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Thursday Thorns
A Sad Week For Winewriting as Three Depart

By Stephen Eliot

In a week that saw the sacking of Jay Miller and passing of the legendary Robert Lawrence Balzer, it is the decision by Jeff Lefevere to stop blogging that came as the biggest surprise and has left me personally quite disappointed.

Out in the wine blogosphere, it has been a week devoted to changes even if the incessant din surrounding the pending departure of The Wine Advocate’s Jay Miller has made the others a bit hard to notice. It was with sorrow that I heard of Robert Lawrence Balzer’s passing after a long and well-lived life, though my mood was lightened by appreciative comments from a few who knew him and his work. I was a bit saddened, in a different way of course, by Jeff Lefevere’s announcement that he was suspending his Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto blog. While, like other well-wishers, I respect and very much understand his decision, I am nonetheless sorry to see him go.

Good writing is work, very hard work if truth is to be told, and I would count Jeff among those who worked at the craft. I read a good many blogs, but most on an intermittent basis at best. Jeff’s was one of the few sites to which I would make routine visits. His combination of intellect, insight, passion and rock-solid journalism made for very good reading. The serious work that went into his articles was obvious, and it was all the more remarkable by dint of that fact that wine-writing is not his “real” job.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of wine blogs have flickered and then faded away upon the recognition that the reward for such work was limited to a few complimentary comments, a handful of sample bottles if lucky and an occasional junket for those considered by the business of wine to be among the influential minority. None of these, of course, pays the bills. Blogging in general has been likened by some to the self-indulgent yapping of poodles, and, if a little severe, it is an observation with which I at times concur…but, not always.

Casual blogging will not disappear, but neither will it supplant the ever-growing Internet presence of credible, professional journalism. While the Internet allows every voice to be heard, not every one is worth listening to, and yet, as Tom Wark has argued in his blog Fermentation, there is a desire and need for some sort of “authority” on the part of all would-be learners. The Internet is the medium for a new generation of commentators and observers, and it is one whose very nature may well change how we perceive ourselves and what we view as important. If the medium is not the message, it certainly changes the way in which the latter is seen. “Authority”, however, will as always be decided by those who seek it. What is true and reliable and useful will always be found out. It may take some time, but the winnowing has already begun. It is too bad that in this case some of the best wheat is lost with the chaff.

Jeff, I will miss your articles, and I secretly hope that the title of your last posting is true…that you are going on hiatus. I would much prefer “au revoir” to “adieu”. I expect that we will hear from you again.

You can see Jeff’s insightful comments at

A Further Comment From Charles Olken, CGCW Publisher
It is no secret that most of the leading winewriters are in their sixties—Laube, Parker, Heimoff, Olken, Steiman. They will all need to be replaced by a younger generation of writers who have earned their chops in various parts of the wine biz. To me, Jeff Lefevere was one of those whose intellect and insights measured up to his passion. All of us who write about wine have the passion. Few of us have true insight. Jeff Lefevere is one of those who does. And I join my colleague, Steve Eliot, in hoping that Jeff’s role in winewriting will ultimately expand, not contract.

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For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.


No Subject
by Jason
Posted on:12/9/2011 12:47:25 PM

This is what blogging has done for the state of wine writing.  A guy who blogs part time for a couple of years is held as high as guys who devote their careers to it....sad.

No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:12/9/2011 1:58:17 PM


Good point, but wine writing was already being devalued as so many errantly refer to wine criticism as wine writing.

Jeff practiced wine writing.

Real Writing
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/9/2011 2:44:42 PM

Everyone has to start somewhere. There are thousands of wine blogs, or at least some number like that, but few reach the level of being noticed by professionals.

Jeff Lefevere accomplished that because he was professional in his approach to everything he wrote. Writing has no mandatory apprenticeship time--especially in this era. So, yes, Jeff was able to achieve something as a blogger that he would not have been able to as a pure, on-paper, paid writer.

That may be a shortcoming of the Internet, but it is also one of its virtues. Quality will show and Jeff's did and does.

Touched by the Kind Words
by Jeff Lefevere
Posted on:12/9/2011 3:56:59 PM


I'm really touched by the kind words.  The respect of people I admire is the best payment there is.

Thank you, deeply, for the kind words.

And, as Stephen alludes:  It's not goodbye, it's "Till I see you again."  



No Subject
by Ed Masciana
Posted on:12/10/2011 12:04:57 PM

Jesus, it's just wine! Do we really need anybody to write about it? Don't our politicians provide enough hot air? Who really cares what someobody else's personal taste is? That's why it's personal. If I don't like Syrah, do I really need to read somebody's tasting notes on it?


Dear Ed--
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/10/2011 1:04:46 PM

Yes, Ed, unless you can taste thousands of wines per year, the existence of tasting notes alerts you and everyone else about wines you or they have not tasted.

Now, if you don't want to know about more wines, then you don't need tasting notes from anyone else.


No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:12/10/2011 2:06:47 PM


You make the same mistake of confusing wine criticism with wine writing.

In fact, I can't think of one subject in this world that isn't worthy of good writing, and I'll bet that even you can be taught something about the subject of wine by someone who writes well.

As for aesthetic criticism of wine, I agree with you; but again, that is not the same thing as wine writing.


Mr. P.
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/10/2011 6:19:40 PM


How does the ordinary punter with neither the time not the money to taste thousands of wines learn about new wines if how through the voices of people who do taste those thousands and thousands of wines?

And by the way, the answer is not "retailers" who are also wine critics with a different end product for their efforts.


No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:12/11/2011 11:30:07 AM


What answer would you expect from someone who has spent the past forty years doing exactly what you think an ordinary punter can't do. No one paid my way. It was my passion.

Back to the point: I simply categorize wine criticism separately from wine writing.

In fact, Ed above obviously never read Jeff's writing, for Jeff rarely did wine reviews. His blog is--was--wine information that is--was--written rather well.


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