Opinion, Rants, and Stories

The Last ‘Writing About Writing’ Post


Before I get back to writing about specific wines, you know, wine writing, I thought I would get a few more thoughts out about  – to use the current phrase – wine communication.

Over the weekend I have been drinking some micro-brews (Lakeside’s APA, and Devil’s Peak IPA. Devil’s Peak,  think I love you.) while thinking about what people want to hear about wine. Coincidentally, during this time, I saw many tweets relating to the #dwcc, the Digital Wine Conference, no, wait, Digital Wine Conference Conference? Damn Wine Competitions Creepy? Disillusioned Wine Chaps Converse? Duh,  Wine Cheese Crackers? Disaster, Wine’s Cheap Cheerful?  Oh, I see, sorry, it was the Digitial Wine Communication Conference. Obviously.

Continue reading “The Last ‘Writing About Writing’ Post”


The Aussie Made Me Do It

Yup, this guy.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not been writing recently. This happens every time I start to believe my own bullshit. When I start taking wine too seriously I get fed up with the whole shebang. This is a terrible attitude for a wine writer.

I have, however, been spurred into action by David Clarke’s recent guest blog on Tim James’ site, where he lists some of his first impressions about the local wine scene. I agree with all of them, but I think they come with added weight, because they are written from an outsider’s POV. We need more stuff like this.  Continue reading “The Aussie Made Me Do It”

Opinion, Rants, and Stories

Some Recent Thoughts On The South African Wine Writing Scene

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 3.00.31 PM

I’ve been absent dear readers, absent-minded mostly, but also absent from this blog. My apologies.

I have ended my year or two stint writing weekly columns for 2oceansvibe.com, so I will hopefully now be able to focus my efforts back here. Not just for wine, because I have learnt a life of writing focused solely on wine is a life that will make you mad, and also poor.

Much has happened over the past year to South African fine wine. Mostly in that the rest of the world seems to be catching up on what our new crop of very very talented wine makers are up to.

It is delightful to see that we have wines that international wine journalists are now happy to use ‘cult’ before mentioning them. High scores in the important publications, entire columns in national British papers dedicated to us, South Africa, and our new talent. Delightful.

Continue reading “Some Recent Thoughts On The South African Wine Writing Scene”


I’m Writing For RealTimeWine

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 5.58.29 PM

Just to keep you all up to date, I thought I’d let you know about a mini wine writing project I have embarked upon.

Andy Hadfield the founder, head honcho, and most technologically advanced wine drinker I know, of Real Time Wine – the South African wine app that lets you easily search, rate and see which wines are trending in the country – asked me to write a series of articles for this community.

Continue reading “I’m Writing For RealTimeWine”

Opinion, Rants, and Stories

Hugh Johnson

I love Hugh Johnson. I really do. If I could be anyone in history I think it would be him. Save the world? Sod that. I’ll drink what Hugh has and be far happier than most.

He is by far my favourite wine writer. His pure enjoyment of wine seeps through the pages effortlessly. He treats his subject gently and with respect so there is nothing of the cutting, analyzing, scoring, and memorizing that characterizes so many of the modern American critics. Wines to be collected, fetishized, ticked off, owned. It is of no surprise to me that one of America’s most popular modern wine-critics/salesmen is Gary Vaynerchuk, whose obsession when he was growing up was collecting baseball cards.

For Johnson, it never feels like he is collecting wines, rather that he is meeting them. Each wine a new friend picked up along the way, they may stay for some time, or simply be in and out of his life. Fleeting, satisfying, remembered.

He is the complete antithesis to James Suckling’s ridiculous antics; prancing around in front of wine makers, ipad in hand, shouting out scores like some mad numerologist. “That’s an 89!” “I’m on 93 on that!” “This is a 99 point wine!” Ugh. Gross.

But reading Hugh Johnson comes with its own pitfalls. I read easily taken from Pouilly-Fumé to Graves and with a flick of the page I am in The Rheingau, another flick and I am in the mists of Piedmont. The problem is his writing inspires a thirst in me that is hard to quench. Simply because I can’t afford the bottles he writes of. It is a hard world to learn about sometimes.

The reason for this little tribute – apart from obviously suggesting that you read Mr. Johnson if you have not heard of him – is I came across a sentence or two of his that I had to share, it is a sentence that I wish I had written. It describes the challenge of writing about wine, about taste, which he calls later an anarchy.

“. . . the difficulty of finding words for tastes; every expression you use has to be borrowed from some other sense, except the four words sweet, sour, salt and bitter. Words follow lumberingly after the clear, precise yet indefinable impressions of the tongue.”

Whether we are writing 140 character reviews, tasting notes for Platter, long rambling narratives; some personify, some give scores, others tell stories of where the wine is from, others simply list: animal, vegetable, mineral; whatever we do, we fail. The lumbering words never catch up. For me, though, some simply fail better than others.