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Written by Nikitas Magel   

NM:  I imagine that pre-vetting is especially helpful in encouraging people to take small risks in buying the wines you sell, especially given the economy.  Apropos, how has the economy affected the wine business overall, from your perspective?

AR:  I can only speak to what I've seen personally, but… people are drinking!  I mean, bar tabs, from the data that I've read, are skyrocketing!  People are drinking.  These are tough times; people want to escape — we all do, at points, right?  But what people are doing is trading down in terms of price.  And so, what that means is that the sub-$20 market should be really happy right now!  If you're not selling out of your product now [at that price point], then it's going to be pretty hard to sell it ever, because this is as good as the climate is going to get for high-quality, inexpensive wine.  But it's really, really tough on the high end, for those $60-and-above wines — there are great wines to be had in the $20, $30, $40 price points, so you just don't have to spend [in that high range] to have a good bottle of wine anymore.  And I know that at the extreme high end, the fine wine market, people are saying "Well, I've got 2,000 bottles [cellared]; at some point I need to stop buying and start drinking, and there's no better day than today!"  So, that's what I see going on right now in the macro wine world.

NM:  Speaking of 'world,' I understand that you've written a book inspired by the very concept of a voyage around it!  Tell me about that.

AR:  The book is called Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips.  It grew out of our Winecyclopedia™ — which has yet to be brought back onto Bottlenotes.com; it's one of the last features we've had a hard time getting to, but we're almost there — which is multi-hundred-page wine encyclopedia that has tons of information about regions, varietals, wine-tasting terms, etcetera.  So, when a publisher (called Adams Media) came across the Winecyclopedia™, they said, "We've done a bunch of 'Wine 101' books and we're wondering if you'd like to try to use this Winecyclopedia™ as the basis for a book."  And I said, "Sure thing!"  So, when I was deciding about what the theme would be, I was inspired by the Around the World in 80 Sips Gift Pack that we created at Bottlenotes, which is one of our most popular.  I thought that if this book was to be an intro survey to wine, what better way to go than around the world?

"What people are doing is trading down in terms of price. And so, what that means is that the sub-$20 market should be really happy right now!"

So, we took the Winecyclopedia™, which we created internally, and used it as the corpus for some of the copy [for Bottlenotes Guide to Wine] and then I added my signature touch to the majority of it, by creating the narrative into and out of each of these regions, many of which I've visited.  And it's spiral-bound, so it's something I've seen a lot of people who buy it have it on their kitchen counter where they use it as a reference — when they have a question about a wine they're serving, when they want to look up a region to get ideas about the wines to buy to match with the food from that region, etcetera.  I wanted the book to be like a companion to provide answers to very simple questions about wine.  It starts with a brief history of wine, which is supposed to be the Cliff's Notes version at a very basic level, then goes into wine growing, wine lingo, white wine grapes, red wine grapes, sparkling wine, and then boom, right around the world in 80 sips, from west to east — from Napa to New Zealand.  Then at the end is a Glossary of tasting terms, which a lot of people also say is one of the most useful things about the book.  And I think it's useful, approachable, and fun; something you don't sit down and read and then throw away, but something you keep as a reference.

NM:  One last question.  Now that you've been "around the world," as it were, let's say that at the end of your journey you end up on a desert island in the middle of nowhere… which wine would you want with you?

AR:  {laughing}  I am really a terrible person to answer that question!  My wine taste changes on a weekly basis; I literally cannot choose a favorite anymore.  A flavor of the month is all I'm willing to commit to!  So, this month, the month of April, my significant other had a big birthday and we had his mother's homemade cannelloni with Peter Michael Chardonnay — and it was delicious!  That is the wine of the desert island this month, 'cause he would love it, I would love it, and hopefully we would be on that desert island together!  Now my 30th birthday was in October; I was spoiled rotten by wonderful friends with wonderful cellars who gave me very general gifts of 1978 Haut Brion.  I'm a real sucker for vintage Bordeaux!  I also really love some Oregonian Pinots — Étude is a delicious wine that I think is really elegant, and I come back to it time and time again.  But it really does vary!  I've been on a Champagne kick lately — I have had some really delicious Champagne!  We actually carry a Champagne by Ayala, which is a really phenomenal producer.  I can't get enough of it; I'm serving it at parties and giving it as gifts.  But the other thing I've been really into lately and learning about is Saké, which I think is so interesting, so complex, and again one of these really cool pieces of the wine world that once you get in it, you could spend years studying!  I feel like such a neophyte to where I hope to be in 50 years.  But that's what keeps it fun — the amount of information on wine is literally encyclopedic, and you could spend every day of your life tasting wine and still not taste through the whole world, and that's what's fun!


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