The Wall Street Journal duo give a final “Cheers!”

Brecher-Gaiter Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher bid adieu to their readers at the end of their Tastings wine column in today’s Wall Street Journal.
They did not give an explanation – one hopes it is a voluntary
retirement and not a factor of budget cuts besetting the newspaper
industry. But in a short farewell note they touched upon the extent of
their influence.

“This is our 579th – and last – “Tastings” column,” they wrote. “The
past 12 years – a full case! – have been a joy, not because of the wine
but because we had an opportunity to meet so many of you, both in person
and virtually. Thank you.”

When they started their column that dozen years ago, their effect on
the market was immediate. Several Washington, D.C., retailers told me
customers would come into their stores on Fridays (the column shifted to
Saturday a couple years ago) with the Journal under their arms, asking
for the recommended wines. Often the stores wouldn’t have them, because
Gaiter and Brecher typically purchased wines in New York City stores
without regard to nationwide distribution. These retailers also told me
over the years that the WSJ recommendations carried more weight with
their customers than the picks from The Washington Post. (At
that time I did not write the Post column.) Even with the economic
downturn and the sale of the Journal to Rupert Murdoch, the Tastings
column remained influential as one of two newspaper wine columns with
national scope (The New York Times being the other). If their
influence waned at all, I suspect the shift to Saturday publication was
the culprit, especially among wine lovers who read the Journal at work.
But the column has also been available free online recently, which
wasn’t always the case.

Gaiter and Brecher’s most lasting legacy is likely to be “Open That
Bottle Night,” which they championed a decade ago and turned into an
annual event that now takes place the last Saturday in February. Special
wines are not to be kept in dusty closets, waiting for a perfect
occasion that will never come, they argued. Rather, wines are to be
enjoyed, so we should not hesitate to create the occasion.

They also were among the few wine writers of national scope that paid
attention to the rise of local wines, urging readers to think beyond
the West Coast and explore wines produced in their neighborhoods. They
even gave a brief plug to the first Regional Wine Week and, the Web site I co-created with Jeff Siegel, “The Wine Curmudgeon.”

They carried that attitude into their final column, called “The
Mysterious Heart of Deliciousness.” The treacly title reflects their
sometimes heavy sentimentality that could make eyes roll but
probably contributed immensely to their appeal. They argue wisely that
wine is not an absolute commodity to be objectified by point scores or
star ratings (or even exclamation points, as they used), but to be
enjoyed in the moment, with friends and loved ones, and remembered not
for this nuance or that, but for the sheer pleasure of the wine and the

“Wine isn’t a spectator sport,” they wrote. “It’s uttlery intimate.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you should like, including us. … “Keep
raising your personal bar for what is truly memorable, so that you are
always looking for the next wine that will touch your soul and make you
feel you’ve gone someplace you’ve never been before. It’s not about
delicious wines. It’s about delicious experiences.”

Excellent advice. Salut, Dorothy and John.

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