Bloggerview #15: Alice Feiring
Who: Alice Feiring
Blog: Veritas In Vino
Alice Feiring is not incapable of pulling her punches. I just don’t think she has any interest in doing so. This is a sure indication of a person who is makes every attempt to get on with life. Alice is a writer in the best sense of the word. When reading her work you get the sense that you are reading HER, rather than her notion of what someone will want to read. This is a treat, this is not all that common and we can all see what it looks like by reading her blog. Veritas In Vino is where Alice sounds off without pay. It’s where she lucidly weighs in on any and all controversies that interest her and it’s where she pull no punches. If you’ve been reading these Bloggerviews for any time now you’ll note that she is commonly listed as one of the blogs other bloggers read regularly. I’ve always harbored the theory that we each read certain writers regularly because we want to be them or their characters. I’m not sure we’d want all wine bloggers to be Alice Feiring. But it sure would be nice if a whole lot more emulated her approach.
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
It started all so innocently. Initially I wanted one place I could send editors to see my work. Josh Mack, my designer pushed me hard to blog as well. In retrospect, I see that my initial posts were the seeds for my forthcoming book. I used it to test material and expand on experiential notes. Slowly, the blog became a home where I could write –cut loose—and not beholden to an assignment or compromise my voice. You know, an actor and writer both need an audience and it picked up the creative slack when my phone wasn’t ringing as much as I would have liked. It also turned out to be the perfect place to unload the juicy bits that got cut out of bigger stories, observations and writings that I couldn’t find a home for.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
I guess it comes down to a search for authenticity in wine and the world according to Alice.
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
I think I’m known for a certain brand of honesty and no fear of controversy. Also, am I the only full-time, freelance journalist bloggers out there? I can’t think of anyone else who fits into the category. My profession and years of experience also gives me great access to the industry. I have one constraint. Since I do make my living from articles and not the blog, I have to always balance my topics and details and make sure I don’t scoop myself out of a paying gig. Sometimes I have to wait until a story comes out in print to give the underbelly notes.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
I don’t know if I can characterize that. My readership fluctuates between 4,000- 8,000 regular readers. If I have a story in the New York Times or people on Robert Parker’s bulletin board are discussing me, it can jump to 30,000. I also find I have a pretty solid following in France, Italy, Germany and Japan which I find very exciting.
5. Do you accept wine samples for review?
Accept? Just try to stop them from coming! It’s impossible. I get a mini-mountain of samples (mostly industrial stuff) delivered constantly to my door; most of these I have utterly no interest in tasting let alone reviewing. I usually redistribute those and the others to my unsuspecting neighbors, the Fed Ex guy or the plumber.
On rare occasion a bottle sneaks in and surprises me. That mostly happens when people take the care to actually read my blog and know what I am all about. Then, if I like the wine, I will write it up. If the bottles have outrageous packaging and they are vile, I’ll write that up too. I also get a great kick out of reviewing press releases. One that stands out was the bottle that came with the rock to extol the virtues of the terroir. For the life of me I couldn’t find out where the vineyard was or who was the winemaker.
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I don’t believe in them. I believe in words and making people read. But now that I’m thinking of it, if I had to, Alice’s system might be something like.
* I can’t put it in my mouth.
* Down the drain, not the hatch.
* I can drink it, but I’m not happy.
* I can drink this. It does no harm.
* Every day? Sure, why not.
* What a quirky wine. Interesting.
* I really like this wine.
*I love this wine.
*I can’t stop thinking about this wine.
* I can’t live without this wine.
Of course there would be a few descriptive tells on each, but I would never reduce it to a #1 or a #3.
7. How do you fit the maintenance and writing of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Each morning I obsessively check for spam (as well as throughout the day). I check my stats daily to see where my hits are coming from. I answer emails as they come in. I try to blog at least twice a week. For a day or two after I keep on editing the piece, making sure I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. (This is when I long for an editor!). For some reason, I just can’t get it right until it is up there and vulnerable. Every once in a while I email Josh about some tech difficulty. HELP!
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Ha! I don’t make any money off of this thing so that’s almost immaterial. If people are interested in my kinds of wine, they seem to find me. I do admit when the Parker board has a thread on me, I pick up several escapees. There were two jolts early on in the blog that were tremendously helpful in building my base; being included in Food & Wine magazine’s story on the top seven wine blogs and when my blog was nominated for a James Beard.
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
A blog is all about voice. I don’t have to deal with an editor saying, “My you have a strong point of view, we’ll have to work around that,” which is something an editor actually told me when I was writing the Food & Wine Guide some years back. I can breathe in the blog. Also, my style is talky and informal, as if I were writing emails. I don’t have to worry about finely structured stories or coming up with a great lead or a killer kicker. In other words, for better or worse, come take a peek into Alice’s brain and heart.
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Sometimes I think only bloggers read other bloggers! We’re a self-referential group, aren’t we? I read several but the ones that make it on my feeds are yours, Joe Dressner, Eric Asimov, Jeremy Parzen and Lyle Fass and Amy Lillard and Wine Terroirs. I also really enjoy stopping by Ray Isle’s blog, which reminds me, I’ll add him to my feed now. Now, his great example of a difference between the edited voices as appears in Food & Wine, and his own personal (and terrific) voice on his Food & Wine blog. Edited but still, it is all Ray.
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
I’m not sure a blog is going to dramatically increase wine consumption or help America finally get out of Prohibition, but they will slowly –as more wine civilians start to read them– influence the drinking and buying habits and choices. Drinkers will find their personal wine guru and follow them to the stores, viewing them as more independent and trustworthy
I see the growing influence in the increase of marketers wanting coverage for their client on my blog. A few years ago nothing mattered to them but print
12. Vacation Choice: Paris or the Caribbean?
That’s a choice? Paris.
13. Pet Choice: Dog or Cat?
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
Gosh, how predictable am I? I wish I could say People just for effect. But, New Yorker.
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
I live in New York and mostly get around by bike! In theory I would say Prius, but it depending on what the driving needs are…..who knows?
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
17. What Would Your Last Meal on Earth Consist of?
I would love to know the circumstances of why this is the last meal because when I thought I was having it on 9/11, nothing I ate or drank tasted good to me. But I am assuming I will have an excellent appetite and thirst here ….my last meal and happy about it.
Dripping, purple Cherokee tomatoes (salt, novello olive oil from Umbria, crusty bread). Fonduta and cardoons with unlimited (I control of the shaver) white truffles. A side order of sautéeed morels and porcini and twenty-year old Barolo, let’s say Bartolo Mascarello, or anything else that it going to give me that hit of rose petal and tar sensuality I need to go off into the great yonder. Just to make sure I cover my bases, stinky époisses with old Burgundy like….1937 Camille Giroud Cuvée Blondeau that I had at Becky Wasserman’s.
18. What is Heaven Like?
I don’t really believe in Heaven but…I think love, intimacy, peace, health, wine, truffles, literature, no angst, old burgundy, Barolo and five- year old syrah and supplies of aligoté, muscadet (just to freshen it up) and a rent-controlled loft sounds pretty great to me.
19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
A dinner party has to have at least eight people! But, that said, today’s choice would be; Philip Roth, Maimonides, Edith Wharton and Aubert de Villaine (to bring the wine—I could have said Lalou Bize-Leroy but I think Aubert would be a better mix with my other guests.)
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Have a point of view bigger than what you drank last night. Have a good friend check your post before you mount. Post often. Be truthful but don’t shoot yourself in the foot.