Why I Write / What I Look For

It’s been a while – sometime in 2008 – since I explained what I am trying to do when I write and distribute this newsletter. The readership of this newsletter has more than doubled in size in the past three years and there has been further evolution in my palate during this time so it is overdue that I renew my practice to periodically explain to readers what I look for in the wines I recommend.

First: Why do I Write?

I’m often asked by readers “why do I spend time every couple of weeks preparing this newsletter? You must spend a lot of time on your newsletter”

That’s a good question and an accurate observation.

The answer is easy.  It’s like the teacher and his or her relationship with the student and the subject – the teacher always learns more from the experience than the student.  So, too, in the case of this newsletter: I continue to learn a great deal about wine when I prepare each issue.

Let me explain.

I am professionally knowledgeable about wine and generally have a point of view on most wine-related topics.  But, there is a discipline required when you express your thoughts in writing that is much more exacting as compared to when you are speaking on a topic.  Applied to the newsletter, this discipline forces me to go out of my way to make sure my comments are supported factually and also to ensure that when I’m expressing an opinion it is one I can defend.  Writing forces me to research and validate, across a number of sources, any of the statements I make.  This research is invaluable for personal learning, helps me better develop sound and informed points of view and keeps my knowledge current for classroom use.

Writing also helps my wine business in another, more indirect way – it’s all about building a brand.  Most readers know I built a small agency as a retirement plan and while I have largely suspended that venture – returns are too low in relation to the work effort needed to get a new business up and running in a market dominated by large agencies with sales forces – I still do some importing .  You may have observed that I don’t use the newsletter as a direct marketing medium for my agency.    However, the newsletter is a way for me to communicate with people who are interested in wine and hopefully establish through this medium that I am a trustworthy source of information and access to quality, value wines.  This is important for my relationship with prospective buyers of my wines and as an educator.  In addition, it’s very helpful to point to this newsletter as a way of legitimizing my commitment to this business…  as well as gaining access to trade events as a writer.

There is a further reason for writing this newsletter.  I like to share my views with people and I get personal fulfillment preparing this bi-weekly wine digest.  I also like to teach and if my readers learn something from each issue, that, too, is very fulfilling for me.

The feedback from readers is positive suggesting I am successfully achieving this objective.

Second: What do I look for?

As I wrote in issue 1, December 2005:

“I like red wines that have great fruit; outstanding acid, sugar, tannin balance, dark colour, full body, long finish and, most importantly, wines that are great value (not always cheapest, but very attractively priced, considering the factors I list above).  My recommended wines will generally, but not always, adhere to these preferences.”

Since that time I have come to realize the significance of bright, food-friendly white wines.  More specifically I seek wines that have elegant mouth feel and juicy acid with complex aromas and expressive flavours of flowers, citrus and stone fruits.  These wines are perfect, especially when served in season, at the right temperature with the right food.

While there are now over 100 wines available each Vintages Release I report on only a small number of wines for two reasons.  First, I think many readers find it easier to work with a small selection of recommendations.  Most consumers can target easily within a small group rather than try to select from a much larger and complicated number of wines.  Secondly, there simply are not always a lot of true values available in each Vintages release and my interest is in value wines only.  Thus, I write about five wines, a couple of runners’-up and a collector when the release supports this.

I confess to an Old-World bias simply because these wines tend to be more expressive of  place, display the results of natural viticultural practices and generally are made using non-invasive vinification processes. The New World is adjusting to changing palates and we are increasingly seeing more interesting wines that show balance and complexity not previously found in many value wines from these regions.

I also confess to a bias for quality domestic wines, both Ontario and B.C. in origin.  Quality continues to improve in the Canadian wine industry: winemaking is generally professional, vineyard practices focus on quality fruit (i.e. not just on quantity) and we are starting to see fewer grape varieties used by winemakers, as they better learn which varieties produce the best wines, given location, climate and soil.

I hope you find I deliver on what I set out to achieve.  Feedback from readers is welcomed.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.


Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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