Monday, December 28, 2009

Decision by Wall Street Journal to Cancel Wine Column Leaves a Bad Taste

Departure of Dorothy Gaiter and husband John Brecher Leaves Big Hole in Journal's Lifestyle Coverage

The Wall Street Journal wine column from husband-and-wife team extraordinaire Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher was destination reading for me every weekend in the Wall Street Journal.
As I became more interested in wine, I always looked to them to help become more educated about vintages and varietals, a massive undertaking that Dottie and John pulled off impeccably. Obviously, they knew a lot more about wine than you or me, but were never uppity about their expertise. Their knowledge was easily imparted, freely shared.
So, it was with more than a measure of sadness that they mentioned, almost in passing in Saturday's column, that it was their last one. No explanation, but as the Vinography blog adeptly notes, most likely an economic one.
Until now, I had appreciated the Journal's decision to keep the wine column humming, as I noted in a posting last year. After all, the paper had to pay two salaries as well as the tab for the dozens of bottles of wines sampled for each column. But the couple showed they were worth it.
Dottie and John were nothing if not thorough. Maybe too thorough for Murdoch's beancounters.
What made their column truly great was how their passion for wine was intertwined with their love for each other. Discovering wine and telling us about their great finds was a grand adventure for them that we were privileged to be a part of.
Their column and family life often intersected -- a trip to Disney World with their daughters also included sitting at the chef's table and drinking expensive wines at the resort's top restaurant -- meant readers felt like we knew them as well. That's why I'm referring to them by their first names, just like they did in the columns.
Whether it was a $6 bottle of Vinho Verde or a $1,500 Chateau Latour, they showed us how drinking wine can at once be a deeply personal, fun, and wholly subjective experience. Their "yuck" could have been your "delicious," or vice versa, and that was perfectly fine.
Dottie and John often got some of their biggest responses for the annual "Open That Bottle Night," which occurred at the end of February, and encouraged people to uncork some wine that had a special meaning or significance. This communal gathering celebrated wine for wine's sake, not to glorify oenophilic snobbery.
That's something you can't take for granted nowadays in wine journalism. All the more reason to hope that Dottie and John land elsewhere. I'll drink to that.

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