Hold Your Cahorses and Check Your Facts

Cot, aka Malbec

As I’ve written in the past, I believe it best serves bloggers, of any topic, to focus on the positive side of what they are writing about.  Frankly, the world we live in these days is negative enough.  Though I have been guilty of taking a dogmatic approach in explaining some of my vinous beliefs, we don’t necessarily need wine writers trashing various aspects of the fermented craft, as it can divert attention away from our efforts to bring delicious tidbits to our wine drinking audience.  However, after months of reading the mediocre wine column that appears in the Wall Street Journal, I must admit – it’s getting increasingly difficult to read and recommend others to follow Lettie Teague’s column in the Wall Street Journal.  The Journal itself has evolved into a rag – it’s more of a USA Today of finance than anything else – and sadly, the wine writing has followed suit.  Though there have been some inspired columns written on German Riesling, Burgundy and others, I often read the WSJ wine column with a sense of bewilderment that the newspaper continues to produce a wine column.

As someone who live in a fact-based reality, I become a bit miffed when I read in a major publication (with editors, fact-checkers and well paid writers), a well educated wine journalist such as Teague writes that, “The only region in France where Malbec is still grown is Cahors, where it’s known as Côt Noir.”  As a student of wine and the various cultures that it sprouts, I can’t help but shake my head at the gross inaccuracy of Teague’s statement.  Anyone who has taken five minutes to research Malbec will find that Oz Clarke, Tom Stevenson, Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, David Peppercorn, Rosemary George and others have written that Malbec is grown in a number of regions throughout France.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Quite simply, wine writers, whether or not they teach formal classes or conduct tastings, are also educators.  As much as I despise the 100 point system, Robert Parker and his crew at the Wine Advocate, Bruce Sanderson and Co. at Wine Spectator and many other professional tasters also offer wine drinkers an education in understanding wine with relation to where it’s grown.  The one constant theme that resonates throughout my wine classes, tastings and writings here is to offer the wine drinker some information that they didn’t know existed before they arrived at the class or webpage.  And in directing her readers to what she thinks is the only region in France that is still planted with Malbec vines, Teague discounts the efforts of scores of winemakers in Anjou, Touraine, Saumur, other appellations in the South West and of course, Bordeaux.

If synonyms aren't your thing - Malbec playing Malbec in the Touraine

Though Cahors should be recognized as the ‘home’ for Malbec, there are a number of delicious wines on retail shelves and restaurant wine lists from other Malbec-laden French regions.  And if, for argument’s sake, that Cahors is the only region in France that produces Malbec worth seeking out, how come Teague and the WSJ didn’t recommend any of the dozen or so offerings from Cahors that are available on the market?  Instead, she recommends a handful of offerings from Argentina – a country awash in a lake of Malbec so deep that only Shiraz from South East Australia, Pinot Grigio for Venezie and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand soaks up more discount wine shelves.

I must admit, I don’t edit my content much after writing it and I certainly could use fewer words if I ever hope to write for someone besides myself.  However, I do have an entire wall of wine books and the internet that I use to check my facts before I press the send button.  Perhaps Mrs. Teague and her staff at the Wall Street Journal should do the same.  Believe it or not, there are a few people left in the business who still read the WSJ’s wine column – though most of the time only with a grain of salt.