How not to lose your love for wine


How not to lose your love for wine


Every now and then I meet someone in the wine trade who has lost their love for wine. [Maybe they never had it, but of all the trades to get involved with, wine has to be one of the prime candidates for a business you enter because of your love for the product you are working with.]

Don’t be that person! There must be nothing worse than peddling a product that you no longer have enthusiasm for. Even worse: what about wine journalists who are no longer excited about wine, but have to muster faux excitement for their poor readers or viewers? If that ever happens to me, I’m leaving.

How does it happen? How can it be avoided?

I think this relationship breakdown stems from knowing that what you are selling isn’t very good. Let’s face it, for most people, wine is a commodity. They want something that is red, white, pink or fizzy. They want it at the right price. And they don’t want any nasty surprises – such as too much flavour. There’s nothing wrong with commodity wine, but there’s a problem facing most people who make, sell and write about it.

The problem is that no one is prepared to admit that it’s just commodity wine. They pretend that it is delicious and profound. It often bears a place name promising some local character that doesn’t exist in the wine. It is frequently dressed up with winemaking trickery and additions so that it tastes like a more expensive wine. In truth: about these wines there is little to be said. But they promise the world, and deliver very little. The way they are made and sold frequently isn’t very honest.

I would be happy to make cheap wine and sell it, and even write about it, if I could do it honestly. The world needs good cheap wine, after all. But where are the honest cheap wines? I don’t see many of them on retailer’s shelves.

So, to keep your love for wine, don’t work with a range that promises more than it can deliver. It must be awful to be working for a supermarket or large retailer and have very few wines on the shelves that you’d actually like to take home to drink. Too many people end up sucked into this commercial end of the wine market and become disillusioned. They know the shortcuts that are taken; they have seen some of the sharp practices that occur in some wineries; they have to live with the marketing creativity that makes ordinary, rather neutral plonk sound like fine wine. In the face of this, it’s easy to become disillusioned.

Don’t be that person.

13 Comments on How not to lose your love for wine
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

13 thoughts on “How not to lose your love for wine

  1. It seems reading you that your love for wine comes more and more with contempt. You are now ideologically driven and for you there is real wine, the one you love, and false wine, the one you hate.

    Your blog was much better many years ago, before your conversion to the natural wine sect. Sad.

  2. The only contempt I read on this blog is in some comments. ps What is the difference between a cult and a sect and where is your clubhouse?

  3. As a winemaker I can relate to this article , faced with a choice of join a mega winery and produce millions of gallons of homogenous product year after year , it would suck the soul out of you . How much vr supra and mega purple did I add last year ? Check the computer , adjust the metered addition pump.

    But producing 5000 cases total volume of 6 varieties you sweated over , got to know the growers , grew some of it yourself and tasted every barrel personally , and in the end made something unique that won’t be exactly the same next year . That keeps it interesting .

  4. “…for most people, wine is a commodity….”
    To each their own.
    “…And they don’t want any nasty surprises – such as too much flavour.”
    Ouch. Perhaps you mean too much of the *wrong* flavour?

  5. Think bulk pinot Grigio , the kind that sells three for a tenner at the high street grocers , selling millions of bottles of wine totally devoid of varietal character . Can’t allow too much flavour in that .

  6. Thanks, Jamie, well said. I call your commodity wines, “manufactured” wines. They are turned out by the tanker truck load to be sold to people who simply want an alcoholic beverage, which is why I will more likely drink beer in, say, a hotel bar. I want the cold lightly alcoholic drink for less cost. Most of the wines, save for those at $15 a glass and up are simply offensive. All over Burgundy and Provence, one can find an honestly made and quite drinkable wine for 4 euros a glass. Manufactured wines can be equated with food at McDonalds. The same questionable quality and poor taste the world over. Yet, people continue to buy.

  7. Needless to say, I completely agree with Jamie, Zac, Ken and Daniel and not so much with Claude… Why do you assume that Jamie is talking about n-word wines, Claude? Old debate, move on, mate. It is all wine, some is made this way and some that. Jamie is right that it must be incredibly soul destroying to work in bulk wine production or purchasing, selling chemically-modified Frankenwines. Bring on wine ingredient labelling and let people decide what they want to drink… But that won’t happen. Too much big business with too much to lose. One might as well sell washing machines, paper towels or home insurance as sell these pale imitations of wine. Now where is Robert Joseph when you need him? I fancy a scrap…

  8. Old debate? No. New reality. We now have wine-writers discarding 90% of the world wine production because they are not purely made according to their belief. Wine faults are no longer microbiological deviations (bretts, etc…), oxidation, and stuff like that. Wine faults are ideological, human intervention needs to be minimal, the scale needs to be as low as possible, no use of any chemicals even if it allows to get a better wine, etc…

    Jamie is now driven by this ideology. He told us before that 90% of the wine production in the world is crap. Sorry. I don’t agree. Big companies like Penfolds or Concha y Toro are making very good “industrial” wines. You need to judge the wine for what it is, not because it does not fit your moral system. Otherwise, you become a preacher. The most disappointing aspect of Jamie’s conversion to the natural wine sect is that he has a scientific background. It reminds me of a former colleague of mine, he had a Ph.D in biochemistry, but believed the world was created by god in seven days. Hard to argue with that.


  9. Life is tough when you are creating or peddling a product you know isn’t up to the standard you prefer.

    True passion hangs in there though, as jobs come and go.

    Climbing the wine-industry ladder is a long term prospect, and sometimes one must take that “cheaper end” winemaking role in order to get that first foot on the first rung of the ladder.

    Stick to it, passionate people.

    Magic happens as you climb that ladder.

    Plus if you are passionate, chances are you will be able to influence the quality of the cheaper spectrum wine, make something good, and that can be very rewarding!

    Jamie (and other commenter bloggers!) please feel free to share your blog post links – or hop on over for some stimulating reading – on my #WINENOT Wine Lover’s Link Sharing Party.


    Louise @

  10. Claude Vaillancourt – I disagree with your statement “Your blog was much better many years ago, before your conversion to the natural wine sect.” He hasn’t been “converted” from one thing to another – he has simply discovered that often natural wines are more interesting / challenging / unusual – you only have to follow this blog to see that Jamie is just as appreciative of classic old-world Burgundies and Bordeaux as he is something new and unusual and “natural” – so what you say is just inaccurate and wrong.

  11. The debate evolving iinto the tradistional two camps, but the article’s heading, how not to lose your love of wine is an interesting one that is being overlooked. There is plenty of chat about natural wines being best and mass produced being worst, but this is another matter altogether. The fact is there must be a time when everyone becomes disallusioned with wine in some respect. It is how you deal with it that matters. For those peddling wines they dont beleive in (and i have met plenty who are disallusioned with ‘natural’ wine and plenty who love selling ‘conventional’ wine) then move on, find something you do love selling. If you don’t love the style of wine you drink, then its time to open the book and see what else is on the menu. If you just dont get on with wine at all anymore, well, I recommend either cider, beer or cycling as an alternative. The one thing the wine and the subject of wine should never be is boring, and if it becomes so, please leave.

  12. Oh Claude… You speak as if you have some cast iron certainty about ‘faults’. Could they not be just differences or even points of interest? Again you use the emotionally loaded word sect… You take life too seriously! I will take issue with the Concha/Penfolds comment though. Have you tried putting those wines in your mouth? What did you taste? Terroir? Or polished jam with a rather nasty chemical finish (to my palate anyway)? And I completely agree with William’s comment: traditionally made wines such Lopez de Heredia or Barolo Capellano are amazing and loved by the ‘sect’ members.

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