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The US’s top wine blogger on the joys of armchair tasting

In pursuit of the vine from the armchair

The US’s top wine blogger on the joys of armchair tasting

November 11 2010
Jeff Lefevere

Most wine lovers are willing to spend a significant amount of money on their passion. But then there’s time, its own currency with an increasingly high value. Sometimes wine lovers spend it on the experiential – vacations and trips to wine regions. Other times, it’s reasonably allocated to that pastime known as armchair travel: hours spent reading about the estates, chateaux and wines that we’d someday like to visit and experience.

For the wine enthusiast who follows a normal pattern of investing in their wine interest via reading experts such as the FT’s Jancis Robinson and the top wine magazines, the internet is an excellent complement. And these days, not just for varied wine opinions, but also for high-quality videos. They’re worth seeking out as a partner to the written word, if for no other reason than to get a head start on an inevitable technological evolution. As it happens, most online wine videos – many with an actual knack for narrative and also, frequently, with cinematic flair – are a great opportunity for consumers to increase their wine knowledge and familiarity with producers, while having some vicarious armchair fun.

Like reality television, news, dramas or comedic sitcoms, internet-based wine videos fall into several style categories. Here I list some that I think are well worth checking out.

Wine reviews

WineLibraryTV: Gary Vaynerchuk has become an internet phenomenon based on this, his near-daily video wine review show – affectionately called “The Thunder Show” by his legions of fans. Vaynerchuk’s irrepressible energy isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but his consistency in serving up his spin on wine reviewing has created a cult of personality, not to mention a new jocular vocabulary around wine.

James Suckling: Suckling left Wine Spectator magazine in July, after 29 years of excellent market coverage and thoughtful opinion – one of the US’ most respected critics, with specialisation in the wines of Bordeaux and Italy. Suckling has teased early viewers of his online video project with previews at his site and on YouTube, glimpses of the direction he’ll take by reviewing and discussing elite wines with notable vignerons from around the world and generally giving viewers inside stories with elite producers.

Winery vignettes

Wilson Daniels: These are small but beautiful films shot by Bret Lyman – the wine world’s answer to Scorsese or Fellini, with a painter’s eye for detail, a flair for the dramatic and an ear for a sonic backdrop that’s pitch perfect. Wilson Daniels Films captures the essence of an international group of wineries in short vignettes. A must watch.

Jordan Winery: Produced by Lyman protégée Lisa Mattson, Jordan takes a varied approach to video. She notes, “Our goal with the Journey of Jordan – our weekly video blog – is to share everyday life on the estate and bring extra value to those who enjoy Jordan wine.” The good news is that the wines as well as the videos are available worldwide, to consumers who may never experience the property in Sonoma County, California (pictured).


WineChannelTV: What do you do if you’re a twentysomething film major with a passion for wine? Most would take a field-reporting job in a third-tier TV market and start climbing their way up the ladder in the hyper-competitive television world; Jess Altieri started her own media company. WineChannelTV is a mix of event reporting and personality-driven pieces, with wine at the centre of the tableau. Altieri merits watching as a rising personality in the online wine world.


Judd’s Enormous Wine Show: Produced by Judd’s Hill, a prestigious Napa winery, they achieve the near impossible in online wine video – loosely scripted but polished, underscored by a quirky perspective that somehow absolutely conveys the personality of the winery. Brilliant. New episodes are sporadic but worth checking for regularly, as these represent a benchmark in wine videos for sheer uniqueness and fun. Meanwhile there are eight episodes in the archive; catch up on all of them one evening soon, with a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon.

See also