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A Light in the Darkness: The wine writing of Joel Payne

The Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, The Wine Enthusiast: Crap, crap and crap again. At least that is the popular mantra among many self-confident wine lovers ( 2 out of 3 ain't bad). Certainly all wine writing can't be bad or unreliable: right?. We often spend more time tearing down than building up, a crime of which I too am guilty as charged. Putting something down instead of putting something up is just more sexy and finds decidedly more readers.

Once in awhile a bit of brilliance shows through the crap, but usually is not bright enough to pierce the blinders worn by the general wine drinking public. A bit of that brilliance shows through in a truly wonderful piece of wine journalism in the January/February 2006 (issue 124) edition of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. Stephen's newsletter always stands above the crowd for the intelligence of its coverage, although sometimes he bites off more than he can chew by trying to review regions without spending enough time in the cellars and vineyards. This is particularly true of his coverage of Italian wines, a complaint you could apply to many newsletters. Trying to cover the entire world of wines is, perhaps, an overwhelming task for one newsletter. In some regions Tanzer has overcome this dilemma by bringing on experts such as Joel Payne in Germany. For this we owe Stephen a debt of gratitude and a subscription.

This edition of The International Wine Cellar features the article, "Germany '04: A Classic Spätlese Vintage" by Joel B. Payne and you will not find a more informative piece of wine writing. This article is a tour-de-force that should not be missed. Mr. Payne is a resident of Germany and this advantage clearly shows in the incredible depth of knowledge delivered in this article. The scholarship displayed by Mr. Payne is sorely lacking in wine writing in general and should be both a lesson and example for all wine writers. The sad thing about this beautiful article is that it will be read by so few when it offers so much.

Often we ridicule consumers going through wine shops with The Wine Spectator Buying Guide under their arms, but I will have a copy of Mr. Payne's article in my pocket when I visit my favorite wine merchants.