Columbia Crest Grand Estates wines. To significantly upgrade, say to the $30 or more range, what to buy?  Well, if one follows a wine writer whose recommendations have proven to be good for a particular wine buyer, that wine buyer will have a much better chance of not wasting money on wines with a nice label or with an alluring advertisement, but turn out to be less than good in that price range.

Speaking of price, a $100 wine can be a great value if it is one of the best wines in that price range. One way to select a great $100 wine is to ask the staff at the wine store where you buy the wine. They may or may not be biased, but there’s a good chance that you will get a great wine. They know that if you don’t like it, you might not come back to their store for another recommendation! Another, of course, is buying something in that price range from the recommendation of a wine writer who has tasted hundreds of bottles in that price range over the years. Wine writers also know that if readers try a number of their recommendations and don’t like them, they won’t trust that writer for recommendations anymore. I would suspect that almost all wine writers try to be as objective as possible.

One situation in which it is hard to be objective, for example, is when one has had a bottle of X wine at home and a bottle of the same wine at the winery with the owner and winemaker.  With the  knowledge of the vineyard practices, the winemaking skills, the exact kind of oak aging, etc., the writer may actually enjoy the same wine more and give it a better score – not because he or she wants to favor the owner, but because the more one knows about a wine and winery, the more one can appreciate it – not to mention that the conviviality and surroundings can actually enhance the perception of all the senses including taste. In fact, one of my favorite things in life is to visit a winery in California, New York, Texas, France, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Portugal or Spain and have a meal or tasting with the owners. When I taste any of their wines again at home, I relive the experience. I will never forget a dinner at Taylor Fladgate in Portugal with the owners Alastaire and Gilly Anne Robertson in 2006 in their 140 year-old Quinta de Vargellas, ensconced in the middle of their 1,400 acres of vines. I still tried to be objective about the wines; however, could one not be ecstatic about a magnum of 1970 Taylor Oporto on the Quinto de Vargelles terrace after dinner, overlooking the Douro River under the stars with the remarkable owners?  Dinner at Chateau Margaux and lunch at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in April of 1987 had a similar effect. Would my tasting notes on the wines tasted be exactly the same had I sampled them at a tasting of thirty or forty different wines at a wine tasting? Probably not.

For more information, visit www.theadvancedoenophile.com.