A wine critic fights back.

So this past weekend I wrote a story about the limits of wine criticism for the National Post.

I received the following email from a wine critic whose name you’d likely recognize. I have decided not to identify the author.

Andy [sic] – You entered into this article with a clear bias against wine criticism and sucked and sculpted every supporting quote out of any willing wine critic you could find (and not the best in the land either except for Szabo). You were smart enough to give Szabo the only valid counter-point, but only on the superfluous issue of wine descriptors. C’mon man up; dare you and the Post to publish an article quoting bona fide, highly experienced and honest critics who make their living at this and who have saved thousands of Canadians millions of dollars by bringing true obejctivity, based on massive tasting experience, to their profession.  We are not all HappyHour/lifestyle columnists …

My response:

Dear [redacted],

You’re absolutely wrong about me bringing any bias to this story, first off.

As for your suggestion about a follow-up story, I’m not likely to get the Post to run one anytime soon. But if you really think your combination of insults and arrogance is persuasive — rather than characteristic of the sort of attitude that turns millions of Canadians off wine altogether, or at least makes them too timid to express opinions about it  — then by all means write to [letters at nationalpost dot com] and make your case.


Adam (not Andy) McDowell


My ebook will tell you how to make cocktails (updated with links to buy)

On Dec. 4, my first e-book will be released.

UPDATE: Here’s where to buy it:

Barnes & Noble

Drink Different: A Refreshing Guide to Home Mixology is based on my columns in the National Post, but I rewrote stuff and added to it so that it functions as a primer on making cocktails at home. That’s fun and easier than you might think.

As a teaser, you can read the first chapter here.

Anyway, if you have a thirst, a thirst for knowledge, and an e-reader …

Blogging about booze for The Huffington Post

As of this week, I’ve joined HuffPo as a blogger, specifically on the subject of booze. I’m still not sure about the whole writing for free thing,  but people who think a lot more about branding and self-promotion than I do assure me that raising my profile/traffic/whatever is a good thing. OK then.

This is my page at The Huffington Post.

Only one post so far, but it’s a start … here’s an idea: You could subscribe to the RSS and check regularly.

Introducing my new booze blog

Ladies and gentlemen, it brings me great pleasure to announce my new booze blog, That Sweet Burn.

Some of you may have noticed my links to the site via Twitter, Facebook and so on already, and have asked what it’s all about. This post explains it.

The name is of course a reference to the tickle and sting that accompanies a swig of the finest hooch.

I’m not sure the interweb necessarily needed a whole new booze site, as there were plenty of fine ones to begin with (check out the blogroll over there). But I just had so many thoughts about beer and cocktails and liquor, and only one chance a week to share them at The Appetizer over at the National Post. And whereas the Post is written for a general audience, TSB can delve into the geekier aspects of liquorology when I feel so inclined.

So there we are. I hope you enjoy.

P.S. I would be much obliged if you would do me the honour of following me on Twitter at @ThatSweetBurn.

P.P.S. I’ll be launching yet another blog here soon.

George Lucas turns into O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Lucas says Han never shot first, you were just confused | Film | Newswire | The A.V. Club (click link or headline to read)

Compare to this passage from my favourite book, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:

An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O’Brien’s fingers. For perhaps five seconds it was within the angle of Winston’s vision. It was a photograph, and there was no question of its identity. It was the photograph. It was another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford at the party function in New York, which he had chanced upon eleven years ago and promptly destroyed. For only an instant it was before his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But he had seen it, unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing effort to wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so much as a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at least to see it.

‘It exists!’ he cried. Continue reading “George Lucas turns into O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four”

Hey Starbucks, make 5 p.m. taste like it does in Milan

The ideal Friday afternoon, including a glass of Lillet Rouge and an Americano (the cocktail, not the coffee)

I’m not a big fan of chain coffee shops generally, and I don’t normally dole out free advice to companies charging more than $3 for a fancy cup of joe. But with the news last week that Starbucks is expanding its list of stores serving alcohol, I feel compelled. If they do this thing right, the experiment could change North American after-work culture for the better.

Forgive the cynicism, but I had feared critter plonk, bland lagers and Skinnygirl Margaritas. But the reality is that Starbucks appears to be getting this right so far.
Continue reading “Hey Starbucks, make 5 p.m. taste like it does in Milan”

‘Bring a thirst to Nova Scotia and it will be slaked’: Update

Have you ever noticed how many microbreweries and wineries there seem to be in Nova Scotia these days? Not to mention a couple of small distilleries. Back in October, I went to the province to check out the booze scene, with an eye to writing a travel piece about drinking one’s way through Nova Scotia. Fun to do, fun to write.

Cool water seeps into my boots as Ben Swetnam guides me through the fine mist that lingers over the vineyard. It is an October morning, the height of harvest season at Avondale Sky Winery. Ben plucks a cluster of L’Acadie blanc grapes off the vine and hands them to me for a nibble.

Read about the trip here …

[UPDATE] … and about Ironworks Distillery here.

(Both photos by yours truly.)

A whisky odyssey for Burns Day

Glenfiddich Distillery Malt 15 Years Old

In today’s National Post I relate the story of the most wonderfully strange junket I’ve ever been on. It involved three days in Scotland, two in Denmark, a lot of whisky and plenty of insight into what makes Scotch whisky the beloved spirit it is.

To wit, one nugget I had to cut from the story for length: Male distillery workers will sometimes wear women’s grooming products. When you’re nosing 300 casks a day, explained Glenfiddich’s affable malt master Brian Kinsman, “You have to buy ladies’ deodorant. Unscented men’s doesn’t exist — or at least I haven’t found it.”

The principal lesson, however, was that marketing Scotch means being up for new ideas and adventures: trying venison with sticks, holding meetings in Malaysia and maintaining ties to quiet little whisky festivals in Denmark. Continue reading “A whisky odyssey for Burns Day”